Monday, 11 April 2011

The Gift of Ministry; NSM Survey

Would you work 30 hours a week on top of what you already do for the sheer love of it and in response to a sense of vocation? Perhaps you do a certain amount of volunteering or unpaid overtime or perhaps you follow an interest that you find absorbing and fulfilling. Did you know that 27% of the Church of England's priests minister for somewhere between 15 hours and more than 30 hours a week, but receive no financial support from the church other than expenses? (They are not paid a 'stipend' or salary.) In our diocese we call them 'Non Stipendiary Ministers', in many, they are refered to as 'Self Supporting Ministers.'

The Revd Dr Teresa Morgan, a fellow of Oriel College Oxford and, herself, an NSM priest, has produced a new survey of NSMs/SSMs in the Church of England. Many of them report a great deal of satisfaction in their role. Others feel ' ignored, overlooked and underused'. The report challenges dioceses to conduct surveys to find out how their NSM clergy are feeling about the ways in which their ministry is or isn't developed and to help them think about formulating proper strategies for deploying NSMs beyond their curacy (training) years. The survey shows that 46% of NSMs have only ever held one post. Curacy tends to be a good experience and then there is a certain feeling of 'getting stuck', an inability to move on in ministry and use valuable experience for the good of the wider church.

In some dioceses, NSM/SSM clergy are developing their ministry both in traditional roles (as, for example, Area Deans, Priests in Charge, Team Rectors) and in pioneering roles (as, for example, pastors of e churches and internet worship groups or by offering training, HR and finance specialisms within the diocese.) There are probably as many possibilities as there are NSMs. One of the keys to being creative about NSM ministry is developing good relationships of trust between NSM and stipendiary clergy - the roles may demand different approaches to ministry and the use of time, but both are equally valuable within the life of the church and both can be traced back into Christian history.

We have over 40 NSMs in our diocese who come from many different working worlds and bring a huge range of insights and skills to their ministry. I was an SSM parish priest for three short years while I was also a theological college lecturer. A team of three SSMs, together with a number of lay members of the PCC were given responsibility for a large  parish in Nottingham by the then Bishop of Southwell. It was enormously hard work and called for the team to pull together in a big way under the leadership of one SSM priest who ministered pretty much full time, but it was very rewarding and meant that another parish in the diocese which did not have quite the same resources could have a stipendiary priest. It also encouraged a range of other people in the church to become involved in leadership and pastoral ministry. Just one example of the way in which NSM/SSM ministry can work. 

You can read all about Dr Morgan's report in the Church Times (1st and 8th April editions) or go to and click on 'Report 1' and 'Report 2'.

More about this in a week or two when I have digested the report! I'd be interested in your comments.

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