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Healthy Clergy, Wounded Healers: Their Families And Ministries
Rev. John Crowe, D. Min.
- Number 334
In 1997, Roberta Chapin Walmsley and Adair T. Lummis wrote, Healthy Clergy Wounded
Healers: Their Families and Their Ministries (164 pages). In it they share the
findings of the Episcopal Clergy Family Project that started in 1986 to help pastors and
spouses both be and stay healthy.
- Their book repeats the theme of the importance of family
identity and individual self-concept. They draw from the relevant ideas of various
theorist like Murray Bowen who developed the Family Systems Theory and Edwin Friedman who
applied it to the church system in which pastors live and work.
- The Episcopal Clergy Family study affirmed psychologist Friedman's view that clergy and
their families function better when they focus more on how their struggles are similar to
others. While it is true that the private lives of pastors, their spouses and their
children are more directly connected to the pastor's work, it is dangerous to
overemphasize this too much.
- When pastors and spouses do fall into this trap, they tend to abandon any responsibility
for their own well being and expect the congregation or the conference, etc. to care for
them. Walmsley and Lummis' research found those who adopted this view rated themselves as
having poorer overall health.
- The negative impact of this is far greater for the spouse than for the pastor. However,
those pastors and spouses who are highly effective at setting time and role boundaries in
relationship with a church are by far the healthiest. In light of this, I found it strange
that the author's aimed their concluding chapter on a course of action at judicatories and
- One outstanding finding of Walmsley and Lummis' study is that
- "The stronger the self-concept, the healthier pastors are, even considering other
important factors that affect their health" (72).
- It appears that neither a church's characteristics, salary level, denominational
relationships nor a pastor's professional competence directly impact the overall health of
pastors like their self-concept does.
- Unfortunately many congregations reinforce the false belief that pastors are the most
spiritual when they do not have their own self-concept. No pastor can offer spiritual
leadership to a church when their self-concept depends on approval from others. This leads
pastors to adopt one or two attitudes. They either blame others for their own lack of
self-control. Or they become perfectionists who believe their true value comes not from
who they are in Christ, but from what they do. Either attitude leads to a victim mentality
whenever something goes wrong in the church.
- In addition, Anderson and Mylander in their book, Setting Your Church Free, make
the claim that many pastors fail because of finding too much of their
identity and security in what they do as a pastor and not enough
in who they are in Christ (49). It is
our life in Christ that gives pastors and spouses their identity and security for life and
- Anderson's book about the power of one's identity in Christ and the accompanying
workbook will help pastors and their spouses greatly in this area. Those desiring to dig
deeper into the application of the Family Systems Theory to the church will find the
following books helpful: Friedman's Generation to Generation; Richardson's Creating a
Healthier Church; and Steinke's Healthy Congregations and How Your Church
Works. Jack Hayford's book, Pastor's of Promise, does not use Family Systems
Theory jargon, but the concepts are there.
- Overall, Walmsley and Lummis' book serves as a very well studied and practical
application of the systems theory to the whole subject of church health via the health of
pastors and their families. I highly recommend this book to all seminarians, pastors, and
- Rev. John Crowe
- This review has also been published in Sharing the
Practice Volume XXII,
Number 4 Fourth Issue, 1999 on page 20.
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:43 PM