We need to talk about Clergy to Youthworker Line-Management (part 2)

We dont need to worry too much about Management, im sure we’ll be fine


Im meant to be your line manager, theyve asked to do it, im sure we can work it out as we go

Are words that I have heard on at least two occasions during the induction process (where there was an induction process) from Clergy in their role as line-manager to me, there might be other good introductory statements made by Clergy in their role as line-manager, though  I have a feeling these might be common.

Simon Davies argues that ‘Christian youthwork Management suffers from too little management, rather than its secular cousin which suffers from ‘too much” (Davies S, in Ord, Jon, 2012). Management within faith settings can often be the reactionary type, or ‘to be fitted in’, and without seeming patronising, I can understand why this is the case. For, its not often that Clergy are themselves given regular positive line management themselves, they dont see it in practice. The kind of management that might inspire them, educate, offer support and appropriate direction in the ministry they do ( as opposed to the plans of the affiliation to enforce as a county wide ministry) – so then for Clergy to attempt to be good Managers is to go outside not only their training ( see part one) but also possibly their experience of faith orientated Management. So of all the styles of Management, the one that becomes default can be ‘laissez-faire’ – ie leave the youth worker to it – when what might be more fulfilling and motivating for the youthworker is be give more management, direction, support and education (Davies).  Good supervision and thus line management has to have a clear focus the personal and pastoral needs of those to be supervised, and to highlight the development of faith commitment and spiritual expression. Image result for negotiation

What it sounds like is that it is important to establish a good Managerial/supervision relationship from the outset that entails some kind of contract. In Part one of this series I suggested that both the youthworker and the Clergy bring something to the relationship, it makes sense then that some kind of negotiation from the outset begins a process from which appropriate Management can occur. In one way, because both the line manager and youthworker give something to the relationship it can become something of a negotiated collaboration. This in itself can be a source of challenge as often the youthworker and clergy operate (dangerously) as the ‘lone wolf’ , collaboration, and working together might not be in their mindset, neither practice or value orientation. Related image

In the collaborative relationship between Clergy & Youthworker what needs to be negotiated? 

  1. The Style of Management – Kenneth Blanchard ( Management Guru) describes 4 styles of ever changing management/leadership style – and its less important what they are- more so that the context of the situation might dictate that a certain style is important. This is the ‘contextual’ leadership style.  (Leadership & the One minute Manager, 1986) The four styles are: Delegating, Supportive, Directive, Coaching. Depending on the level of support & direction given.  Without describing all of the 100’s of styles of management/leadership, it is probably enough to say that all of these 4 actions might be required at some point from the line manager. It is how these are done…. 
  2. The Practicalities of Line Management – It might seem irrelevant or trivial, but the venue, time & frequency of Specific line management are crucial. They all communicate to the Youthworker how valued they are. A once a month meeting might be too much for some, not enough for others, the reverse might be case for every week. How long is important, if line managers are checking their watch, or waiting for a phone call. Venues can be spaces of power, neutrality is good, but this would need to be balanced by the need for privacy for delicate conversations. 
  3. The Content of Line Management – So, when the allotted hour arrives at the decided time and venue – There should be negotiation from the outset of the relationship as to what the appropriate and expected content should be, so that both parties are prepared. Is it to report the weeks events? To talk through ideas and plans? to talk about personal/spiritual challenges? is it receive direction/guidance? to ask for help? to talk about what is not happening? Again, the content can change, but some kind of agreed pattern that can be negotiated ongoing might be a positive helpful. It is worth then negotiating what is expected of the line manager when they hear the report, suggestions or crisis – is it merely Support (high support/low direction), Direct (high direction/low support), Coach ( high direction/high support), or even Delegate ( low direction/low support) – because a line manager that ‘just listens’ might not be whats required – but neither might be a line manager who just delegates new tasks. Negotiating the Content and form that line management takes is crucial. 
  4. Handling Feedback, Criticism & Conflict. From the very beginning the clergy to Line Manager relationship needs to build in what will happen when there is both positive and critical feedback to be given. There is nothing worse that only being praised for everything, or either only being criticised for everything. But as the line manager the Clergy will have to bring to the table, and should bring to the table, the positive and critical feedback, and complaints that might be being aired about aspects of youthwork practice. Image result for criticismWhat is to be negotiated is how these will be communicated, and what the appropriate responses should be to them. To think that there wont be is ‘pie in the sky’- or that the youthworker is finding things too easy, and might be in a safe/comfort zone – where being challenged and making ‘mistakes’ due to inexperience might not be a bad thing.
  5. Expectations; When the Job role & Strategy says one thing, but culture determines another. They say that ‘Culture eats Strategy for breakfast’. If the following is true:

At its worst Christian youthwork is a context where innovation, creativity and diversity is being crushed because of the weight of established tradition and culture (Davies p154)

Where there is an avoidance of a church engaging politically -and youthworkers can have a political switch set to on, like often young people arent given credit for also do. Churches intend to be safe places – or even far too comfortable places – to find healing, hope, meaning and purpose – so they become places where peoples own needs are met. At worse to be exciting and attractive they can become safe and easy to go to – More ‘Moral Therapeutic deism’, than sacrifical, costly, challenging discipleship.

Image result for strategy eats culture for breakfastChurches tend to be places of nostalgia, reliving the past, and its glories, as a way of shielding themselves from the dangers of the present – a reality that youthworkers find themselves in throughout the week and ‘do mission’ in. But these desires for Safety within the church, transmits to conservative and safety culture being the key motivation for education and young people thus youth ministry. It is the culture of the church that might dictate the strategy of the youthworker, more so that the job description or hoped-for strategy – and so negotiating the culture is a key aspect of the Line Management relationship – especially as the Clergy have a role in challenging, conforming to, or educating the culture to create new ones.

6. Spirituality and Formation – If one of the unique contributions to the relationship that the Clergy bring to it is their awareness of Spirituality, Theological education and Experience- its would be a strength of this Line Management role to negotiate how ongoing spiritual guidance, direction, and learning could become a feature, in order for increased challenge, for learning. It might be appropriate for this to be a two way thing, up to date theological underpinnings, readings and thought that the youthworker may have just received might also be good to share with the clergy – again so the relationship is collaborative and shared. The reason this is to be negotiated is that within a line management relationship there are issues of power, and so theological thought and disagreement or discussion might be inappropriate in this context if other matters and its dynamic are unhealthy from a power or control perspective – ie how might a youthworker learn spiritual discipline from clergy if the clergy are perceived as a ‘control freak’…. where a breakdown in relationship might put spiritual advice to the back burner, and so its worth establishing where pinch points or conflicts of interest might be, and how to attend to the relationship itself, in context with other relationships in the church setting. 

Im sure there might be additional aspects of a Clergy-Youthworker line management relationship that will need attending to, especially as it progresses. Whilst I am all for creativity and improvisation, I’d recommend that there be some structures and agreement in place within the line management relationship, especially as this is one of the key reasons for a youthworker to be unmotivated and thus where they are likely to leave a post. There is more information on Management in the links above, or where training could be provided further. What kind of Management did Jesus do with the disciples? Education, Support, challenge, direction? , only he left did he ‘leave them to it completely’ And that was as a group of 12, not the lone worker.

Part one of this series is here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-Sj


Davies, S ; The Management of Faith Based youth work in Ord, J – Critical Issues in Youthwork Management, 2012

Blanchard K; Leadership and the one minute Manager, 1986

Smith; Christian; Soul Searching, 2005 ( on Moral Therapeutic Deism)


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