Last week I got to take a few days and enjoy time at Clergy Convocation. The theme for the week was "Made Well" with various speakers and workshops on taking time to be well in life and ministry. As I was there, I craved a massage. But my personal budget didn't allow for it and I couldn't justify using my professional reimbursable account for it, so I passed.
As I've been back and been thinking about many of the things that help give rise to wellness (exercise, counseling, quiet time, massage, acupuncture, doctors) I've also been thinking about how much money each of them costs. Pastors aren't really known for their wellness practices (which I think we should be) and many of us are even known for not going to the doctor/dentist/etc for a variety of reasons, which sometimes even includes cost.
So, I think we should add a wellness fund to the Pastor's salary. The money could be used for doctor's visits, gym memberships, counseling fees, yoga, massage, acupuncture, or even a night or two away at a retreat center.
Maybe this sounds indulgent. Maybe you think a pastor should be able to budget these items in for themselves. But I don't think so, well, not necessarily anyway. I definitely don't think it's indulgent. I think doctor's visits and counseling are necessities and paying on the front side (think preventative care) will save us a lot on the back side (major illness--physical or mental). I also think that yoga, massage, exercise, and acupuncture do great things for your body and if your body is out of whack, well....everything else often follows.
Thinking practically about this wellness fund, if there were objections from within the church I even think you could say the wellness fund would reimburse half of your costs. (Our conference Orders will reimburse half of counseling fees up to $500 for the year....) so the church could cover the other costs. You might argue that the church pays health insurance, but if the church is paying an HMO (or even a PPO) and you have uncovered procedures, then you're left without a whole lot of wiggle room in your budget.
In the UMC, this is the season for salary evaluations and budget proposals, and I think it's worth considering.