By Joelle Kopacz
Last year Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, introduced a holistic health plan for his congregation called “The Daniel Plan.” This health plan came on the heels of Pastor Warren’s realization that many people in his congregation were overweight—including him. Unfortunately, Rick Warren has not been the only pastor to struggle with weight issues. Cynthia Woolever revealed that most senior/solo pastors from a random sample of congregations across the country are overweight or obese; in step with or exceeding the risk for health problems that average Americans face. Even though associate pastors have different ministry roles and responsibilities than senior/solo leaders, are they equally weighty? To answer this question, we’ll look at the health of associate pastors in this same random sample of congregations.
Most male and female associate pastors are overweight. One indicator of general health is maintaining a body weight in appropriate proportion to height. Male associate pastors weigh a median of 200 pounds, and have a median height of 5’10”. Their median body mass index (BMI) score is 28.7.* A BMI score of 25 or higher indicates that individuals are overweight for their height. Thus, the majority of male associate pastors are overweight. Female associate pastors weigh a median of 168 pounds, and have a median height of 5’6”. Their median body mass index (BMI) score is 27.3. While most female associate pastors are also overweight, they are slightly less so than the typical male associate leader.
More male associate pastors are overweight or obese, compared to the general U.S. male population. The figure below compares the distribution of male and female associate pastors based on their BMI scores with the distribution for the U.S. population in four categories: underweight (BMI scores of less than 19), normal weight (BMI scores between 19 and 24.9), overweight (BMI scores between 25 and 29.9), and obese (BMI scores of 30 or higher). While only 72% of American males are overweight or obese, 85% of male associate pastors fall into this category. Fully 41% of male associate pastors are obese according to their BMI scores (compared to 32% of the male general population).
Two-thirds of female associate pastors and women in the general U.S. population are overweight or obese. Female associate pastors are about as likely to be at a normal weight as the typical American female (33% vs. 37% for the general population). They are less likely to be obese (26% are) than women in the general population (36% of American women). However, female associates are more likely to fall in the BMI overweight category than American women in general (41% compared to 28%).
It is important for everyone, not just religious professionals, to strive for excellent physical health. If you are having trouble building exercise and a healthy diet into your daily life, take a look at these tips.
*The body mass index (BMI) score is calculated as: BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703. (BMI Source)