Category Archives: Recruitment

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.

Appointing the Archangel Gabriel

There is a common saying in the Church of England that parishes are looking to appoint the Archangel Gabriel to posts. In other words, the parishes are looking for some incredible super-human that does not exist. Dioceses are aware of this and archdeacons and other diocesan staff work to encourage more realistic parish profiles and job adverts. However, the expectation that the incoming minister will be able to fulfil a huge range of often contradictory requirements persists. Clergy sometimes collude with this, and the minister who comes closest to promising to fulfil all the requirements at interview is appointed, however unrealistic that is. It is also commonly reported that parishes are looking to recruit a man with a wife who does not work and with young children. This leads to very difficult conversations during the recruitment process, and is very stressful for candidates. A doctoral thesis reported on interviews with 31 clergy about preparing to move jobs, it states:

“Clergy are at best conditional in their acceptance of the changes and at worst resisting them. This is because the decision to adopt secular-style recruitment systems has disrupted a process of delegated authority to bishops which is rooted in an almost unassailable body of history, tradition, custom and practice by shifting the authority for a transition to clergy themselves.” There is a feeling that the relationship with the bishop has been weakened through this – leading to further isolation, previously the bishop appointed and could be sought for guidance and support for the role that the bishop had chosen the cleric to do. The whole thing has become a source of cognitive dissonance, one priest says: “So I think it’s not what it seems and it’s neither one thing nor the other, it’s neither the open recruitment process that it presents itself as being, nor is it the old system of, you know, bishop knows best and will tell you where to go. But it seems to be somewhere in between but never quite acknowledging all that.”

This is considered in part in the Covenant for the Care and Wellbeing of Clergy:

“Parish Profiles and Role/Job Descriptions often reveal an over-challenging set of expectations, ranging from large numbers of churches to serve, unrealistic and competing sets of tasks, and the absence in them of any evidence of commitment to clergy care and wellbeing.”

The recommendations of the Covenant are to:

  • Acknowledge in the licensing service the importance of clergy wellbeing
  • Ensure parish profiles talk about clergy wellbeing
  • Have realistic expectations in the parish profile and in the job description about what the clergyperson can do

There is a further issue which is the gulf between what the clergy expect of the parish and what the parish expects of the clergy. At theological college the emphasis can often be on mission and evangelism, whereas in the parish the emphasis can often be on keeping the building upright, pastoral visiting and things staying the way they have always been. When there is a vacancy in a parish it would be very helpful if there were attempts to ensure the expectations of the parish and the expectations of the incoming minister were aligned. For example, questions around approximately what percentage of the minister’s time will be spent do the following:

  • Praying
  • Liturgical duties
  • Intentional outreach
  • Preaching and Teaching
  • Working with children and young people
  • Studying
  • Using social media
  • Attending various meetings
  • Preparing for and taking Occasional Offices
  • Fixing the building
  • Visiting elderly parishioners
  • Doing work in the local school
  • Setting up new services
  • Working with the community
  • Managing others
  • Doing administration
  • Fundraising
  • Attending events

Obviously being overly prescriptive would not be helpful, as the incoming priest will need to follow the vocation they feel God has given them, but setting some priorities and expectations will inform the recruitment process and may make the parish more realistic about what can and cannot be done by the priest. It will also allow clergy who are looking for posts to know whether this particular role is for them or not.