Self-Supporting Ordained Ministry

The information on this page and linked documents is intended primarily for those clergy engaged in SSM ministry, and/or those who minister alongside them - Training Incumbents, Incumbents, Churchwardens, PCC members etc.

For information about discernment and the processes behind that, please refer to the webpage 'Is God Calling You' elsewhere on this website, although there is information about what an SSM 'is' and 'does' in this section - so the information below, and linked documents should also be useful to those exploring a vocation to SSM Ordained Ministry.

Additionally, a number of SSMs have agreed to act as 'Champions'. They are people those exploring an SSM vocation chat to about what being an SSM means, as well as 'looks like'. Our SSM Champions are:

Revd  Dr Jenny McKay
Revd Giselle Rusted
Revd Prof Peter Selby
Revd Chris Turner
Revd Liz Woode

They can be contacted via the Bishop's Officer for Self-Supporting Ordained Ministry or the Diocesan Director of Vocations for an informal conversation.

Across the Diocese of Chester the nature of ordained ministry varies hugely, not least in the extent to which that ministry is ‘stipended’ or self-supporting, full-time or part-time. Within that overall picture, the role of Self-Supporting Ministers (SSM) is very important, not least as it has sometimes been described as the ‘ministry that minsters where other ministries cannot reach’! 

SSMs hold the bishop’s licence but are not in receipt of a stipend. They are usually licensed to a parish, but may operate as sector ministers. Some work in secular employment alongside their parish duties. Essentially, there are four main expressions of self-supporting ministry. These are:

-  SSMs who work full or part time in secular employment

-  SSMs who can be classed as Ministers in Secular Employment (such as chaplains etc.)

-  SSMs who operate on ‘house for duty’ basis

-  SSMs who work full time in a parish, but not remunerated.

However, it is important to note that ‘no-one size fits all’! It is also important to note that these expressions of ministry compliment and enhance ‘traditional’ stipendiary ministry.

Like all expressions and callings in and to ministry, SSM ministry can bring both joys and particular challenges. The challenges include:

-  striking an appropriate weekly balance between ministry in the parish and a secular job or other responsibilities

-  discerning what it means to be an ordained presence in a secular workplace

-  nurturing good relationships with stipendiary colleagues who might face different challenges.

To assist, support and be a resource for SSMs, and the Diocese as a whole in developing self-supporting ministry, the Bishop of Chester has appointed a ‘Bishop’s Officer for Self-Supporting Ministry’. The current Bishop’s Officer the Revd Lyndon Bannon.

Lyndon is currently an Assistant Headteacher at a Church of England Academy on the Wirral, and has balanced, with varying success(!), the calling to self-supporting ministry with secular employment and family for over twelve years.

His role is essentially to act as an advocate, adviser, supporter and enabler of all aspects of self-supporting ministry. This is to be achieved through fulfilling the following role:

Pastoral support for SSMs

  • To be a resource for SSMs, including the provision of advice on the specific challenges of this role;
  • To facilitate the provision of events for SSMs to promote fellowship and sharing of good practice;
  • To circulate information pertaining to SSMs so they feel better supported and networked in their role;
  • To work with the CMD officer to ensure that ongoing training and development is as accessible as possible to SSMs;
  • To be available alongside bishops, archdeacons and rural deans, as a resource to help with the resolution of conflicts involving SSMs.

Selection and Training of SSMs

  • To work alongside and under the direction of the DDO in supporting and assisting those exploring non-stipendiary ministry with the discernment process;
  • To offer all ordinands who have been selected for non-stipendiary ministry to have at least a one-to-one conversation during their training;
  • To advise training incumbents and SSMs as requested on the content of SSM role descriptions;
  • To work with the IME 2 officer to ensure that the particular interests of SSMs are covered in the programme, and that it is as accessible as possible to them;
  • To ensure that SSMs are being proactive in their IME and making the most of the opportunities available to them.

Wider Policy Matters

  • To contribute to the work of the Committee for Ministry, including through Officers’ Meetings and through attendance as appropriate at meetings of the Committee;
  • To attend relevant inter-diocesan events including conferences;
  • To highlight to Bishop’s Staff any particular issues of concern to SSMs;
  • To attend, where practical and desirable, clergy Chapters and Deanery Synods to raise awareness of SSM issues and promote a wider understanding and appreciation of the role(s), as well as the privileges and the challenges.

For more information, advice or guidance on self-supporting ministry, particularly if you feel called to explore this type of ministry as a vocation, then please contact The Bishop’s Officer for Self-Supporting Ordained Ministry, the Revd Lyndon Bannon: He would be more than happy to hear from you.

Follow this link for the latest SSM Guidance Notes 2nd ed May 2022

Please find below an editable SSM Ministry & Training Agreement template.  When drawing up an MTA, please refer to the SSM Guidance Notes and in particular the sections pertaining to Common Tenure and Ministry & Training Agreements - it is important that any 'local' agreement correlates to your Statement of Particulars!   For those SSMs undertaking IME, a separate template is available on the IME pages of this website

Link to template for those SSMs/MSEs who are post-IME only

SSM Ministry & Training Agreement template    

SSM Stories

The 'SSM Stories' below are a collection of brief interviews with a range of SSMs from across our Diocese. Some of those who contributed work full-time in secular employment, some are chaplains, others work almost exlcusively in their parish, but all are living their response to God's call.

For some of them, the focus of their 'ministry' will be parochial, for others, it may be the work-place. God calls us to 'be' and 'do' ministry in different ways, in different contexts.

These stories are offered in the hope that they will act as an encouragement to other SSMs as they seek to continually discern their vocational response to God's ongoing call in their lives. It is worth stressing that no one story is ever the definitive answer to what 'being an SSM' is, but they do reveal how those operating as SSMs respond to their calling as priests and ministers within the Church, as they seek to build the Kingdom of God in and through their various contexts:

Chris's SSM Story

John H's SSM Story

John's SSM Story

Lisa's SSM Story

Mark's SSM Story

Peter's SSM Story

Trish's SSM Story

Useful (external) links:

Website for SSM Officers and Advisers:

Website specifically exploring MSE issues:

Useful publications:

  • John Lees, Self-Supporting Ministry: A Practical Guide (SPCK, 2018)
  • Jenny Gage, Priests in Secular Work: Participating in the Missio Dei (Sacristy Press, 2020) 
  • James Francis, Busking the Gospel: Ordained Ministry in Secular Employment (Sacristy Press 2021)
Page last updated: Thursday 12th May 2022 3:22 PM
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