What is Self Supporting ordained ministry?
Around one in four ordained ministers licensed in the Church of England are Self Supporting Ministers (SSMs).
SSMs are unpaid, but undertake very similar roles to paid clergy, including the full range of leading services, weddings, baptisms, and funerals, and contributing to the wider work of the church. The changing needs of the Church mean that SSMs now undertake a wide range of roles, including positions of leadership.
SSMs come from all walks of life. Some are retired from work, but around half of SSMs have paid work outside the church, either full-time or part-time. Many have other commitments such as family life and community involvement.
Often SSMs are in paid employment outside the Church of England. For some, work is the most important focus of their ministry as an ordained person. Some are recognised as Ministers in Secular Employment (MSE), but most SSMs celebrate the fact that they have the opportunity to minister in contexts well outside church buildings. In work, they are not chaplains, but workers performing the same tasks as their colleagues. SSMs therefore often reach people who conventional ordained ministers never have the chance to meet. Although not recognised officially in their place of work, they are often seen as a go to person in times of need or for advice and support and in particular around faith and times of anguish in their personal life.
The time that SSMs can offer to parish life varies enormously, but they are not ‘part-time’ priests and deacons – everything they do is part of their ministry. SSMs usually train on a part-time basis which respects other commitments including family and work. After ordination the hours SSMs offer as Curates and then associate ministers vary. Even so, they make a vital important contribution to the life and work of the Church of England.
What support do SSMs receive?
The Diocese of Durham offers many different kinds of support for SSMs including regular learning events and has a Diocesan Adviser for Self Supporting Ministry. The Church of England has a strong interest in encouraging more people to think about this form of ordained ministry, particularly younger candidates.
Interested in thinking further about self supporting ordained ministry?
If you feel called to ordained ministry, there are several people you can talk to – local clergy, your incumbent and SSMs in this Diocese.
Alastair Prince: Diocesan Director of Ordinands, Vocations Strategy Development
Dorothy Snowball: Diocesan Adviser for Self Supporting Ministry
Information and resources are also available on the National Network of SSM Officers and Advisers.
SSOM Best Practice Charter released by The National Network of SSM in November 2022.