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Your Questions Answered


Who is participating in Spirited Life?

More than 60 percent of the clergy serving appointments to a local church or on conference staff in the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences of the United Methodist Church are participating in Spirited Life.

Can I join?

No, enrollment for currently serving clergy ended on October 31, 2010. Though Spirited Life is a multi-year program, it was essential that we have a complete view of the number of individuals who wanted to participate up front. We have randomly segmented everyone enrolled in Spirited Life into three groups for logistical and research reasons, and for the purposes of our study, these groups needed to be comparable. Understanding the scale of the program now also enables us to plan effectively for the lifespan of the program and be good stewards of The Duke Endowment's funding.

What if my status changes during the program?

Those enrolled are guaranteed to receive the services of Spirited Life. A change in status will not affect eligibility.

Costs, Commitments, and Schedule

What does Spirited Life cost?

Spirited Life is funded by The Duke Endowment and offered to clergy free of charge. However, participation will require a significant commitment of time and effort.

How much time will Spirited Life require?

Each participant in Spirited Life will receive two years of wellness services. While taking part in this portion of the program, you should plan to allocate five days for workshops and an average of 45 hours for other aspects of Spirited Life.

During the remainder of Spirited Life, participants will be engaged solely in the research component of the program. During this time, you can expect to spend up to 10 hours annually participating in health screenings and surveys.

The bishops and district superintendents in the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences have pledged their support of Spirited Life and the time required for clergy to participate fully.

Learn more.

Will I be required to travel to participate in Spirited Life?

Yes. Many of the key features of the program, including workshops, are designed to foster group participation, making travel necessary. In addition, the periodic health screenings will be held in centralized locations.

We will offer these programs in several regions throughout the state to lessen the travel burden, and in certain instances will compensate you for your time.

Will I receive wellness services immediately?

We have randomly assigned all Spirited Life participants to one of three groups. Group 1 began receiving wellness services in January 2011, and Group 2 began in January 2012. Services for Group 3 will begin in January 2013.

Members of all three groups will participate in health screenings and surveys at regular intervals for the duration of Spirited Life.

Regardless of group assignment, everyone who participates in Spirited Life is entitled to receive all of the services offered, even if they move to another appointment, retire, or their circumstances change.

View more information about group assignments and frequency of data collection.

Consent and Research

Can I receive the services of Spirited Life without consenting to be part of the research study?

No. The services and the research are integrally related to one another so that we can improve the services over time, and so that other conferences or churches who might want to adopt the same or a similar program can be assured of its benefits.

Can I request a specific group assignment?

No. To ensure that each of the three groups represents the entire study population, we randomly assigned each participant to a group. Rest assured, however, that once you are enrolled in the program, you are entitled to receive all of the services offered as part of Spirited Life, even if you move to another appointment or your circumstances change.

How long will I be in this study?

You will receive wellness services for approximately 2 years, but your entire participation in the study will last from 3.5 to 5.5 years, depending on the group to which you are assigned.

Why is this study important?

The goal of the partnership that created the Clergy Health Initiative is not only to improve the lives of United Methodist pastors in North Carolina, but also to create a wellness program that could be of service to other United Methodist conferences and to other churches and faith communities.

This is the first combined weight loss and stress reduction program in the nation to receive rigorous study, and one of only a handful in which programming lasts more than 12 months. With your help, Spirited Life will be rigorously tested so that our brothers and sisters across the church can adopt it with confidence that it is beneficial. Close study from the start will also allow us to improve the program as we go.

What are the risks of the study?

It is possible that during this study, you may receive information about your health status that is upsetting. We pledge to inform you promptly of your health test results, and to help you develop skills in healthful decision making. What course of action you take in response to new information is up to you, and should be taken with the advice of a physician or other appropriate professional. Data collection is similar to a routine physical and psychological examination. You may experience pain or discomfort when your finger is stuck in order to draw blood. You will undertake wellness-promotion activities, possibly including diet or exercise programs, which carry some risk and should be reviewed and approved by a physician and/or other appropriately qualified professional.

Are there benefits to taking part in the study?

The knowledge gained from the study will be incorporated into the research and services of the Clergy Health Initiative, which may benefit you and your ministry peers in the future. The stress reduction and mindful eating programs included in the Spirited Life program have been evaluated for their efficacy in improving health outcomes. We hope that you will experience personal health benefits from the health intervention, although we cannot guarantee that.

What about compensation?

There is cash compensation for several of the data collection phases in this study.

Confidentiality and Participant Rights

Will my information be kept private?

Study records that identify you will be kept confidential. View our confidentiality policies.

Will my individual results be given to my supervisors/superiors?

Absolutely not. None of your health information or survey responses will ever be revealed in a way that could identify you. View our confidentiality policies.

What about my rights to decline participation or withdraw from the study?

Your participation is voluntary. You may choose not to participate in any or all parts of the study. Your conference will have no way of knowing whether you have agreed to participate in the program, and they will not know any of your health data or survey responses. Also, you may decline to answer any questions on the surveys.

You may withdraw your authorization for us to use your data that have already been collected (other than data needed to keep track of your withdrawal), but you must do this in writing by contacting Duke Clergy Health Initiative, 312 Blackwell St. Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701, or via e-mail.

What do I do if I have questions or problems?

Call the Clergy Health Initiative staff at 919.613.5350, or send us an e-mail.

For questions about your rights as a research participant, contact the Chair of the Human Subjects Committee at Duke University at 919.684.3030.