Partnership for Better Health

Rev. Eldrick Davis

Rev. Eldrick Davis, pastor at Gardners United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, believes that one of the “The biggest factors that we pastors have to deal with is excessive stress of the body, mind, and spirit.” Unfortunately, Rev. Davis explained, “One my coping mechanisms in dealing with stress is overeating. I’m thankful that I didn’t turn to alcohol or drugs, but my weakness was food and I’ve spent a lifetime struggling with my weight.”

It wasn’t until joining an initiative of the United Methodist Church called Spirited Life that Rev. Davis’s health journey started in earnest. What made Spirited Life so helpful was the presence of a monthly health coaching appointment paired with Rev. Davis’s decision to get the church that he was pastoring at the time involved in his health journey. “The church had a walking track in front, so I came up with the idea that other people could join me in walking, and for every lap that we walked, we could put it in the bulletin. Church members could then make a donation in honor of whoever they wanted to support in the laps they were walking. So we went from just putting my health information into the bulletin to engaging the congregation’s health as well.”

For Rev. Davis, the weight loss journey has always ebbed and flowed, but what finally made it meaningful was his willingness to open up to the congregation and share his struggles, his hopes, his accomplishments, and even his failures along the way. As Rev. Davis’s weight loss journey continues, he emphasizes that we’re “All here to minister to the body, spirit, and soul. The culture around health begins to change when you do it together. It creates a culture of support for everyone involved.”

Rev. Davis says, “A congregation’s pastor-parish committee would serve the church well to say to the pastor, ‘You are our shepherd, and we want to do everything that we can do to help you, to encourage you, to pray for you, and to strengthen you, because when you are strong you are able to better serve us.’ For example, if I was a member of a church I would give my pastor a free membership to a health club nearby to encourage exercise and stress management. Or, our denominations could work on creating partnerships with local health outfitters for complimentary or discounted clergy memberships. I truly believe that from the top down we have to create a culture of partnership for better health.”

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