Purest ministry?

Interesting the way things sometimes tie up.  I found myself earlier in the week listening to an analysis of the number of [particularly younger] clergy who are attracted by sector ministries, chaplaincies and the like.  I can see the attraction – some boundaries around the working hours, clearer management structures, maybe better pay.  Beyond that is what is attractive for members of a minority church – ministry which connects with the whole population.

And then yesterday I was at a Stakeholders Conference [dreadful word] about spiritual care in the NHS – of which more another day.  But there it was again – the tug of chaplaincy, freedom from the need to raise your own stipend and keep the roof on – and all that – the purity of working with people without all the clutter.

One thing it does make me more certain about.  I’ve always wanted to do some work in helping clergy and vestries to have a clearer understanding of one another.  It’s about roles and expectations, about management and accountability – what the relationship is and what it is not.  We’re designing something at the moment.  We can’t and shouldn’t attempt to turn congregational ministry into something as superficially tidy as secular employment – but we could iron out some of the difficulties.


  1. Well that’s an interesting set of comments.

    I’ve always believed that as clergy we are crucified by expectations – multiple, conflicting, undeclared and probably mutually-exclusive to boot. Some of what is needed is presumably to work through to some state of reasonable harmony of expectations. But just as important is the need to help clergy to work with those circumstances – since it is and will probably remain endemic.

    I’m not sure that I see the link between evangelicalism and managerialism. My experience is that evangelicalism gives up on managerialism at just the point at which it becomes difficult and might actually deliver something.

  2. The attractions you suggest of sector ministry missed those that made sense to me in a ministry almost entirely within the educational sector, that is, of finding oneself unexpectedly called into it and finding the mission aspect endlessly provocative.

  3. Odd as it may seem, the old parish structure, with its messiness and ill defined nature and tendency to stumble along, is actually well suited to post-modern society. As the tide goes out on evangelicalism with its modernist emphasis on managerialism and strategic thought, it is the crumbly old parishes with their roots in the community and their emphasis on inclusivity that have come again into their own. Sector ministries might be more reassuring, but not nearly much as fun.

  4. I inherited what might be termed a set of confused Select Vestries who had been run as part of a personal fiefdom by a predecessor. Their job was to nod and agree with the Chair – that is if he ever decided to call a meeting at all.

    Being a technocrat by training and experience, my suggestion as to how our relationship might work was simply this:

    Does (whatever it is) require an ordained person?

    If yes – then it’s my job.

    If no, then someone else is probably far better qualified than I am to do it – but I’m more than happy to help if needed.

  5. Whatever you design to ameliorate relationships within congregation, please share it with us – expectations can be cruel masters.

Comments are closed.