Tuesday, September 7, 2010

35 hour working week for all ministers?

Good morning God,

A 5 day, 35 hour working week for all ministers - yes even CIRCUIT ministers? Is it possible, is it desirable? As promised, here's the text of a circuit memorial which, if adopted and sent to Conference, might at least persuade us to examine the working conditions of circuit ministers.
What do you think God? I know, I know, we would all do the work anyway, but if we felt we were only supposed to be 'working' 35 hours a week, we might at least give ourselves permission to stop after 48.. instead of the usual 60-70..
It might even encourage more lay people to become actively involved again - or even consider ministry as an option if they saw half-decent working conditions..

Anyway.. here's the first draft to be put to our circuit meeting.

Text of memorial: The xxxx Circuit draws the Conference’s attention to the increasing number of ministers leaving circuit ministry for reasons of stress, finance and poor working conditions and asks Conference to address the issue directly by implementing the following changes to ministerial working conditions without reduction of Stipend from the start of the Connexional year 2011:
1) Standardise on a notional 5 day, 35 hour working week for all ministers.
(These are the working hours of ministers based at MCH)
2) Remove the 12 quarter days per year
3) Require Circuits to comply with the European Working Directive and ensure that no minister works more than 48 hours a week when averaged over a 17 week period.

Background or supporting statement:
Ministry is a vocation which demands sacrificial giving of time and energy. As the Church has declined however, more and more is being asked of few and fewer ministers. The review of the pension scheme has highlighted the fact that there has been a significant increase, year upon year, in the number of younger (below 50 years of age) ministers retiring early on the grounds of stress. The call for a ‘Year of Jubilee’ at Conference 2010 is further indication of the extent to which the whole Church is beginning to feel pressured. For the Church to flourish and grow it needs a ministry which is energised and refreshed not permanently tired. It also needs for ministry to appeal to a new generation as a vocation which, whilst it may be both challenging and dynamic, is nonetheless still doable. It is our belief that the current Conference ruling (given below) is no longer able to achieve that objective.

The Conference recognises the impossibility and the undesirability of too strict a rule on a minister’s or deacon’s use of time, such as a sessional apportionment would entail, and it also recognises the economic restrictions which make the ideal unachievable; but it considers that the application of the principles of any person’s need of rest, recreation, exercise, fellowship, and above all a full family life, would require:
1. 35 days’ holiday each year, plus the equivalent of statutory public holidays. Such entitlement would include five Sundays free of duties, of which at least two would be consecutive Sundays and, for ministers, one Local Preachers’ Sunday.
2. A break of three consecutive weekdays (if possible away from home) each quarter.
3. A minimum break of 24 hours each week, without structured work and if possible away from the manse.
4. A period of up to an hour’s break each day for recreation and exercise.
5. Where there is a Sunday between Christmas and New Year probationers should be free on that Sunday.
The Conference recommends each minister and deacon to cultivate a hobby from the outset.


  1. Angie,

    The text needs a correction throughout. Ministers means presbyters and deacons.

    It should be presbyters and deacons not ministers and deacons.

    If it were to be complete then I think it would be good to cover holiday arrangements for the august of the year in which you move between stations. I have found that there are a number of different interpretations.


  2. Hi Dave,
    I know. I'm happy that ministers means persbyters and deacons. The one place where it says ministers and deacons is a direct quote from CPD!

    I take your point about August cover, but there are so many standing orders surrounding that whole area of moving stations that I dont want to risk over-complicating things.
    The key thing is to get the 5 day a week, debated.

  3. Well done Angie, this issue needs to be debated and acted upon urgently. Even at 48hrs the increase in risk of ill-health from a standard 35hr working week is worrying. Yet in the stationing profile I have just submitted for my return to Circuit I have flagged up 48hrs as a sustainable target for a healthy work / life balance because I know we need to be pragmatic. It will be interesting to see what reaction I get!

  4. Where can I buy a kneeler like the one pictured

  5. Thanks, Angie, I'm taking this to our District Vision and Strategy Team on Thursday

  6. HI,
    Just to note that our Circuit Leadership Team suggested a change to 40 hours (instead of 35) might have more success.


  7. This proposed memorial is ridiculous.

    Ministers are always very quick to point out that they are self-employed - not employees. {Though I don't know any other self-employed people who get paid a salary, have a house provided for free, and get someone else to pay into their pension scheme). So if ministers are self-employed then they're free to manage their own time, they don't need a memorial to Conference to help them do this. Furthermore since they're self employed Circuits aren't their employers and so have no role in setting the hours that Ministers work. And the European Working Time directive doesn't apply to the self-employed, or to those in management positions (presumably most Ministers would see themselves as in a management position).

    Isn't the problem more that of poor time management skills among too many Ministers, and an inability to distinguish what work is important to mission and the cure of souls, and too much stuff that is simply time-wasting.

    Ministers work from home and don't have commuting time to their place of work. They can choose what they want to do and don't want to do. If any Minister feels that despite all this they somehow need something from the Methodist Conference giving them "permission" to do less work, perhaps they really do need to ask whether they're in the right calling.

    I wonder if it's part of "Ministerial Training 101" to be taught to complain about the remuneration package and how many working hours they do?

    Anyway if such a memorial is ever accepted, which would mean Ministers are employees, then let's also start to hold Ministers to account for their work and performance and whether they actually achieve anything. That could be a real step forward.

  8. Hi Graham,
    You've sort of missed the point of the memorial.
    I am delighted that at your stage in ministry, you think the memorial is ridiculous. We NEED young ministers with plenty of energy still who still believe the myth that
    'They can choose what they want to do and don't want to do.'
    I am also overjoyed that you are still convinced that you will be allowed in your ministry to only do whatever is related to mission and the cure of souls.
    For many of our ministers here, that's a luxury they could only dream of.

    I would dearly love to see a return to the situation where ministers are NOT employees, where we are in a three way Covenant relationship with God and the People of God, but as a result of changes in both government and church legislation we effectively are employees now - in all but name, with personnel files, line management, appraisal and grievance procedures.
    Please note that I dont say that these things are right or wrong.. and I am NOT complaining about either the Church OR the ministerial remuneration package.
    I am personally OK about the whole deal and would be delighted to see the introduction of performance assessment - for congregations and ministers alike.. I have no problem with the hours I work,

    BUT just because I choose to work six/seven days a week does not make it right, advisable or in any way acceptable (especially not theologically).

    The Church has a responsibility to those it is in a relationship with - we are called upon to care for each other, to share in oversight of each other - and that includes its ministers. A change in the statement concerning working hours is a statement from the Church to all those in relationship with it that says - we believe that a proper work/life balance is essential to good Christian discipleship - and hence we would expect that no minister (or member for that matter) be required to work more than a notional 5 day working week.

    To pretend that there is no problem with clergy burn-out or recruitment, or to continue to apply the pressure to overwork by telling those who can't cope that its their fault - poor time management or some such nonsense rather than the very real demands of trying to minister and administer 3 - 6 churches - is hardly watching over one another in love.

    I maintain that the debate needs to happen.

  9. Angela,

    I want you to know that I completely support you in this memorial. Pinning down the hours that a minister works has long been necessary for their well being and for the well being of the church.

    You'll be wanting to join UNITE next

    Every Blessing


  10. Angela

    A good looking memorial BUT I would suggest one minor alteration - unless you can provide suitable rational - the removal of point '2'

    "2. A break of three consecutive weekdays (if possible away from home) each quarter."

    I can understand the need for a day off each week but don't quiet think this fits within the positive principles for minister/church relationships outlined elsewhere.

    The problem with this one clause is two things

    a) Does this sit ontop of the 35 days per year - if so that is not a sensible call - if it isn't should the church really be that dictatorial about how a minster spends their time?

    b) it could be read by some as implying they get a paid couple of nights away which will have treasurers (rightly) up in arms about who will pay for this - expect the word 'junket' to be raised

    c) Including training in time management and running a small organisation as part of minsterial training, rather than this clause...

    Hope that is of some assist - and yes, look forward to Unite (Faithworkers Branch) reciveing a membership form from you soon. Why? Because unions are there to facilitate discussion and develop policy that ensures all -both lay and ordanied - who are paid to work/be an officer on behalf of the church work in a healthy, positive environment. Then we will all feel the benefit.

    Warmest Regards