Changes in Sabbath-keeping and mental health over time: evaluation findings from the Sabbath Living study


Work-related stress is experienced at a high level in the United States. Clergy are particularly likely to over-extend themselves to act on their sacred call. Sabbath-keeping may offer a practice that is beneficial for mental health, yet many Protestant clergy do not keep a regular Sabbath. We examined whether United Methodist clergy who attended informative Sabbath-keeping workshops reported changes in spiritual well-being and mental health post-workshop. Compared to baseline, at 3 and 9 months post-workshop, participants reported an increase in Sabbath-keeping. In adjusted random effects and Poisson models, compared to not changing Sabbath-keeping frequency, increasing Sabbath-keeping was related to only one outcome: greater feelings of personal accomplishment at work. Decreasing Sabbath-keeping was related to worse anxiety symptoms, lower spiritual well-being in ministry scores, and a higher probability of having less than flourishing mental health. For four outcomes, there were no significant associations with changes in Sabbath-keeping over time. Although lacking a control group, this study adds to cross-sectional Sabbath-keeping studies by correlating changes in Sabbath-keeping with changes in mental health outcomes over time.

Journal of Psychology and Theology