Welcome to the practice of Pastoral Supervision
|Have you heard of pastoral supervision? |
Would you like to know more? If so, you have come to the right place. On this page you will find a short reflection describing this process.
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The art of cultivating a contemplative heart in the service of ministry
A reflective practitioner is not only skilful or competent but ‘thoughtful, and contemplative’ and whose work involves ‘intuition, insight and artistry.’(Schon 1983 The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action (Boston: Arena Publishing)
It may come as a surprise to many of you to hear that the process we call pastoral supervision, also sometimes referred to as reflective or ministry supervision finds its roots in the Gospels. Mark tells us that Jesus fires sent out his disciples and upon their return invited them to “come away to a lonely place and rest.’ (Mark: 6: 31). In this way Jesus provided the much-needed space for his disciples to reflect upon their experience and gain new insights and support for the task ahead. In the quiet space away from the crowds they can unpack their experience, share the highs and lows of their ministry in the supporting presence of Christ. The one who sent them out. In his engagement with his disciples, Jesus demonstrates many of the qualities of the good supervisor. He treats them as adults. He respects their individuality. He adopts a way of reflecting that today we might describe as an adult or experience-based learning model. To put it another way he begins with experience,(sending out) when they come back, he takes them to one side, creating a space to reflect (stand back). Having reflected on their experience he sends them out again (resending).
Quite simply put the model of reflection he offers consists of three stages: experience (do) – reflection (stand back) – action (redo, differently). The idea of doing first and then reflecting is shared by our own Founder Fr Jules Chevalier who in 1855 wrote, as Missionaries of the Sacred Heart if we want our work to be effective, we must imitate our divine model who as the Gospels tell us began by doing and only then shared his insights by teaching.
Today we honour that same reflective process in pastoral supervision which provides a unique opportunity to stand back and reflect on our experience of ministry (on our doing) and, the impact this ministry has on who they are and how they live out our lives and vocational call. In this way like the disciples, we are offered a chance to grow in confidence and competence and access new ways of working and dealing with the complex issues that often arise within ministry today. Taking the time to stand back provides as Michael Carroll in his article, Supervision a Journey of Lifelong Learning (2010: pp14-28) puts it a new way of seeing, a chance to see things differently. We are literally applying a ‘super kind of vision’ that brings new eyes, new perceptions, and new vision to the work: a super way of visioning. This super-vision involves being prepared to take on new ways of seeing and reflect on the quality of our doing and enhances the quality of the service we are called to provided.
Crucially, this endeavour to ‘see differently’ also applies to the supervisee’s inner processes, including their experience of themselves in the work as well as their shifting perceptions of these events and encounters. In supervision the supervisor’s role is to see the world through the eyes of the supervisee and to see it bigger, more broadly.
So, supervision provides a unique opportunity to reflect on our experience of ministry and MSC life; extend my skills, discover new ones, celebrate our work, grow in confidence, and acknowledge moments and situations of both difficulty and celebration within a safe, supportive, and confidential space.
From what has been said above we see that the intention of supervision is always to be a positive and enriching space that balances support and graceful challenge in order to encourage deep and meaningful reflection prompting the supervisee towards excellence in practice.