As ordained, licensed clergy, Self-Supporting Ministers (SSMs) offer their ministry on an unpaid basis with most making an important contribution to parish ministry. Around one in four ordained ministers licensed in the Church of England are SSMs.
Although unpaid SSMs undertake very similar roles to paid clergy, including the leading of services, weddings, baptisms, and funerals, and contributing to the wider work of the church. As churches change and develop, SSMs undertake a wide range of roles taking on leadership and other broader ministry roles. SSMs come from all walks of life with valuable experiences from a diversity of secular roles and family life.
Most SSMs also have paid secular employment where they bring their ministry into the workplace and celebrate their ability to minister in work and community networks. In work, they are not chaplains, but ordinary employees and business managers performing the same tasks as their colleagues. This provides opportunities to reach out to people in their workplace and community who would not seek out their parish church. It is a privilege to be asked those deep questions over the coffee machine and to be able to support people as they go through the stresses of daily life, bereavement, divorce, etc, as well as the joys of life.
SSMs are also a vital part of parish life and what they can contribute varies as each SSM will agree their role and hours of commitment to the parish and their incumbent. They are not ‘part-time’ priests and deacons – everything they do from Monday to Sunday is part of their ministry.
SSMs include Ordained Local Ministers (OLM) and those who can be deployed further afield (previously called NSMs). Transfers can be made from paid stipendiary roles to unpaid SSM roles and vice versa, after a careful and prayerful process of discernment, discussion and agreement with the Diocesan Bishop.
Resources for SSMs
There are many resources available to clergy highlighted across the Diocesan website. In addition, there are specific resources available to SSMs below.
SSMs National Network material
The National Network of SSM Officers and Advisers is a community run for and by diocesan officers, advisers and other members representing SSMs across the Church of England and other provinces.
Archbishop Stephen Cottrell spoke to the national network of Bishop’s officers in September 2022 tackling the often-used description of SSMs as “part-time priests”. He explained:
All ordained ministers have “full-time vocations”, because of our baptism and ordination. All clergy offer the minutes and hours available, and we are not measured or valued by the hours we contribute or a stipend.
Archbishop Stephen encourages us to focus on our mission and purpose flowing from the 5 marks of Mission.
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the earth
Members of the Network are the designated diocesan representatives for self-supporting ministry. (Revd Delia Orme represents Guildford Diocese – see below.)
Resources available on the national website include:
- Standard SSM Working Agreement
- Focus Groups Research Presentation and Report Feb 22
- SSM Fees Survey Results 17 Feb 2022
- SSM Fees Survey 17 Feb 2022 Summary Points
- The Deployment of Self Supporting Ministers Discussion Document Feb 2021
- SSOM Best Practice Guidance issued November 2022
Delia is an Associate Minister at the Parishes of Elstead, Thursley, Shackleford & Peper Harow and is full-time working partner in a medium-sized firm of Chartered Accountants. Delia has experienced rural ministry as well as large town ministry, working as part of a ministry team of various sizes with incumbents, curates, retired clergy on PTO, Licenced Lay Ministers and lay preachers. Her current passion is managing the Elstead Foodbank.
As Bishop’s Officer for SSMs in Guildford Diocese Delia’s role includes:
• Advising the Bishop’s Leadership Team on the needs and concerns of SSMs
• Representing the Diocese at the National Network for Officers for SSMs to feedback ideas and resources for SSMs in this Diocese
• Facilitate gatherings of SSMs – there is a planned gathering by Deanery to be launched during 2023
• To provide support to SSMs in the Diocese including those wishing to discuss potential vocations to SSM ministry
• To produce material for the Diocesan website and Parish Brief