Many SSMs are left to stagnate, new survey suggests

30 March 2011

by Ed Beavan

SELF-SUPPORTING Ministers (SSMs) feel “ignored, overlooked, and under-used” in their ministry, new research unveiled in the Church Times this week suggests.

A survey of about 900 SSMs across the UK, undertaken by the Revd Dr Teresa Morgan, a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, who is an SSM in the parish of Littlemore, paints a picture of stagnation after ordination for SSMs, who make up 27 per cent of clergy in England.

The survey found that 41 per cent of respondents said that there had been no change in their ministry since ordination. Just 12.5 of those in parish ministry have changed parish. A total of 71 per cent said that they assisted in ministry, but only 13 per cent have responsibility for ministry in their parish or chap­laincy.

Dr Morgan said that the research showed “the lack of any policy” to­wards SSMs, and the “often re­peated comment by respondents that they feel ignored, overlooked, or under-used suggests strongly that this picture is not one of stability, but one of stagnation”.

There is an impression, she said, “that most SSMs are parked some­where, and left”, and just ten per cent of SSMs reported that changes in ministry had come from a positive lead somewhere else in the Church.

Many SSMs also reported poor treatment by their incumbents; and one commented that they felt “paid clergy do not take SSMs seriously, and view us as amateurs not to be trusted.”

Dr Morgan said that tracking down SSMs to take part in the survey was “emblematic of the way in which they are regarded”. A total of 25 out of 67 dioceses contacted across the UK had an officer with oversight for SSMs, but only three diocesan offices “knew instantly” what she was enquiring about.


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