Since the times of Genesis, Mankind has been turning to God for help in times of trouble. Throughout history, each of the major religions of the world have taught a means of coping by utilizing one’s religion, spirituality, faith, practices, and the like. However, until the past three decades, there has been very little empirical research on the topic of “religious coping.” One of the issues relates to the difficulty in teasing apart the constructs of “religion” and “spirituality” (Hill, et al. 2000). Additionally, the topic is generally discussed in subjective terms and therefore difficult to measure. In short, most researchers now agree that both religion and spirituality refer to a related process, a “search for significance in ways related to the sacred” (Pargament, 1997); where “spirituality” reflects a more individual experience and religion refers more to formal institutions (2000). Religious coping then refers to a dynamic search for significance in times of stress (1997).
Why is this important to us [you] on the field? We know that the life of the “cross-cultural Christian worker” (CCCW) is filled with stress, trauma, daily challenges, and disappointments, to say the least. How we [you] cope and respond to these realities makes the difference in happiness, fruitfulness, and longevity; versus leaving the field early due to burnout, depression, disillusionment, moral failure… a statistic of preventable attrition. Also, how we employ our religious/spiritual coping can be either helpful or harmful (Pargament, et al. 2001)… but that’s a topic for another time!
In 2005, the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) commissioned a study of more than 580 mission agencies in 22 countries (ReMAP-II) to ascertain whether attrition had reduced since the initial Re-MAP study during 1994-96 (Hay, et al. 2007). While attrition had indeed gone down, the ReMAP-II project highlighted issues of the spiritual life of the [CCCW] to be the number one concern of mission agencies. Further, the study showed that an emphasis on spiritual growth and health was significantly related to job performance and correlated with retention (Hay, et al., p. 131). Interestingly, a 1999 study of 245 [CCCW’s] and families found that when the mission organization was perceived and experienced as promoting and encouraging opportunities for spiritual growth and nurture; higher levels of ministry, family, and self satisfaction were also reported (Andrews).
Maintaining and enlivening one’s spirituality is both a personal and corporate (as in community) journey. Recognizing both the personal and organizational responsibility of nurturing, encouraging, and facilitating spiritual growth, religious coping and resilience; the question becomes… how?
We would all be interested in your thoughts, suggestions, experiences… whether from a personal level or an organizational level. Please leave a comment below… after the “References.” I will compile the offerings into a follow-up edition.
Peace to you during this holiday season, as you remember that you are not alone… He is Emmanuel… God with us!
Andrews, L. (1999). Spiritual, family, and ministry satisfaction among miss. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 27(2), 107-118.
Hay, R., Lim, V., Blocher, D., Ketelaar, J., Hay, S. (2007). Worth keeping: Global perspectives on best practice in mis. retention. Pasadena, California: William Carey Library.
Hill, P., Pargament, K., Hood, Jr., R., McCollough, M., Swyers, J., Larson, D., & Zinnbauer, B. (2000). Conceptualizing religion and spirituality: Points of commonality, points of departure. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 30(1), 51-77.
Pargament, K. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research practice. (pp. 32 & 90). New York: Guilford Press.
Pargament, K., Tarkeshwar, N., Ellison, C., & Wulff, K. (2001). Religious coping among the religious: The relationships between religious coping and well-being in a national samply of Presbyterian clergy, elders, and members. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40(3), 497-513.