Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Supervision. Why Bother? by Catherine Richardson

Working with children and families can be the most rewarding and frustrating work possible! One Sunday it seems there are cheerful child-like sponges seated around you participating enthusiastically in the activities you have planned. You just know God is just touching their hearts – and yours. Another week it can feel like your carefully prepared lesson falls off a cliff to land in a crumpled heap – like that half made aeroplane that “someone “ created out of the activity – THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH FLYING!

Perhaps you find yourself today reading this feeling on top of the world “I am in just the absolutely right place, doing exactly what God has designed and called me to do”. Perhaps you are considering “why on earth did I offer to help with the children – who am I kidding?” I think we can all identify with the latter at different points in ministry. Which bring us to this blog…. Some reading may already have regular supervision in their ministry with children. Some may find themselves thinking “supervision - that’s for paid staff, I’m just a volunteer” or perhaps you might fall into the group that’s thinking “super what?”

Supervision is not a new concept. Many workplaces, including churches, offer this for staff particularly those who work with, or are responsible for, overseeing other people. Supervision focuses on the “work” of the supervisee and has an educative function. In a nut shell “supervision is a safe, confidential relationship, which provides a regular opportunity to reflect on our work and professional relationships” [1].

Supervision allows us to process the work that we are doing with children in a non-threatening, non-judgemental, unbiased “safe” place. The desired outcome is that we will grow in or into our role, developing it further and in turn grow more satisfied in ministry. Supervision assists in keeping ourselves and those we work with, safe. It helps to examine boundaries, maintains our accountability, challenges us, and also helps us release our potential, provides encouragement, self-awareness, and depending on what we are willing to put into it, can extend our faith (although this is more of a by-product rather than intention, unlike Spiritual Direction). “Having the opportunity to take already occurred or potential situations to supervision can provide a more complete perspective so that action takes place rather than reaction”.[2]Sometimes things happen that we just need to talk over with another person.

Back in 2006 the General Assembly moved that the Book of Order be amended to include several statements around child safety and protection. One aspect of this is that those employed by Sessions or Parish Councils “accept, and have professional supervision of their work from a suitably qualified person who is not a member of the parish concerned.” [3]Interesting that bit about not in the same parish – what do you do when the issues you are facing are with a parent, a child (of one of the elders) or the minister? Knowing the confidential nature of the supervisory relationship means you can work it through gaining perspective and perhaps finding a way to resolve it or “do it differently” next time.

I guess you could be thinking “that’s all very well Catherine, I’m not paid so supervision doesn’t apply to me”. You make a point, as often supervision does cost – not just in time and money, but also in trusting your supervisor. I encourage you to ask God if this is something that He would like you to explore. Ask your church if they could pay for an hour a month especially if you are a volunteer (some supervisors cost less than you think and some have sliding fee scales). Ask and listen to others who have supervision – how does it benefit them? Finally I’d recommend when starting supervision it pays to go and meet the person, “suss” them out, as the relationship is important.

If you are looking into investing the time and $ into yourself and the ministry you are in, go pop the jug on, make a cuppa and check out this link to the PCANZ Supervision Guidelines (especially pages 1,2. 5 and 6)

You could send Jill a message if you are looking for a supervisor and don’t know where to start, she is creating a list of possible people throughout the country.

I wish you well as you continue to build the church, may God bless you abundantly!

Catherine is a counsellor and supervisor in the Christchurch region. She is the mother of two uni aged daughters and enjoys working alongside her minister husband Brent. She has been involved in Children’s ministry since she was a teenager and spent 10 years on the children's ministry team at Hornby Presbyterian Church (now Hope Presbyterian). She now runs a private counselling practice and offers supervision to those involved in children’s ministry. You can contact her at

[1] 2007 p2.
[2] PCANZ Supervision Guidelines revised February 2011, p1.
[3] 07 PCANZ Supervision Guidelines p9

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