Overwhelmed by Overwork

In a project I did on clergy wellbeing I spoke to ten Diocesan Counsellors and a number of them felt angry about how difficult the role is and with so little relevant training and virtually no support, some used the words ‘shocking’ and ‘scandalous’. One commented:

“Senior staff say that we need to train the clergy in resilience, but the job is undoable even the most resilient person would not be able to do the job.”

In a survey I asked clergy to respond to the statement ‘I feel overwhelmed by the workload’ and below are the answers from the incumbents (the most overwhelmed group of which there were 78 responses):

Incumbent responses to the statement ‘I feel overwhelmed by the workload’

41% said that they always or most of the time felt overwhelmed by the workload. This isn’t something that is only happening to clergy, according to a survey by Qualrics almost half of UK workers (47%) spend the majority of the time feeling overwhelmed by workloads. Sarah Marrs, employee experience specialist at Qualtrics, said:

‘If employees are stressed, tired or overworked, those feelings will rapidly trickle down into the quality of their work and is more likely to result in their choosing to leave the organisation.’

The problem is we don’t know how many clergy are leaving the organisation because of stress or overwhelm – that data isn’t collected. But anecdotally it seems to be high. There is data about how many clergy retire each year (but they may retire because of ill health). The figures are available here and the table for 2017 is below:

Number of stipendiary retirees by age and new roles by the end of 2017

65% of stipendiary clergy who are retiring are not active, it is such a high figure that it leads me to feel that most of them are not active in the church because they have had enough, their ministry was too exhausting and some of them will be burnt out.

Photo attribution: Penny Dugmore

3 thoughts on “Overwhelmed by Overwork”

  1. Essentially, despite nominally limited working hours, it’s a calling without limits. In crazy Church mathematics, a half-time post is probably about 0.8 if you’re lucky. I worry a bit about what a “House for Duty” post can really involve.

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