Incumbent as Supervisor of Parish Staff

A good place to start when trying to understand your role as supervisor is in the person of Jesus Christ. He drew together individuals of mixed, even dubious capabilities; inspired, motivated and empowered them to offer their best to God; then delegated, that is, sent them out to offer their many gifts. (Matthew 10:1-10)

The two Churchwardens and the Incumbent are to act jointly in matters concerning the parish in most respects, except when hiring parish lay employees. The responsibility for making sure the parish has adequate and appropriate lay staffing rests primarily with the Churchwardens. They are the hiring and firing authority of the parish. They should make sure a job description is created before hiring, that the hiring process is fair and open and that there is a suitable workspace for the new employee. The responsibility for supervision rests primarily with the Incumbent.

Regardless of your staff’s religious background, level of responsibility or competence, their work with you will figure prominently in their sense of meaning and personal call, so it’s important to create a work environment that affirms the dignity and worth of each individual, where the theological concepts of redemption and grace are lived out, where justice and compassion are practised and where the needs of the individual are balanced with the stewardship needs of the parish. This means that:

  • a person’s value is not determined by position but by being a child of God; therefore, respect is integral
  • information is shared, meetings are open and inclusive, expectations are clearly stated and boundaries of job descriptions are honoured
  • employees feel valued and are recognized publicly
  • in a spirit of reflective openness, staff are accountable for both good and poor performance
  • there is opportunity for growth, development and change

This challenging ministry requires skills development and training, for few are innately gifted as a supervisor. Just as with pastoral care and preaching, practice, reading, reflection and sharing ideas will help you more effectively fulfill what God is calling you to be. You may be required to dedicate a significant amount of your time to the task, and be attentive to legal and human resources responsibilities involved. To help clergy with supervision, the Diocese has developed a resource called “Incumbent and Parish Staff.” It includes information on:

  • The role
  • Feedback
  • Performance evaluation meeting
  • Difficulties

and samples of:

You may also wish to use many of the resources developed for the Responsible Ministry: Screening in Faith program.