Supervision or Pastoral Care?

Angela Shier-Jones has a great post on the difference between supervision and pastoral care. Part of what she says scares me because I had no idea that the church was moving in this direction – perhaps I have missed something in the connectional mailers. Anyway, she writes:

As a line manager and the person designated to conduct the annual supervision, the Superintendent ceases to be a colleague, a fellow minister, the ‘first among equals’ described in the ‘What is a superintendent’ report. Instead the Superintendent becomes the boss, the record keeper of a minister’s attempts to measure up to some unwritten ‘measurable outcomes’ of ministry – and the (potentially unqualified) judge of their performance. So who will pastor to the pastors – because supervision is NOT pastoral care. There is nothing ‘pastoral’ in supervision, nothing ‘gracious’ or deliberately of you God – supervision is a performance indicator – nothing more and nothing less. And I doubt that it will be too long before annual supervision reports are held in the new personnel files for ministers.

In none of this does she think that pastors are perfect people and acknowledges the growing number of discipline problems, but at the same time wonders why we don’t move to get at the root cause of it – likely handled better than making a superintendent a supervisor.

Her article made me reflect on my unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) that I took part in 7 years ago. We had a chaplain named as supervisor, but she certainly didn’t supervise as Shier-Jones defines it. My chaplain supervisor lead as Shier-Jones defines pastoral care. My chaplain supervisor encouraged and challenged me, all in honesty with what she saw in me. There were no results to measure against! As a result, I grew in the process, though it wasn’t easy. That there are no measurable targets does not mean that it was fluffy and easy. On the contrary, there were times when it was excruciatingly difficult. But the supervisor, the other intern chaplains, and I worked hard at it.

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7 thoughts on “Supervision or Pastoral Care?

  1. an excellent post from Angela- and she is right we discussed what the changes would mean as a CLT, in part I have responded in a poem over that and other aspects of governance- not in a place to be as outspoken as ASJ at the moment :-)

  2. I would agree with ASJ if MDR was about linemanagement, but it is not. It is is meant to be about pastoral care. However due to the very loose ‘skeleton’ plan of MDR there is scope for Distircts and indeed Superintendents to make it what they want and that could change the very nature of the relationship.
    I am not sure I agree with ASJ about the nature of supervision either. Pastoral supervision is maybe more akin to spiritual direction that line management.
    My initial thoughts as one who went to the ADR (as it then was) meeting in January,

    • Hi Alison,
      If it is not about line-management then why aren’t supers being ‘reviewed’ by their fellow circuit ministers rather than by the chairs? And why are chairs being reviewed by the Connexion? This is hierarchical line-management – regardless of what its called.
      And why is it being suggested that reports need to be kept only in the case of circuit ministers?

      What troubles me is that the ‘review’ was not intended to be line-management, but it creates a line-management mentality.
      It demolishes the concept of circuit ministry, replacing it with personal ministry which needs to be reviewed – not in the light of circuit mission objectives, or even the ordinal, but in terms of agreed personal ministerial goals. It has the potential to completely undermine staff collegiality and the practice of supporting one another in love.

      We need to think THEOLOGICALLY as well as practically.

  3. Hi Angela,
    There is nothing in the new MDR which talks about targets etc, which is what your initial writing seems to imply.

    I do agree with you that what you present could be the worst case scenario, but there is also scope in here for the process to be well used – I guess that is the inevitability of only having a skeleton!

    My worry is that on the whole folk do not know how to do supervision well and it will either become a line management situation or a general chat.

    MDR should be best used as a Circuit ministry tool, for good supervision cannot take place in a vacuum.

    The only way MDR can be positive in my mind is if Districts take responsible decisions and add some meat to the bones of the skeleton plan, provide some support for people taking on these new supervision-esk roles and use the lay person wisely. It could even be that the lay person and the Circuit minister are the two in conversation and that the Super simply sits in on a 3-way at some point… in other words, if a good accompanist relationship is still in place from ASA then carry on much as before!
    I see your concerns, but I also see an opportunity for some proper attention being given to circuit ministers, and a smart link from MDR to CDiM might mean that circuit ministers are finally given a guilt free opportunity for continual development, and also guilt free time for some theological reflection on the person in the work.

  4. Some helpful points, thank you
    but one small correction if I may, the MDR skeleton does suggest that the process exists to : ‘review together the minister’s work over the past year, in the context of their current appointment, and against the hopes and goals set at the previous meeting. Aren’t hopes and goals just religious language for targets/expectations?

    I dont really disagree with anything you say – anything is possible – but I suspect ministers ignoring it is most probable – If you have no confidence in the person(s) conducting the review – what’s the point in it – why take it seriously? What is being suggested here could just as easily be achieved with the old ADR scheme.

    The simple fact is that we barely have enough money to train our student ministers – I just can’t see the Connexion making the financial investment to properly train supervisors – lay or ordained.

    And I grieve the potential loss of collegiality as a perceived means of grace.

    What next – Supers as compulsory counselors to counsel the increasing number of ministers resigning or retiring on the grounds of stress and/or depression?

  5. Hi Angela, I’m not sure why today I suddenly became a big advocate for MDR!
    However I do think we need to not muddle line management and supervision and that is what I bit on today.
    I too see the pitfalls in MDR but feel I need to remain positive about what it could be. What worries me is that there is such a big skills gap to make the best happen. Bolton&Rochdale MDR officer is working hard to get the balance right and I hope others are too.

  6. Ref Will’s post. I get the impression that an American CPE or psychology “Supervisor” equates with a “Tutor” in the British system of education. (As someone going through CPE myself at the moment). That’s not really the same as a work supervisor in business.

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