The Models of Supervision

Supervision has many models, some of which are appropriate to one context but not to another. Moses had a crisis model until his father-in-law taught him the administrative model (Exodus 18:13, 14, 17-18, 19-23). David used a military model, Nehemiah was a great administrator. Jesus used the intern model. The point is that there is no one biblical model. We must find a model that fits the situation and the person we are supervising.

Family Model: Parents closely supervise an infant’s food, sleep, and time spent awake. As the child grows, parental supervision becomes less intense, and the child makes more decisions as he/she moves toward adolescence and adulthood.

Industry Model: Supervision in industry is basically related to production. The supervisor relates to employees in a manner to oversee the production line and job performance in order to maximize production.

Business Model: The boss apportions work to employees, sets deadlines, and serves as a kind of “answer person.” The boss gives the authority to do the task.

Military Model: Chain of command supervision is close rank discipline and straight line authority. Commands are given, and strict compliance is expected. Thinking on the part of the subordinate is not recommended in this model and authority is not questioned.

Craft Model: Craftsmen (electricians, plumbers, and carpenters) have developed a system of teaching by example. The master demonstrates the work for the apprentice who learns through actual example and hands-on experience.

Prison Model: In this controlled environment, the warden instructs the guards, who in turn, enforce the rules and regulations on the inmates, allowing for minimal freedom and movement.

Academic Model: In this professor/student relationship, the instructor supervises students in order to facilitate learning through assignments, labs, and other learning activities.

Clinical Model: The medical profession uses this model as young interns participate in the treatment of patients with the writing of reports regarding the patient’s condition and possible treatment, for submission to the supervising medical doctor.

Orchestra Model: The conductor’s responsibility is to guide an orchestra of professionals into a faithful interpretation of a musical score. The conductor may not be able to play the instruments, but is ultimately responsible to organize, correlate, and bring together individual performances to one great performance. He keeps everyone on the same note.

Marriage Model: Goals shared by a husband and wife, mutually strengthen their love and help them to develop and support one another. Each is enhanced by the give and take of the other.

Athletic Model: The coach prepares the players for the game. While direction and guidance are given during the actual playing of the game, emphasis is placed on the practice and “coaching” done prior to actual play. Coach may be a better word than supervisor. Sometimes there is the player-coach, which suggests a high level of partnership. The coach develops the game plan and helps each player to know his role on the team

Mentor Model: The mentor model is dependent upon a relationship as well as an official responsibility. These pledge to work together in a relationship of learning. There is guidance, teaching and accountability.

Biblical Models: Scripture is loaded with examples of dealing with people. In the life of Jesus alone, we see numerous times when He used different models to achieve different ends. Review the following list and discover other models as you research and study:

  1. Shepherd – Pastor: the ancient practice of tending sheep, keeping them from danger, providing for their needs. The shepherd risks himself for the well-being of the sheep.
  2. Counselor – Support: the counselor points out problems to avoid and possible actions to help the supervisee. The person must submit oneself to this relationship.
  3. Friend – Relationship: like the counselor but there is a personal relationship. The friend stands by and talks through the issues, making suggestions.
  4. Servant – Deacon: the apostles handed over the daily tasks to others who took ownership, and accomplish the work with assuming little or no supervision.
  5. Teacher – Disciple: Jesus took a group of twelve unorganized men and transformed them into men under the influence of the Holy Spirit, ready to carry out the Great Commission.
  6. Master – Authority: we see this in many parables where there was a person considered to be a steward, one who cared for the estate of the owner.
  7. King – Leadership: throughout the kingdom we see this sort of model, some were abusive and others were not; but the king was large and in charge.

The best supervision occurs when the supervisor uses the model that best fits the situation. Supervisors often function with a model they have observed elsewhere, and the supervisor should avoid the temptation to use one model exclusively. A supervisor with military experience might use that model at the exclusion of all others. The supervisor should examine each supervisory situation separately to determine the needs of the supervisee and implement the best supervision model needed. Then the model should be adjusted as the person develops.

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