Faith leaders play an important role in the wellbeing of many lives. They offer encouragement, insight, listening ears and compassion to their congregants in every kind of season. But this pandemic season is uniquely impacting faith leaders as they bear the burdens of their congregants in addition to navigating their own losses and fears. Whether officiating virtual funerals, hosting Zoom counseling sessions, adjusting to the financial impact of lower contributions or helping foster unity within a group of people holding various convictions, the pandemic ushered in new and heightened demands on our faith leaders. As a faith leader, when the needs of your people are piling high, it’s hard to prioritize your own needs – even if it means you end up running on empty.
We are the nation’s leading insurer of houses of worship, which means faith leaders are our biggest customer base. Their weariness was becoming clearer, and we wanted to help alleviate some of their burden by providing content on the importance of caring for their own mental health. We delivered this content through a webinar series called Running on Empty.
We strategically partnered with Duke Divinity School because they share our commitment to provide information and resources to help faith leaders. Duke Divinity connected us with key speakers who could empathize with faith leaders and share insights on how to face their struggles.
To provide faith leaders with support, we hosted three webinars, each with a different emphasis on the larger topic of mental health. In collaboration with Duke Divinity, we started by identifying the core mental health issues facing faith leaders, which informed our specific topics.
Faith leaders can forget their own needs matter; they cannot serve others while running on empty themselves. This theme drove the development of a three-part webinar series, starting in May 2021 and ending in December 2021.
Our first webinar was Running on Empty: How to prioritize your own physical and emotional health. Hosted virtually on May 20, 2021, the live event featured three speakers who compassionately urged faith leaders to recognize the validity of their own needs, to learn how to say no to meeting every need or request, and to prioritize taking care of themselves for their own wellbeing and as a model to their congregants. Participants engaged with the topic; many of them reached out with questions during the Q&A portion of the event. Since we didn’t have time to answer all the questions during the event, we shared the additional questions with the speakers after the event, pulled together their responses and shared that document with our attendees to ensure they were helped as much as possible.
Our second webinar focused on a different effect of the pandemic – grief. The pandemic has led to loss for so many people. Faith leaders are looked to for comfort and guidance, all while handling losses of their own. On Sept. 23, 2021, we hosted the second webinar in the series, Leading through Grief: Helping faith leaders process their grief in the midst of ministry. The goal of this event was to equip faith leaders with tools to process grief and encourage them to continue on the path of healing. To keep caring for their congregations and communities, faith leaders need to work through the grief they face. Our two speakers conveyed the importance of not rushing through the grieving process or avoiding it altogether. Grief is a deep emotion, and grieving is a process that requires attention, help and encouragement from others.
Our third webinar’s topic was chosen in anticipation of the mixed emotions of the holiday season. While the holidays are often assumed to be a time of joy, they can also be a time of heaviness and stress. This is true for all people, including leaders of faith communities. On Dec. 9, 2021, we hosted Hope for the Holidays: Supporting, strengthening and inspiring faith leaders through the power of hope. Led by two experts, we explored ways to navigate and negotiate the holidays, appreciate the challenges they bring and shared how to strengthen and sustain the power of hope throughout the joyous and sacred season.
For each webinar, Church Mutual and Duke Divinity School executed a multi-channel campaign that included email, social media and personal outreach to organizations connected with faith leaders.
Our post-event participant surveys helped gauge the effectiveness of our campaign. We took the critiques into consideration as we planned subsequent webinars, but overall, the positive feedback reassured us these events were fulfilling their purpose to support this specific audience during a stressful season in their ministry journeys. Here are a few responses from our attendees:
More than 600 faith leaders attended the webinars, and the events were recorded. The videos are posted on Church Mutual’s website and Duke Divinity’s YouTube channel as resources for those who want to rewatch snippets of an event or for people who were unable to attend an event. The webinar recording videos have been watched a combined total of more than 1,500 times.