Clergy Total Well-being
As a pastoral leader in your church, members of your congregation and community lean heavily on you in times of crisis and celebration, when navigating new life pathways and while in despair. Often you are helping one or more individuals deal with difficult situations at any given time. In more extreme times – such as during the C-19 pandemic – the entire church and community look to you to offer comfort, support, and encouragement as the heaviness of the world weighs on everyone.
As you care for others, you may neglect yourself. Your ability to provide effective leadership for your church and community depends greatly on your own total well-being. Do you take time to eat healthy and obtain regular exercise? Do you care for your own mental and emotional health by engaging a counselor or practices to enhance your emotional well-being such as daily meditation? Are you confident in your own financial situation so that you can focus on the financial health of your church? Do you have connections with individuals outside of work, one or two friends to enjoy and share life’s ups and downs? How is it with your soul?
Next Steps . . .
We encourage you to share your concerns with someone you trust. Someone with your best interests at heart. Someone who can encourage and support you during difficult times. Your district superintendent is a tremendous resource and is often the best first person to seek out.
Others who are prepared and equipped to provide support and connect you with resources include the Clergy Total Well-being Team. The team is comprised of:
- Leana Stunes, Conference benefits officer
- Diane Owen, Area program director of Financial Health and Well-being
- Shawn Culey, physician and Higher Ground leader
While each team member may have an area of “expertise”, any of them can listen to your concerns and connect you to the right resource. Each has access to numerous resources related and unrelated to their area of focus.
Overall well-being depends on numerous interrelated dimensions. Health and well-being are closely connected, and improving well-being in one area can have a positive effect on other dimensions. The well-being of those who serve the Church affects the whole Dakotas UMC connection, including family, congregation and community. We want to help you find resources and support to help make positive changes in each of the well-being dimensions. Continue reading to learn more.
The latest resource:
Coming again in 2023: The Dakotas-Minnesota Area offers a Clergy Well-Being Grant of up to $1,500 to support clergy well-being.
Examples of what this grant can be used for include:
- Health coach, personal trainer, or nutritionist.
- Spiritual director, mental health counselor.
- Gym membership.
- Creative arts experience: painting, dance lessions, etc.
- Retreat center for time away experience.
- Childcare to provide time away for well-being experience.
- Course of resilience, trauma.
- Hiking boots
UPDATE 7/21/2022: The 2022 Clergy Well-being Grant has reached the budget limit for this year awarding $150,000 in grants to help our clergy improve their well-being. Over 125 grants provided retreats and travel experiences; bikes, kayaks, and hiking boots; gym memberships and fitness equipment; coaches and spiritual directors – all efforts to improve clergy well-being. Stories are coming in about positive improvements and changes! We encourage our clergy to share these stories about how your well-being has improved as a result of this opportunity. Another opportunity to apply for a clergy well-being grant will be available in 2023.
Effort to achieve total well-being requires paying attention to all dimensions of well-being, attempting to manage the gaps and find balance among the dimensions. A wholistic approach, total well-being implies that a person is thriving in all dimensions including the ways each dimension relates to the others. The following provides resources in all dimensions.
- The Center for Spirituality and Healing (University of MN) provides a holistic approach to taking charge of health and well-being. Each dimension of well-being is explored through articles, practices, videos, and other tools.
Find resources at the Center for Spirituality and Healing here.
- “Feel Good, Look Good, For Life: your ultimate guide to achieve lifelong health” by Angela Gaffney provides strategies, practical tools, and implementation exercises to survive a health crisis and embrace total well-being.
Purchase from Amazon.
- University of California’s Berkeley Center for Greater Good produces Greater Good Magazine, an online source of science-based insights for a meaningful life addressing all aspects (and more) of well-being dimensions through articles, podcasts, videos.
Explore this website here.
- Higher Ground provides funding for Coaching and Counseling resources (12 sessions per year) in any of the primary wellbeing dimensions. A pastor requests resources directly through their DS who, in turn, recommends the pastor’s request to Diane Owen. The Higher Ground funds are limited to resourcing 20 pastors per year in any of the well-being dimensions.
See more Higher Ground information here.
If we feel stressed or insecure about finances, it can be difficult to focus and be our best in career and other areas of life. Studies find that those who feel financially secure are more likely to be healthier than those who don’t feel they are in control of their finances. Keep in mind that being financially healthy isn’t about how much money we make, but rather how we manage what we have. This dimension focuses on attitudes toward money, building sound financial habits and using tools to effectively manage financial resources.
Are you looking for financial education materials for yourself and/or your church? Do you need help reducing education debt? Would a financial counselor or planner a helpful resource at this stage of your life? To assist you in the financial well-being dimension, these resources and more are available here.
The mind-body connection is powerful. Tending to our emotional well-being can help us feel better physically, and vice versa. Emotional well-being includes the ability to manage your feelings and related behaviors, cope effectively with stress and adapt to change. This dimension focuses on awareness and acceptance of stressors and feelings, both positive and negative. The following resources can aid in improving mental and emotional well-being.
- Mental Health and Care: Coping with stress during this season and beyond | Dec. 1, 3, 8, and 10, 2-3 p.m., online Panels of therapeutic and pastoral experts will lead four webinars to discuss the practical and spiritual disciplines needed for surviving this season, COVID-19, and the inequalities it has exacerbated.
- Review this comprehensive guide to access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and mental health providers through HealthFlex insurance. Refer to the Mental Health process guide (detailed step-by-step guide) or contact Leana Stunes, CBO, at 605-990-7785 or e-mail.
- Mental Health Support & Addiction Support
- Stephanie Moore, licensed counselor with Moore Counseling Services LLC, provides professional services for clergy (virtually or in person) within the Dakotas AC. Stephanie is on the EAP (Optum) and BCBS of IL list of providers. Call Moore Counseling Services LLC at 855-888-8627. (Stephanie is the spouse of Pastor Charlie Moore, who serves at Sunnycrest UMC in Sioux Falls, SD.)
- Sioux Falls Psychological provides virtual sessions. Your district superintendent can provide information or contact Leana Stunes, Conference benefits officer, at 605-990-7785 or e-mail.
- LeaderWise offers telehealth counseling during this season. Counselors are on both the EAP (Optum) and BCBS of IL provider lists. Call the office administrators (Heather/Gaynelle/Barb) at 651-636-5120 or via e-mail to set up an appointment. View the counselors and their profiles here. For those not participating in the insurance plan and needing access to funds, clergy should contact their DS to apply for, and be recommended, for these funds.
- Counseling Financial Assistance Program: Funds for counseling services (other than available through EAP and insurance) or to assist payment towards the deductible are available through the Higher Ground clergy well-being initiative. Contact Leana Stunes, Conference benefits officer, at 605-990-7785 or e-mail.
- Clergy Chaplains, retired and active clergy in the Dakotas AC, are available to talk with any clergy. The Dakotas Cabinet (any district superintendent) can provide the pastor with a list of names and contact info.
Taking care of our body is essential for our physical health, and it’s closely linked with many other aspects of our well-being. This dimension focuses on the importance of moderate daily activity, proper nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, preventive care, and managing chronic health conditions. Research shows that physical activity lowers the risk of many chronic conditions (diabetes, heart disease, obesity and bone and joint problems). It can also improve our mood and boost our energy. Refer to the following resources to assist with physical well-being.
- MDLIVE provides medical guidance from a healthcare professional by phone or video. Wespath will waive the cost of MDLIVE telemedicine service for the next 90 days (mid-June 2020). COVID-19 tests are covered at 100% by BCBS of IL. Call your provider or use MDLIVE during this time to confirm if COVID-19 testing is necessary. The CDC recommends that you call your provider before seeking in-person services. Call MDLive at 888-750- 4991 or visit MDLIVE.com.
- Dr. Shawn Culey, physician and part of the Higher Ground team, is available for direct calls. Contact Dr. Culey via e-mail, or call 605-360-8352 to leave message, or text at, with your contact information and concerns. Dr. Culey will respond within 24 hours. (If an emergency, always call 911 or go directly to the ER.)
- Virgin Pulse has developed a resource for the public that addresses total well-being dimensions (reducing stress, staying active, being productive, sleeping well, eating healthy), all on a newly created webpage. Visit Virgin Pulse and select “Your Practical Guide to Wellbeing”.
- The Peloton App is free for 90 days and includes every type of activity you could wish for - strength training, yoga, cardio, meditation, stretching, bootcamp, walking. Go to the App store on your phone or tablet and download the Peloton app.
- Weight Watchers, a nutrition and weight reduction program, is available at a 50% discount for those enrolled in HealthFlex insurance. Go to Wespath and sign into your HealthFlex account. Or contact Leana Stunes, CBO, at 605-990-7785 or email.
Spiritual well-being can bring inner peace, a contentment with our current situation and self. This dimension centers on relationships and activities that support and enhance our spiritual well-being, such as prayer, meditation and worship. Below are resources to support the spiritual well-being dimension.
- Susan Reese, certified spiritual director with Sioux Falls Seminary, is available for virtual appointments. Contact Susan via e-mail.
- Lin Van Hofwegen, certified spiritual director, is available for virtual appointments. Contact Lin via e-mail.
- Spiritual Direction Financial Assistance offered through Higher Ground. Contact Deb Kjerstad, Leadership Development Director, by e-mail.
- Clergy colleagues in the Dakotas AC trained as spiritual directors are available to talk with clergy. The Dakotas Cabinet (any district superintendent) can provide the pastor with a list of names and contact info.
- LeaderWise offers virtual sessions with a spiritual director during this season. Call the office administrators (Heather/Gaynelle/Barb) at 651-636-5120 or e-mail at to set up an appointment. View the profiles of Susan Miller or Tim Nelson at LeaderWise.
- Emory Spiritual Health is offering a care response in proactive and creative ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have developed a video library covering a wide variety of topics and meditations that are available for supporting professionals whose job is to care for others as well as to the public. Access the Emory Spiritual Health video library here.
- Audio guided practices developed by Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry, are available through the free app resource for spiritual practice called, Ritual: Well-being (Apple only).