Not since the days when it fell to pastors to assemble campmeeting tents have so many Adventist clergy gotten sweaty together. But this unusual gathering involved more play than work.
More than 200 pastors and conference staff from the Southeastern California Conference (SECC) of Seventh-day Adventists spent the better part of Thursday, April 7, at Loma Linda University's Drayson Center enjoying recreation, fun, food and fellowship. The event, organized by LLU intramurals manager Ron Cronk in concert with SECC, featured a wide variety of recreational sports, team sports, and specialty games. In his morning introductory remarks, Drayson Center director Don Sease told the pastors, “Welcome to a different kind of church. Our goal today is for you to have some fun.” Speaking with pastors and staff throughout the day Mr. Sease said he was told over and over that they were indeed having fun.
The impetus for the event came from concern over pastors' health. SECC executive secretary Sandra Roberts explains:
We have been concerned about pastors and health for a long time. We had a couple of pastors die suddenly...Adventist Health Study findings reported to us that while Adventists in general live longer than the general populace, pastors are an exception to that in the research....Troubling! Pastors have shorter lifespans than church members by four years on average. A few years ago at a Pine Springs Ranch pastors' retreat, we had Canyon Ranch (upscale wellness centers) personnel come and speak, which was excellent! Soon after that we started the employee health program with financial incentives for engaging in exercise.
The SECC pastoral advisory committee recommended that the conference refocus on self care. With that recommendation, the conference office administrative team took over, developing an action plan aimed at motivating pastors to focus on self-care and connecting with one another. The resulting "Pastor's Playground at the D.C.," as Ron Cronk dubbed it, required extensive cooperation between SECC leaders and Drayson Center staff.
In addition to recreation and sports, the pastors and staff chose from presentations by a Loma Linda University psycholgist on handling stress, a nutritionist on cooking and eating for wellness, a personal trainer on incorporating exercise into the daily routine, and a La Sierra University religion professor on maintaining spiritual health in the pastorate. Drayson Center massage therapists provided free chair massages, and health care providers offered materials on healthcare and personal wellness.
For many pastors, the best part of the day came after the blood of the soccer pitch and the sweat of the racquetball courts. After a hearty, healthy meal, pastors reconvened for prize giveaways, including gift certificates, electronic goods, bicycles and vacation packages. Prizes funded by generous grants and donations elicited loud appluase and chatter--particularly three new iPads.
Pastors, conference administrators and Drayson Center representatives alike agreed that the event ought to happen again.
“I know this type of event is a first for the Southeastern California Conference,” Mr. Sease noted. “We have already discussed the possibility of similar events in the future with the conference.We hope that the pastors realize what an important part personal wellness can play in their lives, “We look forward to hosting future events for the SECC and other organizations who are looking for ways to reward their employees and staff with a day of active fun!"
Sandra Roberts agreed, adding, "I am sure we can improve things...We always can. I am also certain we will do something similar again. The feedback has been very positive!"
WATCH: Seven pastors talk "Pastors' Playground"
Larry Kidder provided headline image and contributed to this report.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3099