23rd August 2019

Supporting ministry – learning from St Albans’ success

The SIM ministry support scheme is a low-cost, high impact provision that has been running for nearly 30 years in the Diocese of St Albans. In his second and final blog post, SIM Chair Chris Swain gives his top tips for running this scheme


What makes SIM work so well, Chris?

SIM is immensely valuable whilst being very simple: it is in essence a listening ministry.  My top five tips for a diocese considering this kind of ministry support are:

  • The scheme should be voluntary.  Ministers will gain the most from making the decision themselves to use SIM. One user has spoken about SIM feeling like a grace gift to them.  If it were compulsory, it could easily be seen as yet another hoop to jump through.
  • Appoint a management group of committed people who between them bring strong administrative skills, sensitivity to users’ needs, training skills (or the capability to manage an outside provider), the ability to maintain confidentiality and a willingness to talk engagingly about the scheme to any group eg chapters, synods, new entrants to the diocese, curates and readers in training etc.
  • Maintain confidentiality.  For SIM, no-one apart from the SIM coordinator knows who uses the scheme, let alone what is discussed in their meetings.  This level of confidentiality is very important to some people (other users are delighted to talk about how valuable they find the scheme and we of course are very happy for them to do so!).
  • Have no preconceptions about who would make a good assistant but do be prepared not to accept anyone who finds active listening or empathising difficult.  Assistants are not required to be expert in any aspect of ministry, but are expected to allow the user to set the agenda, to listen actively and sympathetically and to question the user to help them address the matter raised constructively.
  • Enrol bishops, archdeacons and rural/area deans as supporters and remind them constantly to mention SIM in all their conversations with ministers.


Do you have any outcomes measuring SIM’s impact on wellbeing?

We have no quantitative measurements of wellbeing but are convinced of the value of SIM from the very positive feedback we receive from users and the fact that over 100 of them voluntarily give up their time to meet their assistants regularly.

Anything else to mention?

A small number of ministers’ partners use the scheme but many more have joined Connect, a new initiative which arranges meetings of groups of partners throughout the year.  These range from social events to quiet days and all provide the opportunity for participants to meet others whose partners are also ministers.

An interesting offshoot of SIM is our partnership with a very similar scheme, ‘Assisted Reflection for Rabbis’, run by the Liberal and Reformed Jewish community, mainly in north London.  The two schemes are jointly administered, and in some cases diocesan ministers meet Jewish assistants and rabbis meet Christian assistants.  It works very well!

Read Chris’ first blog post about SIM here