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What is Professional Pastoral Supervision?

I began ministry in 2008, fresh faced and excited to be serving the Lord as the inaugural Women’s Ministry Worker at New Life Presbyterian Church in Ngunnawal, ACT.

I threw myself into the role, and delighted in ministering amongst the people and community in Ngunnawal and surrounds. In 2009 though, being new to ministry and the challenges of working on the frontline were starting to impact me. A counsellor in our area, who had also been in ministry previously, offered to provide me with pastoral supervision. It proved to be one of the most important decisions I made, and was a key strategy in keeping me healthy in ministry long term. I’ve been having supervision ever since.

In 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended that people in ministry have pastoral supervision with a trained professional or pastoral supervisor who has a level of independence from the Institution that the person ministers in.

The Royal Commission adopted the Association of Pastoral Supervisors and Educators (APSE) definition pastoral supervision as below.

Pastoral Supervision is:

A regular, planned intentional and boundaried space in which a practitioner skilled in supervision (the supervisor) meets with one or more other practitioners (the supervisees) to look together at the supervisees’ practice.

A relationship characterised by trust, confidentiality, support and openness that gives the supervisee freedom and safety to explore the issues arising in their work.

Spiritually/theologically rich – works within a framework of spiritual/theological understanding in dialogue with the supervisee’s world view and work.

Psychologically informed – draws on relevant psychological theory and insight to illuminate intra-personal and inter-personal dynamics.

Contextually sensitive – pays attention to the particularities of setting, culture and world-view.

Praxis based – focuses on a report of work and /or issues that arise in and from the supervisee’s pastoral practice.

A way of growing in vocational identity, pastoral competence, self-awareness, spiritual/theological reflection, pastoral interpretation, quality of presence, accountability, response to challenge, mutual learning.

Attentive to issues of fitness to practice, skill development, management of boundaries, professional identity and the impact of the work upon all concerned parties.

Pastoral Supervision is not

Spiritual accompaniment – for the sole or primary purpose of exploring the spiritual life and development of the supervisee(s). Aspects of this may arise in Pastoral Supervision but are not the main focus.

Counselling – for the purpose of helping the supervisee(s) gain insight into their personal dynamics, or helping the supervisee(s) to resolve or live more positively with their psycho- social limitations. Aspects of this may arise in Pastoral Supervision and, if necessary, the supervisee(s) may be encouraged to seek counselling support.

Line management – for the purpose of addressing professional practice and development issues in relationship to the supervisee(s)’s performance and accountability (whether paid or voluntary) to her/his employer. Aspects of this may arise in Pastoral Supervision but are not the main focus.

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