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Stress, Anxiety, and Life…


At the very heart and soul of my being I am an economist.  Yep, one of those geeks who turns ON Ben Bernanke press conferences.  One of those guys who has Bloomberg Radio open in my other window on the computer as I sit here and compose this piece for the door.  Gordan Gekko was one of my heroes in the 1987 film Wall Street and reclaimed a piece in my heart when you witnessed his new birth in 2010 – I’m one of THOSE guys.  I had a job offer from Cantor Peabody fresh out of college but God had other things in mind for me – but I am still an economics geek.

One of the  things that I have grown more fascinated with over the downturn in the U.S. and global economy is called the Financial Stress Index.  There are two major FSI’s – one being the St. Louis FSI, the other being the Kansas City FSI – in short, these indexes measure different components in the economy to get a measure of the financial stress on our country.  Below is the moving chart of the STLFSI just for you to take a glance.


If  you want a better explanation of the components you can take a peek at a PDF of the KCFSI:

Now we have some information, let’s look at some of the application, specifically related to parish life.  How would you track your Congregational Stress Index?  What components would you include in such an index?  What types of initiatives and actions do we as leaders take when the stress rises?  How do we as leaders attempt to remove ourselves from the maelstrom of anxiety to lead faithfully and speak the “peace that passes all understanding” into the midst of the stress and anxiety?  How does ministry differ in lower stress environments VS high stress environments.

I remember back in the days when I was a much more active follower of the activity of the FED, especially when Alan Greenspan was the FED chair and the sense of calm he presented.  I remember watching CNBC when Chairman Greenspan was going to address a Congressional Committee and the talking heads were speculating on whether he would raise or lower the FED rates based on which beiefcase he carried.  One commentator saying something along the lines of, “No matter what the Chairman says today the markets need to hear him speak with calm resolve.” – How do we as rostered and lay leaders in Christ’s Church speak with calm resolve?

I am not The Door’s chief systems expert, so I will defer to those with more knowledge than I – today I’m just the economist, tossing questions that may allow us to take pause.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. 6February2012 12:22

    Your post underscores that God uses whatever strengths, passions, interests and gifts we have for Kingdom purposes. As I read your question “How do we as rostered and lay leaders in Christ’s Church speak with calm resolve?”, I thought of the Bowen Family Systems concept of the less anxious presence.

    My experience has been one of being a very anxious presence on occasion in the church. That didn’t work so well. I believe to be a less anxious presence, I need to monitor the input I allow into my mind, heart and soul and who’s voice I’m listening to as I participate/lead in my congregation. Not always easy to do, but as I intentionally search for and listen to God’s still small voice, rather than the anxiety around me, I can lead more effectively in my small corner of the Kingdom.

    Thanks for sharing this thought provoking post!

  2. 7February2012 10:18

    Dave, you bring up a very good reference point here. Financial stress as an indicator of emotional stress is what I hear when I read your words. Think how financial stress in families and in the community affects the church. Financial stress in the church spikes the collective anxiety. “How will we pay our bills this month?” “We don’t know where all of the money goes around here.” These comments reflect anxiety and push faith and trust right out of the equation. Sometimes we as pastors are prone to hearing these comments and taking them too personally (well I’ll just speak for myself anyway!). We might hear it as, “Pastor, you make too much money and we cannot afford your wages.” If we react to that “feeling” that is produced surrounding the topic of finances, we only add to the anxiety within the system. Murray Bowen once taught that to be a good therapist (and in this case I think to be a good pastor or disciple of Christ) we need to figure out how NOT to take things personally. He said that if we could just imagine ourselves to be a speck of cosmic dust then we would know that in the grand scheme we are not important and that is it NOT about us. That seems to me to be the beginning of the “less” anxious presence that Rhonda mentioned above. The reality of anxiety is that it is highly contagious! So, this “calm resolve” that you speak of is an wonderful phrase for leaders to keep in mind as we work at being “down transformers” of electrical activity in the system (i.e.. anxiety) rather than ramping it up! Oh, and by the way, I know you know this. . . the stressor can “look” like any old thing. . . AND often times the “thing is not the thing.” Thanks for challenging us to think more clearly!

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