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Many Australian clergy showing signs of burnout

[Episcopal News Service]  A survey of clergy in Australian churches is showing that nearly eight out of 10 are having trouble coping with the stresses of their profession, many near 'burnout.' While only 4 percent said they were suffering from extreme burnout, another 19 percent found burnout a factor in their lives and another 56 percent were 'borderline to burnout.'

More than half of those surveyed believe that their training had been seriously inadequate. The survey revealed that 12 percent of Anglican clergy regularly considered leaving the ministry and a similar percentage said that they were not suited to their jobs.

The survey was conducted in 1996 and involved 324,000 people attending 6,900 congregations in 20 Anglican and Protestant denominations. The survey was designed to develop questions that would provide a picture of the health and attitudes of Christian congregations and clergy.

'One constellation of risk factors relates to the person themselves, another to their parish and church environment, and the third to their leadership style, said Peter Kaldor, author of a book on the results.

The clergy least likely to suffer from burnout rated the quality of their marriage and family life as high, were in good health, did not feel socially isolated, still had a strong sense of personal calling and were not burdened by financial problems.

Inward-looking congregations were more 'dangerous' for their leaders than those with links to the broader community life, according to the survey. Congregations with a sense of vision, and those who related their worship to contemporary society, helped clergy to avoid burnout.

'The role expected of clergy has changed very fast,' said Kaldor. 'Different groups might want different things from their priest. Clergy can get stuck in the role of trying to be all things to all people.'