In 2019 I carried out a survey on behalf of the Bishop of Leicester in to 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.
For many of us this is a life long calling and that is so exciting - we aren’t in this as a stepping stone or a stop gap or until something better comes along (what could be better?!) - BUT, our survey did identify that things can be very challenging.
So, at the beginning of 2020, the Bishop of Leicester gathered a group of practitioners 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 - gathered a small team of advisers to help us shape something and so finally (!), on 4th July 2022, Paraklesis is going to be launched!
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 - salaried, whether full time or part time, lead volunteers and team members as well as those studying for diplomas or degrees in children’s, youth and 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 … !)
Paraklesis will also signpost members to additional support and the services of others that compliment 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 lead volunteers; ministry students are 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 (If they meet the criteria for Charter Membership) renewable every 3 years.
Additional fees might be required from churches where they don’t meet the criteria for Charter Membership (i.e. we will help them get there and this will be a bespoke additional fee depending on what they already have in place and how much work we anticipate in helping them reach the standard required for charter membership).
A Final Thought
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.
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, we see greater value placed on the support and training of amazing people like you and - together - we might continue to grow and flourish as we serve this generation of children, young people and families.
Will you join us?