(And…look for the addendum at the bottom of the page.)
What does a call to heath mean for those in ministry? It is a matter of stewardship of our very lives. I have a good health plan and insurance. I am fortunate. I keep receiving postcards from my health plan which challenge me to keep healthy by taking certain actions. The incentive is that I will receive a savings in the network deductible for the following year. What is preventive health care? It is the annual checkup—what we do to anticipate any issues and deal with them. I took the time to call the insurance company and discuss their reasoning for this incentive and for what they listed as counting as preventive health.
Really, my agenda was to point out what they left off of the list, rather than what they included in the list. I wanted to include diet and exercise criteria. These are two themes which contribute to health—more than any other set of criteria. My point was to include these—along with stress management as essential calls to health. While receptive, the main point of the discussion was along the lines of how many pastors and those in ministry do not do take care of their own health. They delay and put off annual exams, fail to develop habits and practices which are tied to diet and exercise and stress management. Why?
How is it that those whose vocation is about care and attention on behalf of others, presenting a message of healing and hope, fail too much of the time to maintain their own personal health?
How is this theologically understood? That is that the habits and practices of over working, of no exercise, poor diet, and poor management of stress and lifestyle is the number one issue for caregivers, and for those in ministry.
This is why this incentive is being offered, the health insurance provider is asking simply: what can we do to get those in ministry to do one thing which will be most helpful to them and to us in reducing costs? When we do not take care of ourselves, we add to the burden of health care for everyone. When we do not take care of ourselves we model poor habits and practices. When we live in such a way that our primary motivation is the need to be needed, we radiate stress and self-importance. When we do not take care of ourselves, we participate in a cultural system in ways that counter much of what we say about the meaning and purpose of our beliefs.
Indeed, it is a matter of stewardship. The path of least resistance is the one leading to poor health. Leading a life of conspicuous health and habits takes work. Happiness takes work and there is a direct outcome between health and happiness. That most of us who might read this have health insurance is cause for gratitude. It might even be providential. Honor this gift by taking seriously the call to health.
Addendum: Part of the Doctor of Ministry Program of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is a new emphasis on habits and practices of those in ministry as a part of leadership. In the next few months THREE new concentrations within the DMin program will be offered which will begin in 2015. These include: missional leadership; urban cross-sector focus, which will opportunity for cross cultural venues in the US and internationally; and a new relationship in the reformed focus with the University of Edinburgh.