In 2019 I carried out a survey on behalf of the Bishop of Leicester into the terms and conditions of salaried children’s, youth and families ministers across the UK. Over 630 took part to share their reflections and experiences. What I discovered was a huge disparity in pay, some examples of excellent practice but also many who felt they didn’t always have the support, training or resourcing they needed to flourish in ministry. For many, line management was a bit hit or miss and opportunities for continuing professional development was a lottery with a very mixed picture of provision across the UK.
What I also discovered, and this is my favourite statistic EVER – is that when asked, “Would you stay in children’s, youth or family ministry until retirement if you could?” a whopping 74% of those of who answered the question said YES. And yet, turnover is quite high. 50% of our salaried workers have been in ministry for less than five years. There is a challenge for us right now, across the church, in terms of retention – but also recruiting in the first place. It is now common to “repeat advertise” for a post.
And, when we asked if their line managers had received any training in line management and supervision, 75% of our respondents said “no”. Clearly there was some excellent practice, but also those who felt under supported, not really understood and on their own. With this patchy picture, the Bishop of Leicester gathered a group of practitioners at the beginning of 2020 to explore how we might respond – then Covid happened.
Over the last couple of years, we have had lots of conversations with specialists across the denominations, especially Church of England, Baptist, Methodist and Elim, and gathered a small team of advisers to help us shape something. We have received incredible support too from the likes of Youthscape, BRF, EC GO, Children Worldwide, 31:8 and other agencies AND from an incredible 40 experienced children’s, youth and family ministry practitioners.
We are establishing the “Association of Children’s, Youth and Families Ministers” which will be known as Paraklesis. This Greek word encompasses so much of what we hope to be. It’s a word that means “to be alongside”, “helper”, “advocate” and is often associated with the work of the Holy Spirit, especially in the New Testament.
What will Paraklesis do?
We want to provide a professional support and development space for children’s, youth and families ministers. We will seek to set standards, enable and encourage ministerial development and champion and advocate for quality children’s, youth and family ministry provision across the church. The Association is open to anyone working with children, young people and families – whether they're salaried, a volunteer, or a student studying children’s, youth or family ministry.
A key finding of our research was that it remains quite rare for children’s, youth and families ministers to have a mentor (usually someone outside their parish they can occasionally meet with for support, coaching and development). Those who join Paraklesis will be able to receive a FREE mentoring session each year. We have a “Mentoring Hub” of over 40 experienced practitioners who have kindly offered their time to enable this.
Paraklesis will also provide a forum for members to discuss the joys and challenges of ministry in a safe space with other members, as well as forum themes on areas of interest (e.g. Finding funding; Leading volunteers; Managing your Church leader... !)
"When asked, “Would you stay in children’s, youth or family ministry until retirement if you could?” a whopping 74% of those of who answered the question said YES. And yet, turnover is quite high."
Paraklesis will also signpost members to additional support and the services of others that complement what we are doing. Whilst this is an initiative being supported by the Bishop of Leicester, who is the lead Bishop for Lay Ministry in the Church of England, Paraklesis is ecumenical and collegiate. One of the greatest strengths of children’s and youth ministry is our ability to work alongside each other in partnership. Paraklesis aims to do that in every way we can, from denominational collaboration, to working with para-church organisations and others who resource children’s and youth ministry in the UK.
Church Charter Membership
Paraklesis is not just an Association for children’s, youth and families ministers. We will also be open for “Charter Membership”. Some of you reading this might remember the “We Love Our Youth Worker” Charter of a few years ago. Youthscape have kindly given us all the material and content that went in to creating that Charter and we have developed a “Paraklesis Charter” that churches can sign up to. We hope this new “Charter Mark” will be a mark of quality and an assurance to perspective applicants for children’s and youth ministry roles that when a Church has the Charter, they know they have done the work required to give that new employee the best chance to flourish.
What will it cost to join?
Ahh, yes – there is always a catch. For “Association Membership” joining fees are as follows: £50 per annum for those who are full time; £25 per annum for those who are part-time or who lead volunteers; ministry students can join for FREE.
As we are launching there are some gifts and prizes up for grabs – including a free retreat; a £50 bundle of ministry resources; a free training evening for your children’s or youth team via Zoom. To be in with a chance of winning any of those, be among the first 50 to join Paraklesis!
Churches who would like the Paraklesis Charter will pay £100 – this fee covers the work we need to do in checking documents, policies and having interviews with staff and leadership. If the requirements are a challenge, and churches don’t feel they are ready we will help them meet the Charter requirements with bespoke additional support.
Will you join us?
I’ve been involved in children’s and youth ministry for 35 years. I don’t think it has ever been more needed, whilst at the same time I don’t recall a more challenging environment for the church – especially when it comes to employing quality practitioners, and seeing that ambition of remaining in this ministry until retirement being realised. My personal hope for Paraklesis is that, along with other voices and organisations, we see the profile of this vital work we are involved in rise. That we see greater value placed on the support and training of amazing people like you. And that together we might continue to grow and flourish as we serve this generation of children, young people and families.
Will you join us? You can register your interest ahead of our website launch at: www.paraklesis.org.uk
Ali Campbell runs The Resource and is a youth and children’s ministry consultant leading on the development of Paraklesis.