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Southern Baptist ministers to be polled on wellness needs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Two national Southern Baptist agencies are working together to determine and meet wellness needs of pastors and other church staff people.
The Sunday School Board’s LeaderCare staff and the Annuity Board piloted a wellness survey in 1997 and will conduct a formal survey by mail in January 1998, according to Tommy Yessick, wellness specialist for LeaderCare at the Sunday School Board.
LeaderCare is a strategy to meet the personal development needs of pastors, church staff and their families. The Annuity Board provides health and life insurance for many Southern Baptist ministers and their families.
The 1998 survey to be mailed to 5,000 ministers and their spouses in January was designed by the LeaderCare staff with the help of an advisory board including pastors, lay persons, state convention staff, college and seminary personnel, national SBC agency staff, physicians and wellness experts. The survey will be a random sample, with results compiled by an independent survey analysis firm to assure confidentiality and anonymity.
Questions related to participants’ personal health concerns and current level of wellness, as well as preferences and needs for health and wellness resources, will be included in the 1998 survey. Results will be used to plan health and wellness enhancement programs to address the wants and needs of ministers and their families.
Results of the 1997 random survey among church staff and their spouses, as well as a separate health questionnaire completed by people attending the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, underscore the importance of such a project, Yessick said. Responses from the first sampling indicated trends that cause both agencies concern, he said.
“For example, 44.7 percent could add five or more years to their life expectancy by changing a few health habits,” Yessick observed.
Ray Furr, who heads the communications department at the Annuity Board, said the absence of tobacco and alcohol in most ministers’ lifestyles adds to their life spans. However that positive lifestyle factor, combined with eating many fried and fat-seasoned foods, he said, results in persons who live “longer and sicker.”
Furr, who also is a personal fitness trainer, added, “Christian people ought to be leading the way in healthy living.”
Yessick agreed, adding “some ministers have the impression that ‘I’m doing God’s work, and he is going to take care of me.’ Well, he is,” Yessick said, “but you can’t ignore the natural processes such as eating too many fatty foods and failing to exercise. These increase the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, fatigue and a wide range of other health problems. Add to this a disregard for managing stress and you’ve got a time bomb waiting to explode. You just don’t know when, where or how it will go off.”
Preliminary responses from the pilot study indicated ministers have concerns too, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, inadequate exercise, excess weight and leading a tense/rushed lifestyle, among others.
Among areas of strong interest indicated by the pilot study group are physical activity programs related to lifestyle, cardiovascular, strength and flexibility needs; nutrition topics on healthy cooking, weight management and healthy eating; chronic disease prevention and management resources related to cholesterol, blood pressure, depression and arthritis; personal well-being materials on stress management, conflict resolution, communication and relaxation; safety topics including first aid, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), personal and home safety; and family health issues.
Most respondents preferred information in printed form or seminars and indicated they would most likely participate by reading educational materials, checking out videos, attending a wellness seminar or participating in a confidential health/fitness assessment. Most were interested in screening programs for blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Women indicated an interest in screening for breast and cervical cancer, while men cited testicular and prostate cancer concerns.
“Based on the results of this assessment, we will be able to establish a calendar of training and educational seminars, as well as other methods to meet the needs of ministers and their families,” Yessick said.

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  • Charles Willis