Earlier this year, 250 ordinands took part in our national survey – with helpful and interesting results.
Between them, these ministers-in-training represent a dozen different training institutions (TEIs), and virtually every diocese (including the Diocese of Europe). Three-quarters are in full-time residential training, and 90% are training for stipendiary ministry. 37% of those who took part were in their first year as an ordinand, 38% were in their final year, and around half had done some prior theological study before commencing training.
Training and Care
When ordinands reflect on the quality of the training and care they receive, there are some clear encouragements for dioceses and TEIs who work hard to provide these things. But meanwhile, there are some clear pressure points that come out of our survey.
85% think their course is preparing them “well” or “very well” for ministry life. But only 63% say the same when it comes to weighing up how well their course is preparing them to engage with modern culture and people outside of church.
85% have found their course “enjoyable” or “very enjoyable”, and the same percentage find it academically “suitable” or “very suitable” for them.
16 of the 250 respondents have a physical disability, 32 have a specific learning difficulty, and 30 are living with mental health needs. In each case, around two-thirds say their needs have been met “well” or “very well”. Only one person with a physical disability felt their needs had been met “poorly” or “very poorly”; for those with a specific learning difficulty or with mental health needs that figure was higher, at around 20%.
This year we asked first-year students about the discernment process and their transition into training. Support from dioceses was rated highly during the discernment process itself; but sadly it seems this can sometimes evaporate soon after the BAP is completed.
In particular, during the crucial time of transition into training, only 29% said they felt they had all the information they needed. 43% would have liked more information about finance, and 42% felt they did not really understand what the nature of the relationship between themselves and their diocese was now supposed to be.
We must not forget how challenging the transition into training can be, not least for families:
Ordinands are clearly undertaking a wide variety of placements and generally finding the experience very positive.
Many feel well supported as they come to their last year of training. However, 17% have found the process of getting a curacy “difficult” or “very difficult”, and several questions were raised over a lack of clarity in the process. Moreover, there was a concern expressed by some about an apparent shortage of curacies with missional leaders who will best train them to be effective in reaching a post-Christian culture.
Of course, the graphs reproduced above give simple, headline results from multiple-choice questions. But the survey also provided scores of longer responses to more open questions. We can’t reproduce these here, but again they threw up both encouragements and challenges for dioceses and TEIs.
One of the key roles of the Ordinands’ Association is to represent ordinands to the Church of England’s Ministry Division, and to aim to ensure that every ordinand receives the best possible training and care from their diocese and TEI. Our Standing Committee have already discussed the survey results with those at Church House responsible for training, with whom we have a very constructive relationship. In addition, the results will be very helpful as we monitor the effects of changes to training and finance which are coming into play this September.
A big thank you to every ordinand who took the time to participate!