*** DEBUG END ***

Self-Supporting Ministry: A practical guide, by John Lees

07 September 2018

Peter King commends essential reading on what SSMs are about

IN THE Church of England, the number of stipendiary parish clergy continues to decline, whereas the number of self-supporting ministers (SSMs) is rising. In 2016, the numbers were 7788 and 3230 respectively. Sadly, that statistic belies a widespread ignorance about what an SSM is, and what roles and functions should be performed. Is the voluntary and non-paid minister a lesser grade of cleric? Is it a ministry purely supportive of the parish and establishment, or should it have its own distinctive voice in the parish, workplace, or community? Should there be more encouragement towards collaborative and mutual working with stipendiary clergy and, indeed, more leadership positions?

John Lees in his book sets out these issues and seeks to address them in a brief but effective way from his perspective of being an SSM in a leadership position in the diocese of Exeter. He is a priest in a mission community (the diocesan term for parishes working in wider partnerships), and works for his living as a career coach and counsellor. From my point of view, it is the most informative book on the practicalities of such ministry that I have seen for many years. It should be compulsory reading for incumbents, PCCs, and churchwardens who have an SSM within the parish. It is also essential reading for those seeking to become an SSM or minister in secular employment (MSE).

The book sets out case studies of individuals and of their particular path of ministry, and highlights the particular qualities that each demand. A calling to the parish or to the “margins” requires tact, communication, and time-management skills, not least in an interregnum or in the challenging conversations in “unholy” or “non-establishment” territory.

As Lees highlights in the course of his consideration, at present the Church appears to lack the capacity to engage with the self-supporting ministry that is offered outside the parish, or, indeed, to provide proper focused training or development goals for self-supporting ministry generally.

Such concerns are not new, but the real joy of this book is reflected in the positive and practical suggestions for future training, selection, theological discussion, and deployment which are presented, particularly for ministry focused on work and community outside the parish structure. It is an encouraging book, and will be a useful tool to inform a wider discussion.

The Revd Peter King is an Upper Tribunal Judge.

Self-Supporting Ministry: A practical guide
John Lees
SPCK £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)