Ministry is a life of ongoing chronic stress, involving constant people work as well as considerable intellectual work in teaching and preparing for teaching. It is often in the face of opposition or disapproval, from both inside and outside the church. Resilience is the quality which allows people to continue in the face of that ongoing stress.
Also ministry may well involve times of crisis stress in which there may be intense periods of emotional disturbance dealing with life crises in the congregation or particular difficulties. Resilience studies also look at recovery from traumatic events, and consider how people are able to grow from such events, rather than be crushed by them.
In my work, I looked at the psychological research on resilience in order to think about how we might train our students to be more resilient as they undertake a lifetime of ministry. I was surprised to find so much that speaks directly to Christian ministry, although the research literature is not often applied in that area.
About Kirsty Birkett
Kirsty has taught pastoral care and counseling at Oak Hill for several years. She has an MA in higher education with a dissertation on training for resilience in Christian Ministry, and a CCEF certificate in Christian Counseling. She has written widely on the interaction between secular science and Christian faith. She is the author of Resilience, a Spiritual Project (Latimer, 2013).