Pastoring in a Pandemic: Sources and Types of Social Support Used by United Methodist Clergy in the Early Period of the COVID-19 Pandemic


COVID-19 and its associated restrictions around in-person gatherings fundamentally unsettled routine ways of doing ministry. In this article, we draw on 50 in-depth interviews conducted with United Methodist clergy in the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic (June 2020–January 2021) to examine the sources and types of social support pastors relied on during this time. We found that most clergy reported drawing from a diverse eco-system of social supports and turned to different sources of support—for example, other clergy, local church members, and denominational leaders—for different types of support—for example, informational, instrumental, and/or emotional. This study extends existing research on clergy well-being by examining whether the social support used by clergy during the COVID-19 map onto those identified in previous research and by specifying the types of support that were most salient. In the discussion, we consider the broader implications of our findings for clergy well-being beyond the pandemic period.

Journal of Psychology and Theology