What we need is more love and less paperwork - Renewal and Reform
Posted by Graham Millar, Project Manager, MPDW on 23rd December 2016
By freeing-up clergy from administration, more time can be given to growing the Church and serving local communities, argues Graham Millar, from the Mission Partnership Development Worker Project in Sheffield Diocese.
Anyone not involved closely with parish ministry may be surprised to know research has found that administration takes up more clergy time than any other type of work. Paperwork is clearly not what most priests are called to and filling in forms and photocopying, whilst humbling, do little to grow the Kingdom.
The ‘Experiences of Ministry’ research undertaken by Kings College London in 2013, was one of the catalysts that led the Diocese of Sheffield to secure funding to support up to a third of its parishes with admin support.
The ‘Mission Partnership Development Worker Project’ is a six-year programme that has been supported by a £1m grant from the Church Commissioners’ Strategic Development Fund, part of the Renewal and Reform programme.
So far six development workers have been appointed to provide groups of churches (working together as Mission Partnerships) with professional support in areas such as administration, communication, publicity and finance. This number will more than double in 2017.
The overall aim is to free up clergy time for mission and the project has engaged academic partners to evaluate the success of this in relation to: church growth; lay leadership; and financial stability.
Wedding management is just one example of how this works. The development worker is able to provide an efficient response to initial enquiries, manage diaries for multiple churches and organise organists/choirs/bells etc., leaving the clergy free to provide pastoral support to couples.
One vicar described their development worker as ‘a God send’ and another reported being able to finally develop working links with a local credit union which resulted in the church becoming a base for money advice and support to the local community – creating both missional and community engagement opportunities. This was a development that had been talked about for years – but was made possible by the easing of the administrative burden.