Three myths of supervision

My grandfather used to say, “Knowledge is a light burden to carry,” by which he meant never turn down the opportunity to learn something new. Yet, after a few years in ministry, I had attended too many underwhelming professional development seminars that promised transformational input but failed to deliver even minimal learning. Maybe this is your experience, too? So, it was with some trepidation that I enrolled in a Ridley course called Professional Supervision for Ministry Workers in 2018. However, that course began one of the most significant professional development journeys I have ever engaged in, which continues to this day.

One of the big myths surrounding professional supervision is that it is just professional “snooper-vision” – a way for the establishment to scrutinise, criticise and catch out anyone who is stepping out of line. But what if, instead of feeling judged when we make mistakes, we had a professional ally who is willing to walk with us through tough seasons rife with ethical dilemmas and competing needs, to help us keep healthy perspectives? My experience has been of supervisors who have amplified my insights and helped me maintain awareness of perspectives that had crept into peripheral vision, or even slipped out of view. Supervision has provided me with the learning I need, in real time.

A second myth around supervision is that it is simply a box-ticking exercise. As a professional supervisor, I have had my share of ministry workers who show up harbouring this attitude. Funnily enough, the process mostly works anyhow! There is something unique about an intentional professional relationship that is fostered for the sake of the other. We are not there to tick a box for the sake of the denomination, but to engage in active learning for the sake of the people the ministry worker seeks to serve.

A third myth is the idea that “I don’t need professional supervision and I don’t have time for it.” But ministry is a lonely business and ministry workers need support – places where it is safe to face the realities of a calling that has us regularly importing the distress of others amid demands that can range from ordinary to extraordinary.

Finally, a word to anyone who is already having supervision but it’s not proving worthwhile. If your supervision is not serving the absent others you minister to, or is not providing containment for the issues you really need to process, then it is not fit for purpose, and I encourage you to find an alternative arrangement.

Kate Beer teaches in the Ridley Graduate Certificate of Professional Pastoral Supervision program and would love to talk to you if you want to enrol.

To learn more about how you can become a qualified professional supervisor, click on this link.