Book Review: Flourishing in Ministry (How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing) by Matt Bloom

This book review is of Flourishing in Ministry by Matt Bloom. In Flourishing in Ministry, Matt Bloom offers statistical insight on what it means to cultivate clergy wellbeing. This Alban Institute Book was released through Roman & Littlefield in 2019. 

The extensive research that led to this book was from a project overseen by author Matt Bloom, who also serves as the; Associate Pastor at the University of Notre Dame, Director of the Wellbeing at Work project, and the principal investigator on two related research projects – the Flourishing in Ministry project (Lilly Endowment, Inc.) and the Faith and Flourishing at Work project (funded by Templeton Religion Trust).[1] In this book, Bloom looks at what leads to flourishing and healthy leadership, considering the way “Pastoral work is complex, challenging, often arduous, sometimes exhausting, and almost always important for the lives of church members and communities.”[2] Through their research projects, Bloom and his team worked at polling pastoral leaders to see what led to pastoral leader flourishing in life and ministry, and what worked against them being able to experience flourishing ministry.[3]

Behind the scenes, the research for this book was quite exhaustive. The book remarks that “there are more than ten thousand pastors from more than twenty different denominations who have generously participated in [this] research.”[4]These pastors participated in a mix of polls, conversations, and in-depth interviews.[5] Additionally, this study collected from a wide range of denominal polities, church contexts, theological leanings, church stages and ages, worship styles, ethnic backgrounds, as well as both male and female pastors, including ethnic diversity.[6] This book is written with the findings of a scientist and with practitioner tips. In this book, Bloom presents “the major findings that have emerged from [their] study to date.”[7] This includes quantitative data, stories of real pastors, and the dimensions that lead to wellbeing. There are many foundational aspects to a leader’s life and ministry that lead to flourishing from context alignment, pastoral self-awareness and maturity to specific practices and experiences along the leader’s journey. Both the ecosystem the pastor is in, and the pastor, play a part in flourishing.

The overarching drive that led Matt Bloom into this research was a hope to know to “help pastors not just survive but flourish in their work.”[8] This led to three research questions. First, “What are the signature characteristics of wellbeing for clergy?”[9] In researching and answering this he wanted to  “how we can tell whether or not a pastor is flourishing…and we want to be able to measure, with accuracy and fidelity, whether a clergy person has a high or level of wellbeing.”[10] Additionally, their research was looking to answer the question, “What factors and conditions foster flourishing, and what factors and conditions impede or diminish it?”[11] In answering this second question, they “explored how the personal characteristics of clergy are related to their level of wellbeing…that variations in life practices such as sleep quality, frequency of vacations, and engagement in spiritual disciples also matter for pastors’ wellbeing.”[12] Their third research question was around “How does the wellbeing of clergy and their families change over a life span?” [13] In looking at this, they look to map and keep mapping “the ebbs and flows of wellbeing over an entire life in ministry and to mark the factors that account for those changes.”[14] Personally, I found that the findings are important and un-ignorable for any leader. I know I will continue to be wrestling with many of the concepts in this book.

From the start, the book shares that a “clear result from our research is that a pastor’s identity – his or her sense of him– or herself as a person and his or her sense of him- or herself as a pastor – is at the core of pastoral wellbeing.”[15] In considering wellbeing, they share that “wellness is typically used for our physical health, while wellbeing is used for our psychological, social, and spiritual health. Wellness is about a healthy body and mind; wellbeing is about a flourishing life.”[16] Leaders need to experience both wellness and wellbeing, and through their research, Bloom shares they found it helpful to think about pastoral wellbeing as needing four principal dimensions, and these four dimensions shape then shape the findings and format of the book. First, they explore “daily wellbeing,” which is the “quality of our daily lives.”[17] Secondly, they look at “Resilience,” which is a leader’s “capacity to adapt, change and respond to life’s challenges and also our capacity to grow, learn, and develop new capabilities and capacities.”[18] Third, the book explores “Authenticity,” and our “sense of self-integrity and dignity.”[19] Lastly, the book explores “Thriving,” which is “the meaning and significance we experience in our lives; our sense of having values and beliefs that inspire us, create purpose, and provide moral guidance to our lives; experiencing deep and positive connections with others.”[20] In the book, these four dimensions are explored as they “building blocks of wellbeing,”[21] realizing that we need “sufficient wellbeing across all four building blocks to experience flourishing.”[22] Though there are certain disciplines and practices, experiences and realities that led to flourishing, this book finds that flourishing is a lot more than just self-practices, it is also the way a leader’s ability is experience wellbeing, means realizing how “wellbeing is [also] shaped by, for example, the health and vitality of our family, co-workers, neighbors and friends.”[23] As I said above, I will continue to wrestle with how I can better live in practices and ecosystems that led to health.

This book is an important read for pastoral leaders, and those who coach pastoral leaders. Even more, I think it is essential for denominational and network leaders that care about the wellbeing of their leaders. There are some undeniable and important looks at what leads people into ministry, and what along their journey will define their ability to flourish. This is not a book that I will read, and put on the shelf, but rather keep before me awhile while I map out some of the findings in this book and look how to contextualize them in my daily life.

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Highlights & Quotes


[1] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), Back Cover.

[2] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), x.

[3] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), x.

[4] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xii.

[5] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xii.

[6] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xii-xiii.

[7] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xiii.

[8] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xi.

[9] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xi.

[10] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xi.

[11] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xi.

[12] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xi-xii.

[13] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xii.

[14] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xii.

[15] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), xii.

[16] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 1-2.

[17] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 2.

[18] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 2.

[19] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 2.

[20] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 2.

[21] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 2.

[22] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 3.

[23] Matt Bloom, Flourishing in Ministry: How to Cultivate Clergy Wellbeing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 3.

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