THE pressure to move towards a more collaborative ministry is
more than a managerial flavour of the month: changes in parish
structures now make it an essential way of working. Many Anglican
clerics now find themselves in charge of more than one parish,
working with a lay and ordained ministry team that expects to share
in decision-making - but in a way that even experienced incumbents
have not encountered before.
My experience in training clergy has often revealed suspicion
about managing collaboratively and about learning from models in
industry, but such approaches are widely accepted and familiar to
those with whom the clergy need to work. They reflect changing
expectations both in the Church and in our culture.
The number of non-stipendiary or self-supporting ministers (SSMs
or NSMs) has increased from 1800 to nearly 3000 since 1999. There
are also some 10,000 Readers - an increase of nearly 1000 in the
same period; their training is now moderated nationally, and many
take theology degrees. The training for pastoral assistants runs
for two or three years. Every year, some 300 clergy retire, many of
whom want to play some part in parish life.
Each of these groups now seems to have increasing expectations
of a deeper level of involvement in a more collaborative approach
AS THE the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, argues
in his booklet Mission Partnerships (Grove Pastoral,
2013), if our Lord could say "I can do nothing on my own" (John
5.30), partnership must be an essential ingredient of both
spiritual formation and training for ministry.
There are a fund of skills and opportunities to develop the
spiritual gifts that St Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12. Less
attention, however, has been given to the leadership that is needed
to enable these gifts to flourish.
For those who have been in parish ministry for many years, the
change can appear threatening. SSMs or Readers may be better than
the incumbent at preaching and at drawing parallels with the people
with whom they are involved all week, or they may have gifts of
prophecy or healing. Many will also have received training in
verbal and written communications - skills not given priority in
SSMs have experienced problems when their skills have not been
used effectively, as the Revd Dr Teresa Morgan has noted (Comment, 1 February
2013). Similarly, the improved training for lay ministries can
raise awareness of their being undervalued.
The confidence engendered by their training, and the experience
of work that ministers (lay and ordained) bring to a parish team,
mean that they may not be happy with the idea of simply following
directions from an incumbent. They will usually be familiar with
decisions that are made in a more collegiate fashion. This can be
hard for incumbents to cope with.
I heard an incumbent of some 25 years' experience say at a
deanery consultation recently: "Bishop, you talked about the
importance of teamwork, but I have had no training in this."
Incumbents who are not used to having their methods questioned may
find such approaches irritating - even threatening - but, for many
SSMs and Readers, these are normal ways of working.
Congregations can also see such changes as alarming. Some may
classify the priest as idle, because lay people now do things that
they have always expected of the incumbent. Where incumbents have
several parishes, each may feel that the others receive more than
their fair share of attention, especially when their vicarage is
unoccupied. In new formations in urban areas, where people might
not be familiar with split responsibility, these resentments can
also be strong.
THE question is where such leadership training is to come from.
Many of those who found themselves in parish groupings 20 or 30
years ago have not experienced models on which they can build.
In the past, team rectors were appointed on the basis of age and
years in ministry, not on management experience. They were supposed
to manage two or three team vicars in their team, but, with no
training, they fell back on treating them like assistant curates.
This is an observation I have heard from several people, including
There are few people who are able to provide team-development
training in dioceses. One of the resources for church trainers to
learn from business, which existed through the Regional Church
Training Groups, was abolished by the Board of Education in the
1980s, as a way of cutting costs.
One rector - a team-leader for nearly 15 years - told me that
his teamwork abilities derived from his time in industry: he had
had no support in this area from the Church. There are many in the
As I have already mentioned, when giving management training for
clergy, hands are often raised in holier-than-thou horror at the
thought of such evil influences as business using the Church. So it
might surprise some to know that some of the most successful
examples of collaborative leadership used in business have a
distinctively Christian provenance.
When the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to America, their aim was to
help establish the Kingdom of heaven on earth. They rejected the
traditional class leadership of British society: from the outset,
the emphasis was on the importance of mechanical and managerial
skills, and a bottom-up approach.
Over the following centuries, such ideas were carried through to
the way that many businesses were run in the United States. By the
1950s, however, such notions as "classical management" and the
figure of the chief executive officer (someone with a higher
degree, but no hands-on experience) brought in a top-down approach.
This led to disastrous results for many US corporations.
Paradoxically, it was Americans who took the collaborative model
of leadership (developed by Dr Edward Deming, a statistician) to
Japan, to help reconstruction after the Second World War, and this
enabled Japan to become dominant in world trade.
Many of the attachments in cars today (such as rain-activated
windscreen wipers, and automatic safety locks) came from a
shop-floor apprentice or engineer saying "Why not?", and being
encouraged to look for improvement at every turn. This is now
normal practice in many successful British companies, such as
Rolls-Royce, where the newest apprentice can make a suggestion for
the production of a jet engine.
Before he was Archbishop, Justin Welby drew a number of
parallels between business practice and the Church. Training is
available in those aspects that are appropriate and useful for
Christians. For example, a recent paper from the East Midlands
Modem Group, Metanoia and Transformation: Holy power in godly
organisation with servant leaders explores the interplay
between Deming's work and the biblical tradition (www.modem-uk.org/Other_pubs.html).
Other resources are available, too. A number are in education
section of the C of E website (
One of these, for example, is a paper by the National Adviser for
Lay Discipleship and Shared Ministry, Joanna Cox, on the
theological and practical justifications for collaborative
ministry, with recommendations on training.
The Church Pastoral Aid Society will deliver team training, as
part of diocesan CME programmes, or by working with local groups.
There are other groups that specialise in church work, such as 3D
Coaching (www.3dcoaching.com). There
are also a number of Christians in business schools, and in
industry more widely, who are often only too eager to assist. They
form a tremendous but neglected asset.
It is vital that the Church engage with this question. Unless
such a collaborative culture can be established, people with skills
will continue to be under-used, to the detriment of all.
The Revd Brian Cranwell is a former management
consultant, and the author of From the Diaries of an Urban Rev:
Faith and functions, vicarages and vandalism (New Generation
Publishing, 2013). among other books.