Helen Harwood talks to Melinda Staines, head of human resources at Church Mission Society. Melinda studied with us on the Pastoral Care module last academic year.
HH: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Church Mission Society?
MS: Since I became a Christian over two decades ago I’ve always had a heart for the situation of women and injustice. This led me to be involved in local mission among Roma gypsy women and children when I lived in Hungary. After moving to the UK and getting married, I was privileged to continue my passion for HR and gladly accepted the Head of HR position with Church Mission Society four years ago. I am responsible for supporting our office based employees and enabling them to perform their responsibilities to the best of their knowledge and experience. The HR team oversees the full employment cycle including recruitment and selection, training and development and employment relations.
Staff members can join modules as students and you were able to do this quite recently; can you tell us why you chose to do a module with us and why you chose Pastoral Care? Plus can you tell us about the church or community you are part of?
We encourage employees to consider completing a module or two for personal development and provide support toward it. There are opportunities for further modules as well depending on someone’s CMS and/or local community involvement and ideally they would be able to put what they learn into practice. My husband, David and I with Eliot, our toddler, moved house a year ago and became part of a different community. We are still trying to find our place in it but we primarily see our involvement in two ways. One is the local parents and we try to organise get together gatherings and create a safe environment for discussions. The other one is trying to be pillars in the local village church which includes a lot of military families who tend to be rotated on an annual basis.
Can I ask what you feel you learnt from the module, and from your time alongside our other students?
Due to the above community involvement and my experience in human resources, I am naturally interested in active listening and counselling. I am not a qualified counsellor; therefore, my desire was to understand wider pastoral care implications and best practice. I learnt a lot from the students in the class as they are actively involved in current pastoral care dilemmas and their perspective was invaluable at case study discussions. It was crucial to learn different tools as well as the emphasis on team work and having an accountable person when dealing with pastoral care situations.
I hope that this module will be useful in your wider life. Are there any things you think you will be able to apply in your church or work life?
Yes, depending on how our community involvement develops over the next few months, I hope to put my pastoral skills into practice to help others flourish. My role at Church Mission Society does not include providing pastoral care on a daily basis but it is great to be aware of how to make the most out of these kind of discussions as they occur from time to time and require having a different perspective.
Were there any surprises, things that you were just not expecting to learn about or insights that caught you by surprise?
The revelation I articulated during the course is about the irony that most people’s natural tendency to do their best helping others may not deliver the desired result. When people give advice to their friends/acquaintances with the best intention in their hearts to help them, most of the time it is based upon their own past experience and/or understanding of the situation and they disregard the fact that their friend may be processing the same/similar situation very differently from them. What I learnt as a principle is how crucial it is to help the other person by actively listening and asking them relevant open questions that would lead them to come up with their own alternatives and solution for the situation they face rather than telling them what they should do. What took me by surprise is the passion of others in the course, some of whom face significant dilemmas daily, and their desire to learn more and serve others in a more meaningful way.
Thank you, Melinda, for sharing with us; how can we pray for you on your ongoing journey and for your work?
Please pray for the HR team at Church Mission Society that we’d always have wisdom to overcome tricky situations as well as for clarity and growth in our local community involvement.