One of the things I tried to tease apart in the survey we conducted was what separates a spiritually healthy minister from those who do not report as healthy of a relationship with God? In order to determine this, I took those who endorsed being “Very Satisfied” with their relationship with God and compared them statistically against everyone else. What bubbled to the top in a way that showed these two groups statistically different?

11% of Church of Christ ministers in the survey said they are “Very Satisfied” with their relationship with God. When you compare those 11% with the other 89% here are the differences that crop up that are statistically significant on the .05 level (which means we have a 95% confidence that these statistical differences are meaningful/actual differences and 5% that it is due to random chance).

Physical health: Ministers who endorsed being “Very Satisfied” with their relationship with God were less satisfied than the rest on their physical health. They also spent less time exercising! Let’s not make that a prescription for a deeper spirituality by any means. I would like to dive deeper into that in a future study.

Ministry/Study: These ministers spent more time studying for lesson prep than everyone else and more time in personal study. They also reported significantly better relationships with their elders than everyone else on average.

Last, these people were more hopeful about the future on average than the rest of the sample.

What does this tell us? Does this tell us healthy ministers are connected with healthy elders? It at least tells us healthy ministers have a healthy view of their elders. It also tells us the value of personal study as well as lesson prep on one’s own deeper spiritual life and walk with God as those who studied longer reported more satisfaction with their relationship with God. The health piece surprised me and I am still trying to wrap my mind around it. Based on the data collected there isn’t much that can be teased out of that but we can look more deeply into that in the future to see what is going on.

Last, often what is overlooked in studies like these are the things that did not have an effect but often that information is just as interesting. It is interesting that there were no differences in those who report being “Very satisfied” with their relationship with God and everyone else in their marriages, parenting, relationship with staff, mental health, etc.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on this information. I would also like to know areas you believe would be important to assess in the future.

2 Responses

  1. Support networks/relationships are very important. Now, concerning relationships between members and members, and members and staff — congregations should be placing as priorities:

    1) Support cohorts (whether implemented as house churches, google plus hangouts, facebook private groups, etc.) Jesus cast out demons with a word — but he sent out disciples 2 by 2. The flesh is weak.

    2) Intentional mentoring networks.

    3) An understanding of the need for “Christian” angel funding / venture / private equity — with the underlying commandment of “lending without expecting to receive it back”. Nashville has made great strides to develop an entrepreneurial culture but it lacks a funding community — too many churches, not enough “angels”.

    Rather than being countercultural in a good (Jesus-like) way, we have allowed fear, insecurity to enthrone debt, mammon, insurances, etc. to become idols in a culture where admitting this is shunned (because it would weaken the structures which profit from them).

    Tangential: ACU’s Ministerial Salary Survey
    http://www.acu.edu/siburt-institute-for-church-ministry/resources/salary-survey.html

    1. Thank you Ed. I appreciate your ideas and also your candor. We need this level of transparency and openness in our dialog if we are to move ahead. We also need to share ideas as you have done. Much appreciated.

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