Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Health of a Pastor's Family

The Health of a Pastor's Family

Research results being released for the first time in the July/August edition of Facts & Trends magazine show that many Protestant ministers in the U.S. see significant problems within the families of clergy members, but usually not when it comes to their own family. The study conducted by Ellison Research , Phoenix, Ariz., asked 870 Protestant senior church ministers nationwide about the health of their family and the pressures associated with being the family of a minister.

Results regarding marriage showed that:
The vast majority of ministers in the U.S. are currently on their first marriage (80%) — evangelical ministers (88%) — mainline Protestant ministers (69%).
Fourteen percent have been divorced (12% have since remarried, while 2% remain unmarried) — divorced evangelical ministers (8%) — divorced mainline Protestant ministers (23%).
Fourteen percent of ministers are themselves the child of a minister. Following a parent into the ministry is equally common among mainline and evangelical pastors. The vast majority of Protestant clergy believe there is additional pressure on pastors' families. Ninety-four percent agree with the statement, "There is extra pressure being married to a minister," including 54 percent who strongly believe this. Ninety-one percent also agree that "There is extra pressure being the child of a minister," including 46 percent who feel this way strongly. Lutherans and Presbyterians are considerably less likely to perceive strong pressures on their spouse and children than are pastors from other denominational groups. Southern Baptist and Pentecostals, particularly, feel that "Churchgoers often expect pastors' families to be 'better than' other people's families."

Regarding the health of their family relationships, using a scale of 1 (extremely unhealthy) to 5 (extremely healthy), most pastors believe they have an essentially healthy family. The average rating pastors give to their relationship with their spouse is 4.3 out of 5, with 47 percent saying this relationship is extremely healthy. Pastors who have no children under age 18 are particularly likely report a healthy spousal relationship (53% call it extremely healthy, compared to 35% among those with adolescents in the household). Evangelical ministers are more likely than mainline ministers to call this relationship extremely healthy (49% to 37%). Only 18 percent feel they spend an extremely healthy amount of time with their spouse (the average rating is 3.6).

One of the most puzzling findings in this study is that, while pastors tend to feel pretty good about the health of their own family, they have significant worries about the health of other ministers' families. While the average rating they give to their own family's health is a 4, the average they give to the health of pastors' families throughout their denomination is just a 3.2. While eight out of ten rate the health of their own family at a 4 or a 5 on the scale, just three out of ten rate the health of pastors' families in their denomination at a 4 or a 5. Methodists and Southern Baptists are among the most concerned about the health of ministers' families in their denomination. Further, the average minister estimates that almost one out of every four pastors he or she knows is having significant problems with a child, and that one out of every five fellow pastors is having significant marriage problems.

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, noted the difference between how pastors see their own family health and how they see the health of other clergy families. "Ministers apparently have a much more optimistic view of their own family than they do of the families of other ministers," Sellers stated. "When one out of every twenty ministers feels his or her own family unit is unhealthy, but one out of every seven ministers believes the family units of others in their denomination are unhealthy, there's a disconnect. ... Protestant clergy in the U.S. need to take a careful look at whether they have too much optimism about their own family situation, or too much pessimism about the situations of others."

*More than half of small business owners (51%) say they check in with the office by phone or e-mail every day while on vacation, according to USA TODAY Snapshots. Twenty-seven percent never check in, 14 percent check in every few days, while four percent check in weekly. The government warned doctors Tuesday to be on the lookout for rare but deadly infections in women using the abortion pill RU-486. The pill may be responsible for the deaths of at least five women since sales began in the year 2000. The drug RU-486, sold under the name Mifeprex, is approved to terminate pregnancy up to 49 days after the beginning of the last menstrual cycle by blocking a hormone required to sustain a pregnancy — effectively starving the pre-born baby. After the initial dosage of Mifeprex is achieved, the patient then takes a second drug called Misoprostol which causes a spontaneous abortion.
*Americans continue to widely support keeping the national minimum drinking age at 21, according to Nearly eight in 10 Americans oppose lowering the drinking age in all states to 18.
*Empire High School near Tucson, Arizona, may be just about to make education history. Empire will be the first all-wireless, all-laptop school in the state. There will be no textbooks. Every reading assignment, all homework, and every test will be online. The laptops will cost the district about $850 apiece.
*Kentucky has just been noted as among the nation's unhealthiest states, according to the Courier-Journal. This self-inflicted condition is due to smoking, eating fatty foods and not exercising enough.
*Americans who attend church weekly are much less likely to drink alcohol than are less frequent churchgoers, according to a recent Gallup Poll. When asked the question, "Do you drink alcoholic beverages?" — 77 percent of those who seldom or never attend church, said, "Yes;" 68 percent of those who attend church nearly weekly said, "Yes;" and 42 percent of those who attend church weekly said, "Yes."

by Tony Perkins

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