Fat Sick Pastors

Out of Ur pointed out an interesting New York Times article a few weeks ago about how unhealthy our pastors are. The article in question states that Pastors are increasingly at risk to be fatter and sicker than the people in their congregation. Here’s an excerpt:

Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy.

But while research continues, a growing number of health care experts and religious leaders have settled on one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics: taking more time off.

We had a pastor in our study group who hadnt taken a vacation in 18 years, said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, an assistant professor of health research at Duke University who directs one of the studies. These people tend to be driven by a sense of a duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7.

Read the rest of the NYT article.

I’ve sat through more than my fair share of sermons in which a pastor bragged about how they spent the first 5 years of their ministry tirelessly working for the church without a vacation. It always seemed odd to me that they would revel in the fact that they didn’t know how to properly rest, and it sounds like some of those bad habits are starting to have a significant impact on the health of pastors.

What do you think of the New York Times article? Does your church make it possible for your pastor to take time off? Do you think that being at an increased risk of health problems is just part of being a pastor?

15 Responses to “Fat Sick Pastors”

  • Jim says:

    Our job is sedintary, we study at our desk for several hours, we go into peoples homes, sit and visit, eat whatever they give us, surely if you dont eat their offerings they’ll be offended, then family stuff, and other responsibilities, I am only 50, and feel like I am 70 + ya know you should exorcise, but your wife makes excuses not to, and she wants you to spend time with her, by the time you have had enough you make your own excuses not to exorcise, at a certain time in your life it seems as you have gone over the edge and just cannot seem to make yourseld do what you know you aught to be doing with your body, It’s hard for me to preach on sin and then look in a mirror, On wednesday evenings sometimes, I run out of breath leading the songs. GOD PLEASE HELP ME! I dont want to be like this.

  • Melody says:

    Jim, don’t make excuses; make it happen. The Word says God rested on the seventh day. So rest. Pick a day. Maybe Thursday. You still have Friday and Saturday to finish up preparation for Sunday.

    I am glad you realize that you are sinning. And if your wife is making excuses for you, she is leading you away from Christ. Get her in line, too. Your spending time together could be physical exercise. Take a walk, play tennis, bowl, whatever.

    And Lord knows, you need to learn to say NO. You don’t have to eat everything offered. “No, thank you. It looks delicious, but I am watching my health.”

    Be a leader in all areas of your life.

  • Maria P. says:

    Melody, I am a pastor and I believe you said it all in a nutshell. I agree 100%. Even Jesus took time to sleep, and that was during a storm. So if He can rest during a rough time, he is giving the example that you should too. Jim, you need to check what you are teaching your congregation to do by your example. Saying no doesen’t mean you are weak. It also doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice yourself “TO PLEASE OTHERS.” I dont.mean to offend you, but I don’t believe you should be in a leadership position if you don’t know how to lead. Maybe God didn’t call you to lead,you called you to lead, that’s why you are having the problems you have. I will pray for you.

  • Andy P. says:

    Maria P. I would hate to be in your congregation & come to you with a problem with my children, you might just say i shouldn’t be a parent & take my kids away. Jim, I to have put on some extra lbs. & in need of shredding them. Melody is correct,no more excuses, so I believe a fast is in order. You have been abusing, I should know, the blessing of food by indulging in the sinful taste of food that doesn’t do a body good. I’m sure you are not eating salad & carrots on the couch late at night, or eating salads in the fast food lanes( I should know). We know the Israelites were never satisfied with GOD’s blessings of food, didn’t want the land full of fine food, & we know the end result, 40yrs of sand storms. I’m sure you have fasted before, being a Pastor, so thru pray, call on the LORD & ask him, “how long LORD” & be still. LORD search Jim’s heart, take the desire to overload on the taste & quantity of food away from him. Let him realize the blessing to have food,& reign down on him self control. Amen!

  • Angela says:

    Jim, I applaud your openness, and if you keep seeking God’s help, he will show you how you can make positive changes in your life, for yourself and your family and congregation.
    Melody and Maria, I’m appauled by your condemnation of Jim after him being so open and honest with his struggle. Unfortunately, this is why many people don’t open up about the stuff that they have a hard time with. “Well-meaning” Christians graspe onto it, and take the opportunity to make hurtful and wrong statements like: “I’m glad you realize that you are sinning.” and “I don’t believe you should be in a leadership position if you don’t know how to lead. Maybe God didn’t call you to lead,you called you to lead, that’s why you are having the problems you have. I will pray for you.”

    I will pray for you????? Who are you to place that sort of doubt in this pastor’s mind, because he’s struggling with his weight!!! Even if he was struggling with pornography or alcoholism, it is not your call to say that he shouldn’t be a pastor.

    Pastor’s are human first and foremost. Being a pastor doesn’t exempt you from the temptations and struggles that everyone else has.

    Yes. We should be praying for Jim, but not out of judgement of his struggle, but out of love for another minister of the gospel.

    Jim, don’t give up on your call from God. If God doesn’t want you in that position, he’ll make that clear to you in your own spirit.

    Best wishes for you all.

  • Veta says:

    Jim, I am not a pastor but I have been a Christian for a long, long time. The problem is not food, and the problem is not lack of exercise, it is a spiritual problem. If you will get your focus on the Word and on pleasing Him, everything else will fall in line. I may be wrong, but it seems to me you are focused more on pleasing the congregation. Sermons are not conjured up by massive amounts of time but are spiritually given by time with God. That time comes while searching prayerfully in the Word, not just studying for a sermon.

    Do you devote time to prayer? My pastor rises early and goes on long prayer walks. He gets a lot of his sermons or the highlights of his sermons during many of those prayer walks. We really don’t have an excuse for not exercising. Walking is a great time to commune with God and get focused on God and meditate on His Word. Carry a small recorder with you on those walks. God may speak something to your heart, and if you have a recorder, you can record what He says to you or record a scripture that comes to mind and look it up later.

    Be transparent with your congregation. Let them know that you are working on your health and are disciplining your body. Ask them for their understanding so if you refuse to eat certain things when you visit, you can remind them and they will understand. If they don’t, that is their problem with God. Your hands are clean. Many times, you will displease people, but be pleasing to God. Remember Psalm 27. We are to offer ourselves a “living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God”,(Rom 12:1=2) NOT PEOPLE. Also read Heb. 12:1-2, I am sure you know the verse.

    I do believe you are called to lead. People forget that pastors are still human and can begin to get bogged down and lose focus. The devil would love nothing more than to get you out of the position God called you to. If burnout starts to happen, exam your directional focus. Is it on the sermon, pleasing people or pleasing and focusing on God. Get your focus on Him and the sermons will not be a chore, but a result of your walk with God. Some will not like it but do not ever let them change your focus. God will lead you and direct you as to how to handle them in love.

  • Fred R says:

    I am glad to see this issue being addressed. There are a number of reasons for people being overweight. One is eating for comfort to compensate for stress. Another is eating the wrong foods (burgers and fries) frequently because scheduling to eat properly is difficult. I believe that pastors are more prone to both because of the demands church members place on them. As was stated above, taking regular time off is important. As to what Maria P. said, I think we should be cautious about determining whether someone should or should not be in ministry. Although I believe that there are many people pastoring churches that should not be, it is important to remember that the fact that Jim is having problems in certain areas of his life does not make him unfit to lead. It means that he is a sinner like the rest of us and does not have that area conquered. There are sins that should get a pastor removed, but I do not think that overeating and time management fit that category.

  • Frank V. says:

    It appears that some in this blog have overlooked the end of Jim’s plea. GOD please help me! I don’t want to be like this.

    Do you think this will go unanswered?

  • Kevin says:

    Jim,I’m 48 and gave my life to the LORD when I was 21.I try to love the LORD with all my heart.It sounds to me like you love the LORD with all your heart soul mind and strength,thats why your going so hard.I feel this way because it happened to me.Years ago and recently,I felt like the LORD was calling me to be a pastor.He still might be and i’m praying about it.I was pushing extremely hard and I gotvery depressed,could’nt eat or sleep.I had to go in the hospital for 10 days.I really thought I was going to die.The LORD delivered me,and restored my joy,and peace.I feel like HE had to let this happen, to give me rest,and to teach to trust HIM more.Pray to HIM and ask him to help you slow down and rest.I’ll pray for you also brother.I love you.

  • anngie says:

    One man cried out for help, yet he received several different responses that I believe can only add confusion. Every body has an opinon. however, when a man cries out to GOD for help–why can’t we just agree to pray with him and for him? our opinons are not necessary. it only matters what God has to say. So Jim, I will pray with you for your help.

    In response to the article: there are some Pastors who completely run the show and are not comfortable turning over the reigns to an assistant for even a week in order to rest.shame on them for causing their own health to decline due to pride. Jesus said that he will give us rest.. because his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

  • H says:

    “The Best way to predict the future is to create it”-By Peter Drucker.

    What ever your individual proffesion or purpose may be in this life, I would like you all to understand that when you die, you return back to the dust and your body is then useless unless your’e an organ donor.

    All I’m saying is that your body is only vital on earth now, while you are alive, so care for it well. Your body is a gift for you to fullfill your earthly purpose. Make an active personal decision to change the future for those generations that will come after you. One more thing your life is not your own.

    “Leave an inheritance of Health”
    -By H.J. Robinson

  • Kevin Rogers says:

    I’m not qualified to guess at what God is working at in your life. I believe He is working in all of our lives at all times.

    Depression is a great tool of Satan. Don’t be fooled. Your work for Christ has not gone unnoticed and you will be greatly rewarded in Heaven.


  • Ma. Alje Jilapon says:

    Fat, Sick Pastor is still better than “No Pastor” at all, or worse – False Teacher. Pastors are only humans, subject to sickness and everything, it is still “healthy” (in every sense of the word) to have one like that, so long as he teaches and behaves the truth that he professes.

  • hello,

    so i am trying something new to get out of this behavirol rut. i am to picture what would be different if i had allready acheuved my goal. how would my life change and then write it down like everything that would be different. the hope is that God can work in this medditation expereiment to show me what i might be resistant to at the root.

    just a thought

    hope it helps


  • Quilenda says:

    They are human; subject to the same circumstances as everyone else. Just pray for them as well as everyone else. THX