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20 parish priorities for priests


I am tidying my personal library, and I opened Michael Hocking’s 1974 book, Handbook of Parish Work. Starting for clergy, but not stopping there, he presents his “‘Top Twenty’ list I drew up to help deacons to sort out which things are of most importance and which things of lesser importance.”

He has

  1. Taking Services
  2. Evangelism
  3. Personal Prayer Life
  4. Support for the Church Overseas
  5. Personal Righteousness of Worshipping Members
  6. Ecumenical Activities
  7. Preaching and Teaching
  8. Visiting the Sick and the Whole
  9. Rest
  10. Seeking and Training Leaders
  11. Encouraging Vocations
  12. Welfare Work
  13. Desk Work
  14. Christian Initiation
  15. Christian Marriage
  16. Committee Work Inside the Parish
  17. Committee Work Outside the Parish
  18. Church Fabric
  19. Youth Work
  20. Being Neighbourly with Nearby Anglican Churches

He goes on to write about the many meetings, synods, and conferences he gave this list, divided those present into groups to decide which they considered the three most important jobs and the three least important ones. Taking Services and Personal Prayer Life were normally in the top three. Committee Work Inside the Parish and Committee Work Outside the Parish were almost always in the bottom three. Visiting the Sick and the Whole was always well up and so was Preaching and Teaching. Desk Work was generally very low down the list.

How might the list have changed in these forty years? What might you add? What might you remove? What would be your top three? What would be your three least important?

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5 thoughts on “20 parish priorities for priests”

  1. Who could argue with such a list? But people’s priorities are more accurately revealed by what they do than by what they say. Rather than asking people to rank items in a list, keeping an accurate diary and analysing how much time is spent on each item would give quite a different ranking. Or, similarly, analysing the parish’s budget would tell you exactly where that community’s priorities lay but looking at its mission statement would only tell you where they thought their priorities ought to lie.

    1. Excellent points, thanks, Bishop Kelvin. When I studied I kept a simple tick chart by me, marking every 20 minutes I spent on a subject. That way I could be more honest with myself both with how much time I actually spent on each subject – rather than what I estimated/kidded myself. I also do the same with expenditure. Recently I commented on this site how easy it is to have church growth statistics when people guestimate how many are there rather than being honest and counting 🙂 Blessings.

  2. I was at kindergarten when this book was published. I struck me that there is nothing new under the sun… With the exception of a new post on the parish Facebook page

  3. Robert W M Greaves

    I notice that Bible reading and other study don’t get their own slots. Or is this what he means by ‘desk work’?

    1. I would offer that under Evangelism, Personal Prayer Life and Teaching & Preaching you would include the reading of scripture and on going study (or “professional development”).

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