The Definition of Supervision

While there are many possible definitions of supervision, the following fulfills our unique perspective in Christian ministry: “Supervision is the development of a support system for the enrichment of the personhood and performance of task.” The definition has several important parts.

Supervision is developmental: It does not happen with full maturity from the first day. Each employee is a special person, and each task of supervision is different. Relationships between supervisors and supervisees must develop.

Supervision is support: It under-girds a supervisee’s needs. Caring supervisors who foresee disaster confront because they care about the person, as well as the work. Affirmation may be confrontation, as well as a pat on the back. The supervisor needs to make the system a support system which provides the necessary physical, intellectual, spiritual, financial, emotional, and personal support. A support system provides a way of affirming those being supervised.

Support involves two aspects: the enrichment of personhood and the performance of tasks. Both aspects are important for successful supervision. If the emphasis is entirely on the performance of tasks, the supervisee is treated as a “thing” rather than a person. Sooner or later he/she will “run dry” and be unable to perform tasks properly. Neither is the enrichment of personhood the only object of supervision. That would be a counseling relationship rather than a supervisory relationship.

Both the enrichment of personhood and the performance of tasks are needed in order to achieve successful supervision. Because fulfilling a task is an important way of growing, it is part of the enrichment of personhood. A good supervisor helps the supervisee conceptualize the task, plan for action, and execute the plan.

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