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Rise in number of church leaders describing their mental health as 'poor or very poor' since coronavirus pandemic began

by Chantalle Edmunds

A number of church leaders have reported a dip in their mental health since Government restrictions were introduced during 2020 to manage the spread of coronavirus.

Savanta ComRes, in partnership with The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), has published the findings from their first Church Leader Panel, which surveyed 201 leaders of Anglican, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Congregational and other churches during the period between the two lockdowns of 2020.

Katie Harrison, Director of Savanta ComRes Faith Research Centre spoke to Premier about the survey:

"We asked them to think about the two years prior to the COVID-19 restrictions that came in March of 2020. And to think about the period since those restrictions began, and to assess their mental health during that time. So what we found was that 93% of them said that in the two years leading up to March 2020, they'd had very good or fairly good mental health, which is very high. And it's really very impressive that church leaders overall are reporting this level of happiness with their mental health. But then when we ask them about the period since March, that went down to 85%, so that doubled from a 7%, and a proportion of people who said it was poor or very poor, to 15% of people who said it was poor or very poor."

Although the survey didn't ask participants what had caused them to feel this way, Katie Harrison said there's a number of factors, many of which are unique to the pandemic.

"Church leaders have as well as many other professionals being under an enormous amount of pressure in the last year, everything about the way that they normally do their jobs has changed. And so the obvious examples are worship services, Sunday mornings, that sort of thing, going online or being done over the phone, or in very different ways or not being done at all, really, because we haven't been able to do them in person every single week, during the last year. 

"But also lots of other things about the way that church leaders work, the way that they have conversations with their teams, with the person who maybe line managers or supports them, if they're in the kind of church network that has that sort of system. Everything has changed about the way that we communicate, the places we can go. So they've had their own massive changes to contend with as well as supporting people within their congregations who are really struggling. Some church leaders have had to step up with their food banks and things like that they've had to increase the provision and do it very differently," she told Premier.

As Christians, along with praying for our church leaders, we are being urged to reach out to ask how they are: 

"...See what will help, send a card, send a gift, if that's the way that you tend to express yourself, just make sure that people know that you're thinking of them, and that they can call on you if they need you," Harrison added.

Sam Richardson, Chief Executive of SPCK, added in a statement: "These findings match with what we are hearing from church leaders, and seeing from their ordering patterns. Covid-19 and the lockdowns have brought a wide range of new challenges for church leaders in a short space of time, and a significant number are feeling the effects."

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