Ingrid Friesen Moser, MA, RDN has worked in wellness for 25 years. In addition to her ten-year history as Wellness Coordinator with Mennonite Church USA’s Corinthian Plan, the health plan for MC USA pastors and church workers, she works with children and adults at Maple City Health Care Center in Goshen, Indiana. Her degrees in nutrition (Goshen College) and Christian Formation (AMBS) reflect her passion for the intersection of health and wellness with spiritual disciplines. Ingrid is grateful for meals shared around a table, interests like birding that get her out looking for the next new and amazing thing to cross her path, and the giant sequoias found in Sequoia National Park that inspire and are among the tallest, widest, and longest-lived organisms on the planet.
My almost 98-year-old great uncle, Simon Gingerich is amazing. He still engages me and our two teenage sons and enjoys a good discussion on a wide range of topics. He is the kind of dear soul that knows how to make others feel seen. He and his first wife Dorothy were like a third set of grandparents to me. I love them dearly.
Simon has enjoyed a long, healthy life. Dorothy, on the other hand, experienced many medical limitations and hardships. She died in 1996 when I was in my twenties. He has outlived her by almost 25 years.
Simon started out his career as a pastor, like his father, and grandfather, and likely even more generations before that. His wife, however, faced health challenges early in their marriage. Later, when her health needs increased, he looked for other ways to serve the church through his work.
Times were different back then for pastors. Simon’s pastoral salary and benefits came from donations given to the offering plate on designated Sundays, so one never knew how much income could be counted on. His spouse Dorothy was expected to be the church secretary, host church functions, and be in a leadership role for women and children. Her health challenges, which at the time went undiagnosed and are only today beginning to be understood, did not allow her to do all the things a pastor’s spouse was expected to do. She was unable to work outside their home, and although he was the only pastor in the congregation, Simon also needed to work in a local upholstery business, in order to supplement the love offerings and other practical help the congregation was able to provide.
Thankfully we have evolved some as a denomination. Most pastors receive a regular monthly salary and benefits. Pastor’s spouse/family assumptions are different, but there are still often different standards for women and men in supportive spouse roles.
We now have denominational health benefits in The Corinthian Plan that congregations can participate in that offer pastors and their families health benefits, even in cases of preexisting conditions. One helpful resource is the Pastor Well-being Checklist. Congregations can use this tool to assess how they are supporting their pastor’s well-being.
As a pastor’s spouse myself, when I think about the MC USA Pastor Well-being Checklist, I have a lot of gratitude for congregations that engage it.
The checklist is a conversation starter, and hopefully an idea generator, for how we can together make congregations places of well-being, work and worship for all – yes, for the pastor and the pastor’s family, but also for everyone in the congregation.
Interested in learning more? Check out the Pastor Well-being Checklist to see how your congregation is doing, where you might improve, and what you might want to consider in your process of becoming a congregation which fully supports the well-being and flourishing of not only your pastors, but also their families.
The Corinthian Plan Pastor Well-being Check list is available for MC USA congregations to reflect on how they are supporting their pastor’s wellbeing and assist pastors and congregations to listen to each other. Learn more at mennoniteusa.org/wellbeing-in-ministry.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.