Lutheran Church Extension Fund

The "Wellness Decline Curve" that will surprise you

Monthly theme: Why Wellness?

Reading time: two minutes.

I want to be like Howard.

Howard was a pastor. During the years of my first call, he lived down the street from us. We’d see him out walking briskly (“like he was late,” wink, wink) through the neighborhood numerous times each week.

I got to know him at our circuit pastor’s conferences. He embodied two qualities I greatly admire.

He had sparkle. Sparkle is a hard to define characteristic, but you know it when you see it, right? He also had bounce. He was frisky, lively, energetic. Some of that is a part of his natural giftedness, I suppose, but I think he worked at it too.

Howard Mueller eventually served as the synod’s director of the Commission on Ministerial Health and Wellness.

Good choice.

I saw him a few times in the months before he died. You wouldn’t guess he was well into his nineties.

There’s a myth about the decline of physical, emotional and mental health as we grow older. If you picture the x,y axis of age and vitality, most people assume that as years go by on the horizontal x line, your level of wellness on the y axis enters a steady decline after adolescence until you finally hit zero.

We tend to think of the curve starting to drop off pretty sharply with a straight-line slide into incapacity.

That’s just not true.

With appropriate self-care, and within the bounds of the limitations God has allowed us to endure, the curve looks more like a slow, gradual diminishment of capacity, with a sudden drop before the end of life.

At Howard’s funeral, I heard he was buzzing around the hallways of the nursing home adjacent to his apartment just four or five days before he died. He was visiting old people.

Jesus wants you at your best. You have work to do.

At Grace Place Wellness we’re committed to helping you ensure longevity in ministry. That only comes about when you take care of yourself, spiritually, physically, emotionally and vocationally. Howard embodied that attitude of self-care, not for his own sake, but for the sake of his calling.

The statistics about church workers considering leaving the ministry are astounding, and a bit frightening. The number has doubled or more since the beginning of the pandemic.

We need you, and we need you at your best.

If you haven’t yet, this time of year would be a great time to dig into our book, Reclaiming the Joy of Ministry, or for commissioned ministers, Reclaiming the Joy of a Church Vocation. It’s designed to help you reflect on the habits and practices of a healthy lifestyle, to pay attention to those forces at work that can drain you of the joy of ministry, and to begin to establish a plan for flourishing.

Like Howard did. And like I’m working on (with a long way to go).

Maybe they’ll talk about you and me one day the way we talk about Howard Mueller.

Sparkle. And bounce. Good combination.

God bless your wellness journey.

Thanks for reading.