All posts by Alan

Associate Priest, Badshot Lea and Hale

Diocesan Differences

As well as the analysis that I did on the adverts, I also compared Dioceses to the national averages, and it was interesting to see that there were differences in the emphases in different dioceses.

This sheet contains comparisons either using the current selection criteria or the future ones. For the future ones there is one tab per diocese. On all tabs the % difference is the difference between the national % and the diocesan % – so for example if the national % was 10% and the Diocesan % 15% that would show as +5% – the absolute difference, not 50%, the % increase.

Beware – some dioceses didn’t have many adverts, and consequently the significance of any variation is largely meaningless.

Clergy Recruitment

In her research on clergy wellbeing Lesley identified that clergy in ill fitting posts felt less well. It is anecdotally known that parishes would turn down the Archangel Gabriel for being under-qualified and for my study I looked at how parishes advertise for new incumbents.

When I worked in industry HR provided me with a list of competences and told me that when recruiting I could choose three. That way I had to be very clear about what I wanted and when interviewing could determine whether the candidates had those three competences.

If more competences are listed some people will think that they don’t meet them all, while others will think that they match some and apply. This can lead to the wrong candidates applying in the first place, because they do or don’t fit the most important competences. My aim in the study was to come up with such a list of competences for use when churches were looking for a new vicar. My report and the associated lists are here and if you would like to use the them you are welcome to do so.

When doing my study it came to my attention that on average parishes were asking for over eight competences; I also noticed that many of the parishes which in my opinion find it difficult to recruit listed fewer competences, and spent more of the advert “selling” the post to the potential candidates, mentioning the location and quality of the vicarage, the quality of the local schools, and the proximity to nice countryside.

Neither of these are helpful in encouraging the right candidates and only the right candidates to apply.

The Impact of Selection and Training

According to positive psychology, part of gaining a sense of well being is achievement and being “in the zone“. One of the things that can affect this how people are selected and trained for a role. If square pegs are placed in round holes, and then asked to do things that do not come naturally to them then neither are likely to be achieved and hence well being will not be enhanced (and potentially the opposite).

The current selection criteria for ordained ministry are:

A. Christian faith, tradition and life
B. Mission, evangelism and discipleship
C. Spirituality and worship
D. Relationships
E. Personality and character
F. Leadership, collaboration and community
G. Vocation and ministry within the Church of England

About 50% of the requirements listed in adverts in the Church Times for incumbency roles fall into the ” Leadership, collaboration and community” criteria – is sufficient emphasis placed on this during selection, and in subsequent training?

I don’t know – but I do know that I have met plenty of clergy who say something like: “I was called to be a priest, not a manager” – well, yes, but incumbency requires both. In “If you meet George Herbert on the road, kill him” Justin Lewis-Anthony suggests that the days of clergy ministering in the way of George Herbert did, doing lots of pastoral visiting, is past – parishes are bigger (Herbert’s parish had fewer than 200 people, and he ministered with the assistance of two other clergy) and the amount of administration associated with governance (safeguarding, GDPR, faculties…) was almost non existent. And that is before we talk about mission and working in circumstances where the vast majority of the parish no longer have faith. If I wanted to talk to everyone in my parish they would each get 15 minutes a year, and nothing else would get done. If clergy do not want to be managers, then perhaps their calling isn’t to incumbency – there are roles which don’t require less of this (eg Associate Ministers) and it might be that the church should create more of these.

Then there is also the question of when Management/Leadership is best trained. Two recent blog posts contributed to my thinking on this:
is it time to scrap the curacy
speaking of liturgy and theological formation
the first suggests scrapping the curacy, and the second that too much time is spent on management during pre-ordination training, and not enough on liturgy.

The most effective training I received on Management/Leadership when I was in industry was that given on the job by some form of mentoring or other. In a similar vein, I would suggest that new incumbents (and arguably all incumbents) should have a mentor to work through the practical issues that they encounter in their ministry – much as they have spiritual directors and counsellors available. Some dioceses will provide some form of work consultancy, but this isn’t always widely taken up.