Stress and burnout in the Methodist ministry - towards a holistic helping model.
The hypothesis that underpins this dissertation is that a holistic helping model relevant to addressing Burnout in the ministry needs to have as its major focus, the prevention of Burnout. Adequate internal and external supports need to be in place to act as buffers and mitigate against the unique stressors of ministry. A reactive response, seeking to address the consequences of Burnout is considered an inadequate response. Preventative measu res are viewed as far more effective and desirable. Recently the writer's car engine overheated. The problem began in an insignificant way, a rubber hosepipe began to perish, nobody noticed . Eventually under constant and intense pressure from superheated water flowing powerfully through the engine's cooling system, the hosepipe burst. It only took a few moments for the engine to overheat, causing serious damage. The cost of replacing the rubber hose would have been under one hundred rand. The labour time would have been under a half an hour. To repair the damaged engine after the pipe had burst and the engine had overheated cost thousands and the labour took several days. To repair or heal a person is far more complex and not always possible. When the stressors build up and nobody appears to notice or care, when the person is unable to diagnose for themselves, that they are near to breakdown or Burnout. When the person does not know who, what or where to turn to , and when the person has inadequate internal and external coping mechanisms - this type of emotional breakdown is far more serious than any burst pipe. Unlike in the example above some things cannot be repaired. Therefore the emphasis needs to be on preventing the ' hosepipe from ever perishing '. In the writer's opinion the many stressors that are common to ministry can become so overwhelming that breakdown or Burnout become a real possibility . Adequate internal and ext ernal coping mechanisms can be effective buffers to prevent such stressors becoming catastrophic. To ascerta in how serious the problem of stress is and its main consequence in the context of th is dissertat ion, Burnout, twenty of the fifty active Methodist ministers in the Nat al West District were asked to participate in a study. All twenty received the Burnout Inventory found in Appendix B of this document . The ministers approached were select ed in order to adequately represent a cross - section of the Meth odist Ministers in the District. A fair representation of gender, race and age were key considerations. The respondents were however, all white ministers, men and women, many of whom had worked in cross - cultural contexts. The available experts in the field, the woman psychologist , the professor and the minister with a history of successful cross - cultural work, were also white. In the writer's opinion black academics in the Methodist Church have focused more upon social issues and issues of social justice, than intrapersonal or psychological stresses with in the ministers themselves. This dissertation is therefore the outcome of mainly the experiences and insights of white ministers and therefore its response to the impact of Burnout among black Methodist ministers is limited. The ministers were asked to indicate which, if any of the twenty four responses that make up the Burnout Inventory, they agreed with. The respondents were also asked to indicate their gender, age and race, but not to record their names to ensure confidentiality. The limited number of twenty was important as all who responded were given the opportunity, if they chose to, of discussing their responses with the writer in a confidential environment. Some of these responses, with the permission of the respondents, provide the personal insights on Burnout recorded in Chapter One (p13). Chapter One deals with the nature of stress and th e unique stressors of ministry. Chapters Two and Three are in the writer 's opinion vital, in that in addition to the unique stressors common to all who minister, the specific stress of cross - cultural ministry is considered in Chapter Two. In Chapter Three the complexities of being a woman in ministry are discussed with reference to facing the sin of patriarchy. Both Chapter Two and Chapter Three have suggested Models presented at the end of each to address the very specific stressors people who engage in cross - cultural ministry and women who minister encounter. In Chapter Four the Burnout of the Prophet Elijah is discussed and a Holistic model towards the prevention of Burnout in the ministry is proposed . This model is called the Tripod model. Six in - depth interviews are recorded. In Chapter Two an Indian pastor suggests insights into the traps and pitfalls associated with cross - cultural ministry . Two women ministers in Chapter Three, express their thoughts and experiences of being a woman in ministry and in Chapter Four three experts in the field of ministry Burnout are interviewed, whose thoughts and ideas are integrated in order to develop the Tripod Model and the additional suggestions associated with a holistic model towards the prevention of Burnout in the ministry . What of the responses received? Is stress and Burn out really such a big issue? Is the ministry really so stressful? Five of the black ministers approached failed to respond. Fourteen of the fifteen responses received indicated that it really is a serious issue. Eight out of the fifteen indicated more than six areas of concern in the Burnout Inventory . Six out of the remaining seven indicated between two and five of the statements, questions were relevant to them and their experience of ministry . Only one, a woman minist er who was later interviewed in - depth and whose interview is recorded in Chapter Three, indicated none of the statements, questions as relevant to her life. The reason for this response is most surprising and totally unexpected. This dissertation focuses on a preventative model in relation to Burnout in the ministry. What of those who are experiencing or who have already Burned out? Is there hope? At the end of Chapter Four God's response to the prophet Elijah is considered and how God ministered to him to facilitate healing . This however is far from the ideal. When it comes to the concept of deep wounds to the human soul, prevention is most definitely preferable to cure.