Some numbers

The preoccupation with numbers which has seized the media in the aftermath of Nick Clegg’s interview …. leads me to mention some other numbers which I stumbled across while cruising through Steven Croft’s ‘Ministry in Three Dimensions.’

Evangelical Alliance surveyed 3000 [evangelical] clergy in 1990 and got the following results.

7 out of 10 feel overworked

3 in 10 feel their families suffer because of their work

Only 2 in 10 have received training in management or leading teams

Out of a typical 60 hour week, an average of 22 hours is spent in administration

38 minutes per week are spent in personal prayer.

The last one is obviously the most shocking – the first thing to get squeezed by everything else.  And the cost of that is paid in all sorts of ways – for example I suspect that people are less likely to acquire the breadth or depth to move beyond ‘party’ or stereotypical responses to things.

Other ones?  I am not sure what ‘administration’ is in these terms.  I certainly spend more than a third of my working life sitting at a desk – and would defend it on the basis that good administration and communication is one of the foundations of ministry which is for sharing.  Overworked?  I certainly work too many hours – but ‘feeling overworked’ is occasional rather than common.  Too many hours means life out of balance and not enough time for family and being.

Training?  ’nuff said.  Time for bed.


  1. Alan and David, Coming originally from a more free church reformed tradition, I naturally tend to stress the gathered nature of the church, against a (late) Acts 2 background — and eg Perth, and Southampton (where I was born within yards of the first purpose-built Anglican church: 1619-19!) are places where all this is majorly in evidence. Further, all of the 27,000 denominations in the world (= complex system, not Platonic one/many??) no doubt have something going for them, but what is God’s ultimate will? Was the catholic model something for a distinct socio-cultural period (founded on the C16th idea of order through corresponding planes, contiguity and concordia discors: yes, sorry, my doctoral thesis topic which, like the Pythons’ Spanish Inquisition, tends to turn up unexpectedly). I’m also attempting to encourage my own Surrey parish folk to talk to people in the parish (eg visiting an unchurched home after the 10.30 instead of lunch) rather than just walk round it once a year — the parish, not the lunch.

  2. Yes I have experienced that too. Remember Michael Ramsey’s chapter in ‘The Christian Priest Today’ with the psalm quote, ‘Fret not thyself about the ungodly’. My experience has been that there was usually more fun to be had with the ungodly than the godly. Once people became significantly dechurched – to the point where they had ceased to feel guilty about it – it tended to become possible to have quite searching theological discussion with them provided that you could do that without using jargon.

  3. I’m very interested in the disappearance of the Church’s penumbra as a stressing factor, because I’ve met vicars, and indeed been a bit of one myself, for whom contact with penumbra people about things that mattered to them (esp. births marriages and deaths) was a counterbalancing, energizing solace when things were too crazy back at the institutional / parochial ranch

  4. Obviously catholic and gathered model folk are on slightly different tracks here. I’ve certainly seen things work in a more ‘priesthood of all believers’ context. My parents lived to 87 (I was a very late child!): in their muscular Christianity church the caring was pretty muscular to, and they ‘never got old’. They were (first) ‘Christians who happen to be young’, then (later) became ‘Christians who happened to be elderly’. Far from the ethos of the ‘worshipper-consumer’, the language of their church constantly constructed folk into a group-centred mindset (eg ‘the younger members of the congregation’, and ‘the church-family children’, rather than the ‘children and young folk’. [Note: the Quakers, again an ideological bunch, verbally signal a similarly group-focused ethos with their ‘Young Friends’.]Less ‘incarnational’ perhaps — but I observed the active care my parents received in their home as they got more elderly. In last Sept’s SPCK Theology I try to explore how this kind of thing need not be seen as a question of a ‘holy huddle’, but, more joyfully (end of Acts 2), a question of ‘intersubjectively-active spiritual siblings’. Perhaps there is a general drift in this direction now?? The Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of Scotland talk about the decline in numbers as the disappearance of the church’s ‘penumbra’.

  5. Yes we are in transition. And one of the difficulties is that the transition doesn’t happen ‘all of a piece’. One of the things which crucifies clergy IMHO is the problem of the multiple, undeclared, mutually-exclusive expections of their parishioners – that is an consequence of the transition. And clergy end up trying to shape the new patterns while still coping with the demands and expectations of the old. That may manifest itself, for example, in calls for traditional liturgies. More understandably, in all situations of sickness, distress, bereavement, etc., we default into traditional, caring, pastoral, clergy-centred [but not exclusively so] models. And quite right too!

  6. I have for many years been researching and publishing on church discourses/cultures and their socio-theological implications in Scotland and England, and have frequently felt for clergy in their often not terribly high morale in recent years; morale esp. against the background of today’s lay ‘self steering self’). May part of the picture be that we are in a transition period towards a major change on how things are to be done in the future? I was surpised to realize that with the new church started in the County Hotel last autumn (2007), there now appear to be eight [sic] evangelical churches within five minutes drive of our house in Craigie, Perth! I am also a member of Anglicans in [the on-line virtual reality system] Second Life (SL), and regularly attend their excellent services in their cathedral on-line in SL with folk from around the world. (For Anglicans in SL see eg the cleric leader’s New Zealand website: .) New — but exciting — times indeed.

  7. Ah, really! The Rad Cam is beautiful, the place I always went during my undergraduate days – though I was using the English Literature books rather than the Theology ones.

  8. Ah you remind me of many happy hours in the Radcliffe Camera. I hope I can do better than 38 minutes ..

  9. Hello – I came across your blog from Inspires: The Magazine of the Scottish Episcopal Church – which, of all things, I was cataloguing in the Oxford University Library (Bodleian)!

    How sad, about 38 mins per week. I suppose all of us would ideally set aside so much more for personal prayer time with God, and yet mine draws nearer to 38 minutes than the many hours it could be. And, of course, I am the one who loses out!

  10. Touche, I think. Not sure where I am in all that – poacher turned poacher, I think.

    No it’s not as simple as Walton suggests. I do quite a bit of Father-in-God [forgive the inclusive language] boundary-setting. And within clear boundaries, I think it is right to ‘let priests be priests’

    As Katharine will probably remember, my muttering response to bishops was, ‘If they have a positive contribution to make, that’s great. Otherwise, I’m too busy to be bothered.’

  11. Hate to say it, David, but the main cause of stress amongst clergy I talk to is having stuff, for which they were not trained and which played no part in their vocation, dumped on them by church authorities – which in an episcopalian church means the bishops. Walton Empey used to say, “If we would just let the priests be priests, then all would be well”. I’m not convinced it’s that simple, but am convinced church leaders are often part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Playing in the second half of my ministerial career and not having made any career progress in the past nineteen years, I have now become selective about what I listen to when bishops communicate with me!

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