New wellness program aims to improve clergy health, quality of life
WICHITA—A new wellness program launching in 2010 seeks to empower Kansas United Methodist clergy to develop and maintain healthy lifestyles, providing a solid foundation for a balanced, sustainable life of ministry. The “Clergy Wellness Program,” developed by the Kansas Area Health and Wellness Committee, is a pilot project designed to identify individual health needs and develop personalized plans to address those needs through sustainable changes in behavior.
In the pilot project, 32 Kansas Area United Methodist clergy members will be randomly selected and invited to attend a two-day retreat designed to identify wellness areas for improvement and practical plans for changing any areas they select. Each participant first will obtain a physical examination from his or her family physician, then, during the retreat, will meet with a consulting physician, nutritionist, spiritual counselor, financial advisor and wellness coach to develop an individual plan for sustainable changes in behavior. Participants will later engage in a series of eight bi-weekly, follow-up conference calls to help them stay on course with their wellness plans. Participation is optional and is provided at no cost; all information is strictly confidential and will not be shared with other clergy, conference staff, district superintendants or health plan administrators.
Clergy who are selected to participate will be invited by Jan. 31. Those choosing to take part in the program will need to complete a physical with a family physician by May 31. Participating clergy also will complete an online Health Risk Assessment (HRA) by June 15 and will complete blood work at the 2010 Annual Conference sessions. Results from the physical, blood work and HRA will be sent to the consulting physicians for the retreat.
To accommodate participants’ schedules, a choice of retreat dates will be offered. Retreats are scheduled for Aug. 3-4 and Aug. 10-11 at the Cross Wind Conference Center in Hesston.
After the retreat, clergy will participate in group follow-up conference calls with a wellness coach and may request up to three individual counseling sessions with the coach. Six months after the retreat, participants will complete a second HRA, with a final online HRA and blood work completed at the 2011 Annual Conference.
Susan Harvey, Kansas Area Health and Wellness Committee co-chairperson, is the project coordinator. The Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Kansas School of Medicine - Wichita, will conduct a formal evaluation of the program’s effectiveness by measuring changes in participants’ lab results as well as through a comparison of pre- and post-Health Risk Assessments.
The roots of the “Clergy Wellness Program” reach back to 2005, when Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones participated in “Life of Leaders,” a faith-centered executive health program integrating the best components of an executive physical in a framework of self-care, spiritual nourishment and fellowship. The “Life of Leaders” program, created by Rev. Dr. Gary Gunderson in conjunction with Criterion Ventures and Memphis’ Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, is built around the teachings in Gunderson’s best-selling book, “The Leading Causes of Life.” A central tenet of “Life of Leaders" is the recognition that, because they are oriented towards help and service, many values-driven leaders such as clergy neglect self-care in order to care for others.
In August 2008, a Kansas delegation including Kansas East and Kansas West Directors of Connectional Ministries Gary Beach and Linda Louderback, Kansas Health Foundation Program Officer Jeff Usher and Kansas Leadership Center Director of Programs Matt Jordan went to Memphis to take part in the “Life of Leaders” program. This resulted in the formation of a task force to replicate the experience in Kansas, providing clergy with similar opportunities for improved personal health and wellness based on a whole-person focus.
The “Clergy Wellness Program” is supported through a $50,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation in Wichita and a $20,000 grant from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund in Hutchinson.
For more information about the program, contact Susan Harvey at 316-775-6324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.