Throughout 2020 and 2021, we engaged almost 300 United Methodist clergy from across the state of North Carolina on a journey to evaluate three specific practices chosen specifically for clergy, and guided by data from United Methodist clergy in NC across 10 years and the most up-to-date findings in the larger stress management literature.
SPIRITED LIFE: SELAH aimed to help clergy live fully into ministry while decreasing stress symptoms. Despite the abundance of existing programs to reduce stress, people often don’t engage in them because they are too time-consuming, don’t fit with one’s beliefs, or don’t fit into one’s day. These particular practices were adapted specifically for clergy with an eye towards promoting spiritual well-being in addition to reducing stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.
Because the funding for this research coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the programmatic components of Selah Study were delivered remotely. While this was not the original program design, we were grateful for the opportunity to engage clergy during a uniquely stressful period as well as having the opportunity to design and test programming that is easily scalable and low-cost.
SPIRITED LIFE: SELAH began with attendance and participation at an online workshop designed to introduce clergy to a new workshop stress reduction practice and to a group of fellow clergy. Depending on which practice was chosen, clergy attended anywhere from three to eight online sessions where they learned their practice under the guidance of trained and qualified instructors.
Following attendance at the workshop, participants were invited to six months of daily practice and some online follow-up sessions. Practice was encouraged via daily text messages from their instructors and the Selah staff.
SPIRITED LIFE: SELAH had two primary components:
- Instructional programming that introduced clergy to particular stress-reduction skills, and invited them into daily practice in community with a cohort of 15-20 other clergy.
- A six-month behavioral health study that used surveys, biometric data, interviews, and daily reporting to rigorously determine whether or not each program made a difference in stress symptoms.