Getting your preacher in shape
October 4 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Getting your preacher in shape | Friday, Oct. 4, 2002
  • If you're about to bring up something that you know will raise the minister's stress level, consider whether it's really necessary. According to fitness guru Tommy Yessick, high stress enlarges the adrenal gland (which increases the level of stress-inducing adrenaline), shrinks the thymus gland and lymph nodes (which fight disease), and suppresses the immune system. Not to mention causing ulcers, gastro-intestinal problems and loss of sleep. Some stress is unavoidable, but much of what ministers typically deal with is really unnecessary.
  • Encourage your ministers and their spouses to attend a good workshop on positive ways to manage stress or improve fitness. Pay all the expenses and volunteer to keep the kids.
  • Have realistic expectations of your ministers, and communicate them clearly.
  • Find caring, nonjudgmental ways to encourage your ministers to attain healthy fitness and weight levels.
  • Give ministers permission to take care of themselves. Pastors and other ministers often feel guilty if they aren't out taking care of the flock for 12 or more hours every day. Encourage them to spend some of that time getting the exercise needed for self-care.
  • Buy the ministers and their families a membership in a local health club, and offer to meet them there.
  • Alternately, pay for them to participate in an educational/telephone support health and fitness network like Intervent (, which has an excellent program.
  • If you need to talk to the pastor or other minister, invite them to go for a walk while you talk.
  • Give your ministers adequate vacation time, insist that they take it, and make sure they pack their walking or running shoes.
  • When Christmas comes and you're thinking about taking cookies or candy to the ministerial staff, consider substituting a basket of fruit, athletic socks or a new warm-up suit.
  • Be a good example - get yourself in shape and brag about how much better you feel.
  • Find 10 people who will pledge $10 for missions (or the building fund) for every pound the pastor can lose in a designated period, and make a win/win game of it. Ten pounds could mean $1,000 and a healthier pastor.
  • If the pastor tends to be long-winded, make a rule that he can only preach one minute for each push-up or sit-up he can do in one set.

    Okay, the last idea was a bad one - nobody tells a preacher how long he can hold forth. But you get the idea.

    Be cheerful. Be proactive. Be supportive, and I believe most ministers will respond positively to your care and concern.

    If enough of them get physically fit and emotionally relaxed, maybe ministers can get off the "bad risk" list.

  • Friday, Oct. 4, 2002

    Getting your preacher in shape

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    The Biblical Recorder has carried recent articles about insurance premiums for ministers. They've skyrocketed.

    We've also published articles showing that ministers tend to be overweight, over-stressed and over 35.

    That tells us something about why the insurance rates are so high.

    Responding to a request from the Baptist State Convention's (BSC) Executive Committee, business services director Ed Wiggs surveyed a number of health insurance providers. He got the same answer from each of them: experience has proven that ministers and their families are high risk. The companies prefer to avoid doing business with ministers at all, and charge higher rates when they do.

    The good news (to the ego, at least) is that the insurance industry puts ministers in the same professional category as medical doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects. They all tend to work long hours, have high stress and get little exercise on the job. The long hours impact home life, adding stress to family members, as well.

    The bad news is that ministers get the high stress of those professions, but not the high pay that usually goes with it.

    Add in the weight and age factors, and you can see why the insurance companies consider ministers and their families a bad risk.

    But the risk doesn't have to be so high. Annuity Board president O.S. Hawkins says more than half of the health insurance claims through the Annuity Board are for preventable diseases.

    Wiggs said the BSC plans to address the problem by encouraging ministers to improve their health and lower their stress.

    Maybe churches should take a more active role, too. Some may fear the subject of health and fitness is too sensitive or personal to bring up, but genuine concern for the ministers and their families is appropriate. How can church members help them to minimize their stress and maximize their fitness?

    Here are some scattered thoughts.

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    10/4/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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