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Survey seeks to understand more about the well-being of Presbyterian ministers

by Mari Graham Evans and Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — How do ministers fulfill their call? Who are they? What did they learn in seminary? What didn’t they learn in seminary? How are they impacted by changes in society and their communities? Moreover, how do changes in the life of the church and in society as a whole affect the emotional and physical well-being of a minister?

These are important questions. Right now, the church is unable to answer them, but that is about to change.

Beginning today, an ambitious denomination-wide effort is taking place, with the leadership of Research Services, to understand these questions and more. The Minister Survey is a comprehensive survey that will allow Research Services to ask questions about issues of deep importance to the denomination.

It also marks the first time that Research Services has undertaken such an effort.

“It’s not something we are going to be able to do very frequently; this survey is relatively long. It may take up to 45 minutes to complete. But there is information within the survey about how to set it up so that you can stop and come back to where you left off,” says Dr. Perry Chang, research associate with Research Services.

Given the nature of the survey, some of the questions may surprise you.

“You may find that some of these questions are of a personal nature. That’s intentional because we’re trying to evaluate all aspects of a minister’s life, especially as it relates to the emotional and physical toll this work can have,” says Dr. Susan Barnett, coordinator of Research Services.

Acknowledging that the life of a minister has fundamentally transformed, the goal of the survey is to understand what the state of the Presbyterian minister is today. Beyond that, it will also be the jumping-off point of a larger study on bi-vocationality to be embarked on next year.

While the survey is confidential, the data from it will inform various church ministries, programs and General Assembly commissions and be made publicly available via the Church Trends website.

All agencies have been involved and see the value in learning more about Presbyterian ministers’ challenges. The Board of Pensions has included the survey as one of its activities in the Call to Health program, which will be available September 16, and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation is offering a discount on resource purchases for completing the survey. Participants will receive a discount code at the survey’s end.

“It has never been more important to hear from as many ministers as possible,” says Barnett. “There is a postcard invitation being sent to every minister, promotion via social media and e-newsletters, and hopefully people will share and encourage their peers to participate.”

All ministers are encouraged to take the survey and can do so here until Nov. 1.

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