Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pastor’s opinions on church activities that might contribute to well-being

             Welcome back! I am glad you are here. This is a third in a series of blogs discussing surveys performed by Teleios of pastors who graduated from conservative seminaries (Masters, Denver and Westminster). The first two surveys covered pastors’ adherence to biblical teaching and the influence of societal pressure on their beliefs posted on Apr 8, 2015 and May 13, 2015, respectively. Today is the third topic regarding what aspects of church life influence the wellbeing of attendees?

             Personal wellbeing has been frequently studied in recent years as a general indicator of an individual’s mental and physical health.1-5 Although variously defined, wellbeing might be considered as is a person’s emotional and cognitive evaluations of their lives, including happiness, peace, fulfillment and life satisfaction.6 A number of factors may contribute to wellbeing including mental, physical and financial prosperity, socialization, marriage and a positive relationship with God.1,2,7-13

Church attendance also has been demonstrated to be associated with improved wellbeing not only as a general parameter, but also with increasing frequency of attendance.1,2 Potential causes of this finding are not specifically known. Therefore, we surveyed pastors to learn what they perceive as contributes to wellbeing in their church. Teleios sent the survey to 976 pastors of whom 105 (11%) responded.

Our study found that overwhelmingly pastors believed the experiences of their congregation as positive to very positive, in all typical areas of church life. (Please see table for partial results). Those activities that showed the greatest ‘very positive’ responses were generally spiritual in nature including: praise, prayer, sermons, hearing the gospel and baptisms. Those that demonstrated the lowest ‘very positive’ answers were liturgical readings, amount of time spent at church, social structure within the church, Sunday school and children’s programs. Consequently, items not specifically discussed in Scripture, and potentially more rigid in design, potentially might aide wellbeing less although necessary they may be necessary at some level.

Why would church attendance help wellbeing? We do not know precisely, but potential causes could be from subordination of self-interests to those of a greater being (so personal problems are considered less onerous), social support, adoption of healthy practices through church emphasis on respect for the body, relief from anxiety through prayer and the discipline of gratitude.14-21

In summary, our study suggested that church attendance, and especially the spiritually based activities, may contribute to wellbeing. These factors that help explain findings from prior studies that have shown church attendance having a positive influence on wellbeing.

Thanks for reading my blog. Join us next week as we continue our investigation of how the Bible might benefit personal wellbeing.
Table: Percent of Bible believing pastors indicating that a church activity
would have a very positive response on wellbeing

Praise (including musical worship)
Liturgical readings
Hearing the gospel explained
Amount of church responsibility by members
Baptismal services
Celebration of communion
Amount of time spent at church weekly
Socializing with other worshipers
Social structure within your church
Children’s programs
Small groups
Sunday school

How does church best help your wellbeing? To participate in our latest poll question - please visit our website at

WC Stewart
1.      MacIlvaine et al. (2014). Association of strength of community service to personal well-being. Community Ment Health J, 50: 577-82.
2.      MacIlvaine et al. (2013). Association of strength of religious adherence to quality of life measures. Complement Ther Clin Pract, 19: 251-5.
3.      Stewart et al. (2013). Review of clinical medicine and religious practice. J Relig Health, 52: 91-106.
4.      Cotton et al. (1999). Exploring the relationships among spiritual well-being, quality of life, and psychological adjustment in women with breast cancer. Psychooncology,8:429-38.
5.      Reed (1987). Spirituality and well-being in terminally ill hospitalized adults. Res Nurs Health, 10:335-44.
6.      Diener et al. (2003). Personality, culture, and subjective well-being: Emotional and cognitive evaluations of life. Annu Rev Psychol, 54: 403-25.
7.      Diener et al. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. J Pers Social Psychol, 99:52-61.
8.      Penedo et al. (2005). Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Curr Opin Psychiatry, 18: 189-93.
9.      Horwitz (1996). Becoming married and mental health: A longitudinal study of a cohort of young adults. J Marr Fam, 58:895-907.
10.   Marks et al. (1998). Marital status continuity and change among young and midlife adults longitudinal effects on psychological well-being. J Fam Issues, 19:652-86.
11.   Lillard et al. (1995). 'Til death do us part: Marital disruption and mortality. Am J Sociol, 100:1131-56.
12.   Lipnicki et al. (2013). Risk factors for late-life cognitive decline and variation with age and sex in the Sydney memory and ageing study, PLoS ONE, 8.
13.   Schneider et al. (2014). Relationship status and health: Does the use of different relationship indicators matter?  Glob Public Health, 9:528-37.
14.   Levin (1994). Religion and health: Is there an association, is it valid, and is it causal? Soc Sci Med, 38: 1475–82.
15.   Krause (2010). Church-based emotional support and self-forgiveness in late life. Rev Relig Res, 52:72-89.
16.   van Olphen et al. (2003). Religious involvement, social support, and health among African-American women on the east side of Detroit. J Gen Intern Med, 18: 549-57.
17.   Davis et al. (1994). The urban church and cancer control: a source of social influence in minority communities. Public Health Rep, 109: 500–6.
18.   Eng et al. (1991). Networking between agencies and black churches: The lay health advisor model. Pre Hum Serv, 10:123–46.
19.   Whooley et al. (2002). Religious involvement and cigarette smoking in young adults: the CARDIA study. Arch Intern Med, 162: 1604–10.
20.   Stanley et al. (2011). Older adults' preferences for religion/spirituality in treatment for anxiety and depression. Aging Ment Health, 15: 334-43.
21.   Inzlicht et al. (2010). Reflecting on God: religious primes can reduce neurophysiological response to errors. Psychol Sci, 21: 1184-90.

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