>Supervision and oversight

>It’s hard to believe the stories of people who have been told by their supervisor that they haven’t time for supervision.

Friend John Lees led a training session on supervision and collaborative ministry for clergy who will be moving on to posts of responsibility in the next few months. He invited us to think of the different supervisory roles people may ask us to take on. In our own words these roles included acting as advocate, mediator, valuer, confessor, coach etc etc. This has got me to thinking that supervision actually happens formally and informally. By formal supervision I mean the intentional setting aside of space for supervision (that’s the space that often gets crowded out by business). When we ask for feedback, support, directions are we not also asking for supervision, but without requiring the creation of an intentional space? To my mind we are at that moment asking for someone to watch over us, to look after us and to help us to a superiorvision.

I worry that “supervision” has become a word made precious by those who would like to see themselves as supervisors. I wonder whether supervision thereby becomes something that is exclusive to the few – depending on scarce resources. I wonder whether supervision isn’t something that all of us need – but in very different guises. Vigilance and watching out for one another alerts us to the needs of others – when they need encouragement, assurance and challenge. The requests aren’t always verbalised. Jesus tells the story of the victim of violence lying at the side of the road. He remarks on the neglectful carelessness of those who passed him by. He highlights the response of the Good Samaritan who looked after the wounded victim and watched over his recovery.

Supervision belongs to the whole people of God. It is in fact a gift of God for his people which gives us confidence in prayer. The Lord who watches over us will neither slumber nor sleep (Ps 121). Therefore, we need to avoid the exclusive practice of supervision to make room for both the informal and formal requests that come our way (the way of all humans) – and we all need to have the confidence to ask for the help we need to get a better sight of our lives. We are all vulnerable. I fear that if we don’t make room for both the formal and informal aspects of supervision we will continually overlook the victims of our peripheral vision. I wonder whether the priest and the levite who passed by the wounded victim of Jesus’s story said – “sorry, that was an oversight”. It’s strange that “oversight” has two such opposite meanings.

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