Would you describe yourself as being energised, dedicated and engaged by and in your ministry? How have your experiences with COVID-19 and the different challenges that have come about in your ministry changed your energy and commitment and engagement in that ministry? It may be if you were struggling already this has either led to new excitement and challenge or left you feeling more unsupported and struggling in ministry gloom. Or it may be that you are as challenged and excited as ever.
One of the ways of moving out of talk about self-care and more into positive reframing of ministry comes from a field of research in social psychology called ‘work engagement’. It is less about making sure we do certain things for ‘self-care’ and instead focusses on emotional and psychological health, our sense of well-being, and organisational effectiveness. Work engagement looks at the kind of things that give us emotional energy, involvement, and self-efficacy in our work.
The research around work engagement and ministry in particular is around trying to discover the motivational aspects for clergy that result in positive work engagement. Motivators can come from a range of different aspects related to our roles. One of the models used in trying to nail down motivational factors is called the Job Demands Resources model (JD-R). This model talks about the kinds of demands that add stress to work situations and the resources that support work situations. Particularly, when the demands in our jobs are high, then we will engage more highly if we are also well supported and resourced.
Job demands include things like high workload, a poor physical environment, “difficult” clients or colleagues, and cumbersome administrative procedures. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how ministry situations might include comparable values. The job resources that support work can also be used to think about ministry:
- What resources support you in accomplishing ministry goals?
- What resources help to reduce the stresses of ministry?
- What parts of your role stimulate your personal growth and development?
Conversations about how we are going in ministry might address whether we have the resources needed to accomplish goals, reduce stress, and stimulate growth, and if not what can be changed. If we have these resources (which we can probably name fairly easily), then studies indicate that along with those needs, then our other needs for autonomy, feeling we are doing a good job, and feeling socially supported, are satisfied. Levels of autonomy, competence, and social support relate to better work engagement – that is, being energised, dedicated, and engaged in our ministries.
In our particular COVID-19 situation our goals may have changed: as community engagement, leading worship, and pastoral care have had to be approached differently, so the resources we needed will have changed. How did that work out for you? And could you source the right kinds of things that helped to reduce your stress? Has this experience led you to find new ways to keep growing and thinking about what ministry means, so you are ready to address ministry for the future with different personal resources?
Thinking about your ministry engagement in terms of whether you have what you need to feel that you have the autonomy, that you are doing a good job (that you are competent), and that you are not isolated but have the social support you need, are some concrete ways of addressing some of the internal unease and stress about how we are coping at this time. If you had the chance to name some of these kinds of resources as things you need, how would that help you think more hopefully and positively about your ministry?
(Just to note there are another group of personal resources that also affect our engagement in ministry. I’ll think more about them next week.)
Rev Dr Christine Sorensen
Presbytery Minister (Formation and Discipleship)
- Bickerton, G. R., Miner, M. H., Dowson, M., & Griffin, B. (2014a). Spiritual resources in the job demands-resources model. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 1-24.
- Chandler, D. J. (2010). The impact of pastor’s spiritual practices on burnout. The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, 64(2).
- Miner, M., Bickerton, G., Dowson, M., & Sterland, S. (2015). Spirituality and work engagement among church leaders. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 18(1), 57-71.