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Flourishing Update - July 28, 2020

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again!

Margaret Clarke is Ph.D candidate in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Saskatchewan and Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Briercrest Seminary

What a clown! How can you still be smiling when parents buy you so that their kids can take out their pent-up frustrations and not kill their siblings? Remarkably resilient, that’s how I’d describe the blow-up clown punching bag toy that was common when I was a child in the 70’s. It has this unbeatable ability to pop back up no matter how hard or how often it is hit. These blow-up clowns are the image of what comes to mind for me when I think of the concept of resilience. Without a doubt these clowns have the ability to positively adapt to the adversity that has literally been thrown at them!

I have an interest in clergy resilience which comes from both from a professional interest, as therapist, and from a personal interest, as my spouse has been a pastor for 25 years. I’m very curious about clergy resilience and how it is that the clergy bounce back from the adversity and challenges that they face in their role. Of course, I don’t want to extend the clown toy metaphor so far as to suggest the clergy are clowns or that they are constantly getting punched…although at times I do think people might redirect their frustrations at them sometimes! I think there are some features from these resilient clown toys that can be helpful in considering clergy resilience.

As I’ve reflected on this toy, there seem to be several aspects that help these clowns to bounce back. First, the sand base of the clown, which provides a stabilizing base. Second, the plastic body that allows for flexibility to absorb the punches as they get hit. And third, the air that fills the clown and helps it to be buoyant and return to its standing position.

I wonder if clergy resilience might have some features in common with this classic toy. Are there resources in their lives that serve in a similar manner to a sand-filled base? Are there means by which clergy stay flexible in responding to all that comes at them in their role? What keeps clergy buoyant in the midst of it all?

I am in the midst of collecting Canadian Christian clergy perspectives on resilience both through a national survey and one-on-one interviews. You might wonder if I’m using my clown toy metaphor there but alas, no, unfortunately being a newer to the world of academia I didn’t feel confident that it sounded “smart enough” for a doctoral study! The official “smart” questions we are discussing seem to be helpful though and the clergy I’ve spoken to have shared so much wisdom and insight. It’s also been great to see the level of interest in this topic through great participation in the national survey, which seems to suggest that this is a relevant topic to clergy.

As I write this blog post, I am in the middle of the interviews and it’s been so interesting to hear what the clergy I’m talking to are sharing about the resources that support their resilience. It’s interesting to hear things that are unique for certain individuals and others that have been common among those I’ve spoken to. As the interviews progress, and I get closer to August when I will see the survey findings and be wrapping up my interviews, I get increasingly excited about how this knowledge might support the resilience of clergy in the future.

For those clergy who haven’t yet had a chance to complete the survey, it will remain open until July 31 and can be found here:

Whether you fall into the category of clergy or not, resilience is common to all of us, as we all experience adversity in some form and have to respond to it. As you read this post and think about the clown toy and reflect on your own resilience, what comes to mind? Are there resources that help you to have a solid base? Are there resources that help you to be flexible? Other things that help you to be buoyant? I’m thinking that maybe I need to get one of these clowns again, as a reminder of my curiosities about resilience... but also because I think punching one some days might help me feel a little more buoyant!


What We Are Reading

Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living

Reuben P. Job

Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God. These are the three simple rules that Reuben P. Job unpacks in this tiny book, where nearly every sentence packs a punch. Alongside being a powerful book for those in the pews, this book is particularly critical for those in church leadership. In step with this newsletter’s focus on clergy resilience, church leaders will find countless insights to effectively and resiliently lead a congregation and live well in community with others, for example when we are wronged by another or disagree vehemently with someone else. This is a phenomenal read for an entire church leadership group to work through too.

Dr. Joel Thiessen, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Flourishing Congregations Institute


Upcoming Opportunities

An important element to flourishing congregations is clergy resilience. A national survey by Margaret Clarke is seeking to collect information from clergy across Canada to understand the current nature of their resilience and wellness. If you are clergy, you can find out more information about the national survey and take the survey by clicking here. Please share this widely within your clergy networks.

Limited time offer of a free download of an article by Arch Wong, Bill McAlpine, Joel Thiessen, and Keith Walker on preparing leaders for ministry from the perspective of pastoral leaders and theological educators, clicking here.


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