'Frequently Asked Questions' - esp for youth workers
What is supervision for?
You being OK so that your ministry can be awesome.
It is all about you and your wellbeing and your leadership. If you’re new to ministry that might sound a bit self-indulgent – ‘I’m here to look after other people; it sounds like a waste of money and time to sit around talking about myself’. It doesn’t take long in ministry to realise that our capacity to care for others depends on our own wellbeing. Having someone, even just for 1 hour a month, be totally there for you is a powerful thing.
Supervision gets under your skin. It helps you see your blind spots, and the things you take for granted. This is what we call ‘professional development’ and ‘reflective practice’: not just lurching from crisis to crisis but stepping back and thinking through your strengths and learning edges. And it’s about understanding the context you are working in. What matters here? How do things get done? How do I fit? What do I want to change? How am I growing?
Is supervision confidential?
Yes. Supervision might be the only relationship you’ll have where you can say anything about anything and you don’t need to worry about how they will feel about that or who they will tell.
There might possibly be the possibility, if your supervisor is really really worried about you and you are really really unwell or uncooperative, that they might say something to someone without your permission. But that never happens (or hardly ever). If your supervisor thinks you are in Deep Shit, ethically they have to Do Something about that – if you or someone you are responsible is at risk. Your supervisor could ask your permission to contact your employer to recommend that you have counselling or stress leave or specific training or extra support or whatever. But normally that’s up to you.
You don’t need to tell your boss what you discuss in supervision. But it’s fine to say how supervision is going, and any goals you are working on. It’s a big investment from your employer, so they can ask for the occasional report, just to check that it’s working for you.
Why is supervision so expensive? How do I get good value from it?
Supervisors are highly trained professional people. Most are counsellors as well as having heaps of other experience. They bring all that to help you. They should have the skills to help you express and learn from what you are experiencing in your work.
It’s not all about problems. If your supervisor is only interested in what’s going wrong for you, find another supervisor. Supervision needs to be just as much about celebrating your strengths. A Christian supervisor can help you give thanks to God for blessings, discern how the Spirit is leading you and gifting you, and bring Christ into your struggles and worries.
Your job is to be honest. Talk about what you find difficult, and what you are working towards. Share about what’s happening at home and in your heart. Supervision is investing in all-of-you, and especially in your ministry.
Help! My supervision is boring, what do I do?
Do you look forward to supervision? If not, why not? Do you leave frustrated that you didn’t get to talk about what really is going on for you? Does your supervisor waffle on about their own experience? Is supervision stuck in a loop, or do you feel judged or manipulated? If so, if might be time to find a new supervisor, but before you do, talk about it.
Supervision is The Best Place to practice courageous conversations. A good supervisor will ask you “Is this working for you?” but don’t wait to be asked. Say “I would like to talk about our supervision”. Your employer is paying a large sum of money for you to have one hour where the focus is on you and your wellbeing and your professional development. If you are not feeling totally heard, supported and challenged, it is time to name that.
If you’re conflict-averse, like most Kiwis, it is hard to say “I’m not getting what I need from our time together.” I would recommend writing down what you want to say before-hand and then read it out, so you don’t chicken out! If you’re a young person, it is very uncomfortable to tell a respected elder that your experience is different from theirs.
But that is the whole point of supervision. Be honest. Grow up. Tackle the hard stuff. You are there for you, not to meet your supervisor’s needs.
And if you have done your best to say “This is what I need” and it’s still not working for you, then politely say, “Thank you but our supervision relationship is ending now.” And when you start with a new supervisor you will be clearer about what you are looking for.
Is supervision in the Bible?
The word ‘encourage’ is used nearly 30 times in the New Testament, often linked with ‘strengthen’. Paul and the other apostles saw this as core to their role, to encourage others. This is how I see supervision, to build up courage. This does not happen by telling someone to ‘buck up’ or ‘suck it up’. Courage grows in us as we stand strong on solid ground, knowing God loves you and called you and empowered you for this time and this place. Being encouraged is growing in capacity, like breathing in more deeply: I got this. God is with me. Occasionally Paul got cross with people and told them off or told them what to do, but mostly he was all about building each other up in Christ.
Paul writes in Romans 14:12 “each one of us will be held accountable.” Supervision is one way God holds us accountable. My supervisor is not my boss, but I do place myself under his authority to some degree, and so it is important that I trust and respect him. This is a consistent Biblical principle. We are not unto ourselves. Your ministry is not just yours. It belongs to God and God works through community. When leadership is not held under authority it deteriorates into abuse. The most important things to bring to supervision are things that you don’t want to talk about. This is accountability, as Jesus said, “whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be uncovered” (Mark 4:22).
There are plenty of Biblical examples of mentoring, people investing in the leadership of others. All Christian supervision walks in the footsteps of Jesus who spent time with ordinary people, not just to tell them stuff but to raise them up. People hanging around with Jesus became who he saw in them. And he sends us his Spirit so that we can experience that for ourselves and we can do that for others.
Online or in person?
Back BC (Before Covid) everyone assumed that supervision had to be face-to-face. But we have learned to work online, and most of my supervision now happens online. Heaps of advantages:
- you can find an excellent supervisor from anywhere (especially great if you’re not in a main city)
- you save on travel time and cost (and carbon emissions)
It’s up to you to decide if you can fully be yourself and share hard stuff via the computer screen. If you’re someone who needs in person presence to really relax and open up, then find someone local.
Want to talk more?
Be in touch:
027 242 1113