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The Experiences of Ministry Project

What is The Experiences of Ministry Project?

The Experiences of Ministry Project is a seven-year process of research and consultation that aims to build and share knowledge on what best supports and sustains the well-being and effectiveness of priests within the Church of England.  
Download the brochure: Experiences of Ministry Project

Across 2011-2017, the Experience of Ministry Project has listened to the voices of over 6000 clergy across the country through regular national surveys, over 100 in-depth interviews and series of week-long daily diaries. The project considers the difficult question of what an effective ministerial presence may be and how wellbeing and effectiveness may be supported and sustained across a diverse range of clergy roles, identities and settings. This project seeks to inform national strategies for supporting ministry and shape the future emphasis of continuing ministerial education and development by asking clergy to share their personal experiences and views.

The Experiences of Ministry Project has several elements to it:

  • A central aspect to it is the Experiences of Ministry Survey (EMS), which is a biennial, national longitudinal survey of clergy in England that ran in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.
  • The Patterns of Priestly Practice project was run in 2013 and involved understanding the daily experience of incumbent ministers with both single- and multiple-context ministries using a mix of interviews and daily diaries.
  • The Calling Far and Wide project then replicated this methodology in 2015-16 with groups of HE chaplains, pioneers and assistant ministers.
  • Lastly, the Mission Partnership Development Project seeks to evaluate an intervention made within the Diocese of Sheffield to free up clergy time for mission by providing them with administrative assistance. This intervention was informed by earlier findings and began in 2015.

Further details on each of these projects are found below. An overview of the Experiences of Ministry Project findings can be downloaded here. The full findings of the project will be published in a book by Church House Press in 2018. For further information about the project please contact Dr Mike Clinton, King’s College London (

Findings from the project have been written into a large number of reports for the National Continuing Ministerial Development Panel and other bodies within the Church of England. Research findings have also been regularly presented at the Faith in Research Conference. Publically available reports are provided under the project descriptions below (to follow soon).


Theoretical Basis

The work is underpinned by a number of established academic theories with regard to healthy and effective working. This includes the job demands-resources model of work engagement and burnout in its theoretical underpinning (Demerouti, Schaufeli & Bakker), but also theories regarding meaningful work and calling (Dik & Duffy), role crafting (Wreszniewski) and work-home spillover, psychological detachment and recovery (Sonnentag).

Project Contributions 

The Experiences of Ministry Project is an independent project led by Dr Mike Clinton, a Reader in Work Psychology and HRM at Kings College London. Substantial contributions have also been made by Dr Jane Sturges, Dr Alexandra Budjanovcanin, Dr Vandana Nath, and Dr Keely Frasca. Prof Neil Conway from Royal Holloway, University of London, is also a key contributor to the project.

The project has been supported throughout by Dr Tim Ling, formerly Head of Ministry Development within Ministry Division, and now Director of Research for the Church Army and a Senior Research Associate at University College London’s Institute of Education.

The project has also been supported by Dr Bev Botting at the Research & Statistics, Archbishop’s Council, and an Advisory Group of national clergy.

But most importantly, the major contribution to the project has come from the many, many participants, without whose time and effort this project would not have been possible at.

The Experiences of Ministry Survey 2011-17

The Experience of Ministry Survey (EMS), led by Dr Mike Clinton, is a series of four surveys conducted in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 in which all clergy in England were invited to participate. The aim was to collect data on a nationally representative sample of clergy at each time-point, but also to follow a cohort of clergy across these time-points to better understand how their experiences change and the effects these changes have.

The survey, which contains a core set of questions asked at each time point but also questions that vary from survey to survey, covers issues relating to clergy’s day-to-day role, their diocese, perceptions of spiritual and numerical growth and their health and well-being. Around 5,000 clergy have participated in EMS, from a diverse range of backgrounds. In 2015, respondents’ partners were also invited to complete a survey.

Reports will be available soon.

Patterns of Priestly Practice Project

The Patterns of Priestly Practice Project, conducted in 2013, was a seven-day diary study of 193 incumbents across England and follow-up interviews with 28 incumbents from three English dioceses. The broad aim of the project was to understand more about how daily activities of incumbents are organised across the week, the daily experiences of incumbents and how incumbents’ understanding of their vocation relates to their daily experience of ministry. A particular focus of the research was to examine how these issues varied across single and multiple context incumbencies.

The project was conducted by Mike Clinton, Jane Sturges and Ali Budjanovcanin from King’s and Neil Conway from Royal Holloway, University of London.  The findings were reported back to the Church of England and have led to two published studies on the topic of occupational callings and two other manuscripts produced for publication.

Reports will be available soon.

Calling Far & Wide Project

The Calling Far and Wide project is a collection of studies aiming to examine the activities and experiences of clergy engaged in ministry within Higher Education chaplaincy, pioneering, and assistant ministry. Building on the Patterns of Priestly Practice project in 2013, the Calling Far and Wide project is formed of a mix of qualitative and quantitative studies that has been conducted via a series of interviews, focus groups, surveys and diaries. The theme of the research that links the studies is the examination of ‘ministry on the edge’, either in terms of role or in terms of activity.

The project was conducted by Mike Clinton, Jane Sturges, Ali Budjanovcanin, Vandana Nath and Keely Frasca from King’s and Neil Conway from Royal Holloway, University of London.  The findings were reported back to the Church of England.

Reports will be available soon.

Mission Partnership Development Project

The evaluation of the Mission Partnership Development Worker (MPDW) project aims to examine the effects of the introduction of administrative support for groups of priests, who have come together to form Mission Partnerships within the Diocese of Sheffield.

Funded by the Church Commissioners, a primary focus of the evaluation of the MPDW project is to examine whether priests who are provided with additional administrative support are subsequently able to spend more time engaged in ‘mission’. Running 2015-21, the use of annual surveys, repeated week-long diaries, interviews and analysis of annual parish returns data is integral for the evaluation.

The work is carried out by Mike Clinton from King’s College London and Neil Conway, from Royal Holloway, University of London. More information can be found here:

View the Brochure




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