Self-Supporting Ministry

Eric Knowles

“Because he was of the same trade, Paul stayed with them and they worked together – by trade they were tentmakers” Acts 18:3

Much as we would rather not define our ministries in terms of remuneration, until someone comes up with a snappier title, ‘self-supporting’ seems the best of the rest as a way to identify those of us who work in a priestly ministry but receive no salary from the Church of England.

What is Self-Supporting Ministry?

In the Diocese of Worcester, just over a quarter of our fully ordained priests are self-supporting.

As a recognised calling in the Church of England and under a variety of titles, a priestly ministry offered by those who receive no payment from the Church of England has been around for more than 50 years.

Self-supporting minsters may continue in their paid employment, may be retired on a pension or be financially supported by their partner. 

Those who offer this ministry receive the same training and qualification as those who work in stipendiary (salaried) posts. Although some train full-time, the development of self-supporting ministry has been facilitated by the availability of ministerial training courses that are part-time.

As with all part-time professionals, the progression of responsibility towards increased authority is harder and access to more senior roles more difficult. There are some self-supporting ministers who are incumbent, some who are rural deans and some who are diocesan officers, and there is some flexibility in movement between paid and unpaid roles within the church in parish, in the Cathedral and in the Diocesan administration.

What do we do?

At the moment there are 30 of us around the Diocese of Worcester. Most of us work in parishes fulfilling a priestly ministry of leading worship and prayer, offering pastoral care, preaching and teaching in the same way as our stipendiary colleagues. The main difference seems to be that we don’t have the admin responsibilities and we don’t exercise the same level of parochial authority.

There is also a significant group among us for whom the primary focus of their ministry is at work. As with any form of chaplaincy, the role is what you make it given the constraints of your workplace.

“You Do What?”

So diverse is our experience that in 2012 we put together a booklet full of our stories, not only in order to share our experiences but hopefully, to encourage and enthuse others who may be considering joining us on this pathway. Hopefully these stories may also serve to explain something of our commitment to and passion for this special form of our priestly ministry.

Catch up with three of us talking about what our ministry means to us:

For a copy of “You Do What?” or for any other additional information about Self Supporting Ministry in the Diocese of Worcester contact:

Reverend Biddi Kings, Dean of NSM/MSE

email: biddi@mostblessed.me.uk or Tel: 01684 311922