The findings support the quantitative research of Guerrier and Bond; the reluctance to engage with secular discourse, that there is a significant lack of confidence in management tasks and the perception of the multifaceted role of minister as existing in quite discrete areas. However, the experience of MDR among this group was overall good. For some this was because it wasn’t managerial but pastoral, for others, it did offer a welcomed rigour and accountability to their role that they appreciated as a form of appraisal. The sheer breadth of opinion suggests that the MDR people experienced was various, and comments about the lack of training and understanding of MDR need to be taken into account. Those interviewed seemed to indicate that MDR was more positively received than the more general view of management. However, I am still struck by those that found it intolerable, and by those who felt it was indeed too pastoral to be helpful.
The policy set out to distance itself from too much management language and to a large extent among those interviewed this worked, but even so that intention was not fully understood or experienced. The questions raised by Guerrier and Bond therefore still exist, which specifically in this research are concerned with how we might develop and implement an acceptable form of support for Methodist Ministers that is both robust enough to encourage and support personal development and embedded enough within the narrative of Church to be accepted.
1) Responses to MDR and Appraisal
The ‘covenant relationship’ suggests both explicit and tacit understandings of how an individual relates to the Connexion. The tacit agreement that has existed, that we get on with things as trusted ministers, seems for some to be have been broken. It is no longer an ‘office holder’ doing what they are trusted to do, but an employee being supervised by those above. The organisation’s identity with ‘office holders’ in ‘full Connexion’ changes into just another organisation with methods of control. The language difference isn’t enough, and the suggestion of Guerrier and Bond that we need to be effectively bilingual has to be only a starting point of dealing with the issue. A more relational form of the Psychological contract needs to be explored (Springett 2005, George 2009 p 132). The language of appraisal embedded in notions of the Church as community, a reshaped narrative not just a re-coding of ideas.
2) Responses to questions of knowing what to do
The challenge of setting priorities and making choices in daily ministry is clearly a wide spread issue for Methodist Ministers. Given that there is neither a clear job description nor a clear set of identifiable outcomes, knowing what to do puts pressure on a minister’s sense of being, their integrity and courage. Both the lenses of organisational identity and the psychological contract suggest ways of understanding and perhaps developing MDR in a helpful way. The discomfort of broken psychological contracts and the dissonance between an organisation’s apparently changing identity and the individual’s sense of being help towards an understanding of the reluctance to engage with MDR. A healthy relational contract would allow individuals to frame their roles and responsibilities in less individualist ways. John Wesley would no doubt argue that MDR should be about ‘watching over each other with love’.
3) Responses to the issues of finding support
The Methodist Ministers questioned all expressed their need for support, usually ‘knowledgeable’ support, even when they felt considerable antipathy towards MDR as a way of providing it. What was notable, however, was the wide range of support that was needed and the wide variety of ways that need might be met. Spiritual, emotional, professional support and simply friendship were all expressed as important. It was also not clear from the responses exactly where they saw MDR fitting into such a range of needs. It felt in some ways, even to some who appreciated what was being offered, as an alien and secondary level. Perhaps this is inevitable, but it would be interesting to explore the kind of explicit or implicit contract that could be offered where a whole person’s ministry was supported in a more unified way. What is there in our relationship as an organisation or in our narrative as a movement that would offer something of the effective support for which a need is clearly expressed?