In 2009 3,100 or 27% of all the Church of England’s diocesan licensed ministers were in self-supporting ministry (SSM), sometimes described as non-stipendiary ministry. Hitherto, comparatively little has been known about these SSMs and how they are utilized by the Church.
That omission is now rectified by research published in the Church Times of 1 April 2011 (pp. 5, 22-3) and 8 April 2011 (pp. 4, 22-3, 30). These articles, together with some of the raw data in chart form, can be downloaded from:
The study was undertaken by Rev Dr Teresa Morgan, Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at Oriel College, Oxford and herself in the SSM, in the parish of Littlemore.
Fieldwork took place during the autumn of 2010 by means of an online questionnaire, to which 890 SSMs in the UK (but mostly from England) responded, representing 28% of the universe.
SSMs were found to contribute a significant amount of time to their ministry, with one-quarter putting in more than 30 hours a week and a further one-fifth between 20 and 30 hours. Only 15% spent fewer than 10 hours a week on their ministry.
Moreover, the overwhelming majority regarded their ministry as a privilege and a joy and had received extensive pre- and post-ordination training.
Notwithstanding, many respondents gave the clear impression that they were ‘ignored, overlooked or under-used’ in the Church, ‘parked somewhere, and left’, and ‘sidelined’. Some commented that stipendiary ministers appeared not to regard SSMs as ‘proper’ clergy and treated them badly.
Likewise, many SSMs reported a degree of stagnation in their ministry since ordination. 46% had held only one post since ordination, and 41% reported no change in their ministry during this time. Just 13% had lead responsibility for ministry in their parish or chaplaincy. 59% exercised no significant ministry beyond the Church. Almost one-quarter claimed to have received no ministerial development review.
Morgan is critical of the Church for its lack of strategy with regard to SSM and especially of the failure of dioceses to consider SSMs in their planning processes. She dismisses the raft of alleged impediments to the effective use of SSMs often cited by Church leaders, arguing that her survey has empirically disproved them.