30th July 2021

Pastoral supervision: less loneliness, more energy

Part 2: continuing the journey with the Diocese of Sheffield as they implement pastoral supervision

In our previous blog, the Diocese of Sheffield’s Patricia Hunt explained how the diocese introduced pastoral supervision for its clergy. In part two, Patricia shares funding insights – and the overwhelmingly positive impact of the initiative so far

You started with one group of three clergy, and now have around 40 clergy in pastoral supervision. How are you funding this?

We got some central Church of England funding, which included support for new posts in the diocese and an element of pastoral care. We were granted £30,000 which I think will fund us for three years.

Any advice on making a successful bid for wellbeing funding?

I think it’s about educating and making it sufficiently clear why this is important, and to emphasise it as important for now and the future. Also included is an element of training of pastoral supervisors, because what is limiting is the number of supervisors available. I’m hoping to find people within the diocese who will train as supervisors. So the bid is robust and shows the initiative is sustainable.

How is pastoral supervision helping clergy?

One key benefit is reducing levels of clergy exhaustion. One supervisor told me that the first time her group of three met, they were all exhausted. By session two, they were less exhausted, which is astonishing! I think the difference is not just a good session but suddenly you feel ‘I’ve got some support here, from people I feel I can trust, that is going to continue to be there for me’. Some of the loneliness is alleviated and you don’t feel you’re putting yourself last all the time, because someone is putting you first. It takes away those two sources of drain on energy.

Secondly, one member of a group emphasised how much it improved his resilience, which I thought was a really important word. He was describing how the rhythmical nature of supervision helps and how you can talk about what’s impacting you the most powerfully emotionally.

And thirdly, another said he’d just finished his pastoral supervision session today and he was absolutely buzzing! I thought that was brilliant. He said he’d spent time in the company of other clergy, they’d all shared things that are of most concern to them, in the presence of the pastoral supervisor, whom he trusted and felt was such a supportive figure to him in his ministry. He also mentioned knowing that they would, as a group, hold each other in thought and prayer. There was such a sense of excitement and energy in that. I’m astonished by some of the outcomes – it’s well-tuned to what clergy need at the moment.

Do you notice yet any reduction in crises clergy might experience, resulting in burnout, sick leave etc?

I think the best thing I can quote to you is what the Bishop of Sheffield said to me [in June 2021]: that as a measure of the success of the work that he and I have been doing is that at this point in time, there isn’t a single member of clergy off sick in the diocese. You can’t put that all down to pastoral supervision, of course not, but I do think we are seeing a change of culture in our diocese, over the past three years. Clergy no longer feel it’s self-indulgent to take care of their own needs and they realise that caring for themselves is actually enabling of their ministry. The bishop himself is really good at modelling this, he makes it very public and this is bringing about change.

Click here to read part 1 of this blog