Clergy wellness program stresses preventive care (March 24, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Clergy wellness program stresses preventive care

March 24, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0046}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

MELBOURNE - A wellness program aimed at improving the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of clergy will kick off in the Melbourne District later this year.

Ginny Pearcy, Florida Conference parish nurse coordinator, said the pilot program will start in August. She said the health fair at the 2003 Florida Annual Conference Event was so successful the conference's Health and Wholeness Ministry Team members decided they wanted to do something that would have a long-term positive impact on the lives of clergy.

"We knew that there was more we could do," Pearcy said.

Pearcy had heard of a wellness program in the Dakota Annual Conference and contacted its coordinators for more information. Encouraged by that conference's results Pearcy contacted and received the support of both the Florida Conference and General Board of Pension and Health Benefits.

The Melbourne District clergy approved the wellness program in February. It might expand to include all district superintendents and employees of the United Methodist Conference Center in Lakeland.

The voluntary program will place an emphasis on the emotional, physical and spiritual health of participants. It will provide daily devotionals to stress the importance of personal meditative time, a pedometer to encourage 30 minutes of walking per day and a water bottle for emphasis on daily water intake.

Pearcy said even these small changes could have a major impact on the rising costs of health care and health-care coverage.

"We want to track these things for a year," Pearcy said. "Parish nurses will monitor participants as they try to reach the goals they have set for themselves."

Overall goals of the program include fewer insurance claims as a result of better health, lowered premiums paid by the conference, higher productivity by clergy as a result of improved emotional, physical and spiritual health, fewer clergy on disability leave, reduction of pain and suffering and improved quality of life, improved family dynamics due to lessening of the stresses of disease and illnesses, and improved effectiveness of clergy in pastoral roles.

Melbourne District Superintendent the Rev. Mike Oliver said the pilot program sounds good to him. "It's a spiritual issue," he said. "It's about better stewardship of the body God has given me."

Oliver said one thing will make the program unique from others. "Accountability is a good motivator," he said. "The tracking by the parish nurses I think will help."

Pearcy said those who want to participate in the program will do well and those who don't want to participate shouldn't because it's not mandatory. She said the Dakota Conference had a high level of participation in the beginning, then it began to decrease.

"I think if we just got 10 of our pastors to do it, it will be worth it," Pearcy said. "We are concerned about their well-being in order for them to be happier and healthier."

Oliver said he knows he could lose a few pounds and imagines some of the 50 ministers in the district could, as well. "We want our clergy to take good and better care of themselves," he said. "Ginny Pearcy has a heart and passion about the welfare of our pastors."

Maybe that's because Pearcy is married to the Rev. Robert Pearcy, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Merritt Island. Pearcy said she knows firsthand the role of minister can take an emotional, physical and spiritual toll on pastors. She said her husband had open heart surgery more than a year ago.

"It's a hard job taking care of everyone else," she said. "We want pastors to begin to take care of themselves."


This article relates to Health and Wholeness.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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