The Rev. Jeff Thiemann calls for a wellness reformation
“Jesus came that we would have abundant lives, and I believe that it is time for us to stop walking away from that promise in the way that we live.” Jeff Thiemann, Portico’s president and CEO, delivered this message to the ELCA Conference of Bishops in Oct. 2015, calling for a renewed commitment to physical and emotional health. Through a wellness reformation, he said, we can reduce health care claims and raise up leaders who embrace life’s abundance and model it for their people.
ELCA-Primary medical claims are 23% higher than Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s average for a national group our size. And what’s worse, our health risks, left unchecked, spell for many of us a future of chronic illness and reduced ministry longevity. Though sobering, our risks aren’t unique. “Clergy suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension at such alarming rates that it’s become a mark of the profession,” reported the Leadership Journal published by Christianity Today. We must change course.
Jeff shared with the Leadership Journal, “Some people think about [ministry] as a sacrifice. They think, ‘I’ve chosen this as a sacrificial calling, and so I’m willing to live that out.’ And we’re trying to help people see that bigger picture: we need them to be healthy in order to be able to serve well.”
He told the Conference of Bishops, “I believe rostered leaders and the congregations they serve can become significantly healthier, physically and emotionally. And I believe our congregations can better support these leaders. In the process, we will not only contain health care costs, our leaders will become more resilient, the kind of leaders the church can call upon to thrive in the coming decades.”