Laying the Groundwork

As the “expert” on your congregation/ministry site, you have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a great beginning for your intern. Preliminary groundwork for establishing “right relationships” among the staff (both paid and volunteer), the student, mentoring team, the session (or governing body of the agency) and the seminary can include some very simple steps:

1. Communicate: after prayerful discussion and discernment with the session (or governing body of the agency), notify each entity that you will be supervising an intern. What does this mean for your time commitments in the life of the church or agency? What can they expect from their time with an intern? What should they not expect? What questions do they have for you at this point in time?

2. Establish the Mentoring Team: these are 3 – 5 people who you and the student select  who agree to serve as mentors in the student’s formation for ministry. They should possess gifts/experience in areas that will assist the intern in his or her growth and development as a minister or educator. Where do these mentors come from? They may be gifted individuals in your congregation or agency, or they may be persons in the community or beyond who have expertise in an area that is not your particular strength. They should be made aware of the learning covenant that you will develop with the student and be willing to meet periodically with the student for feedback, encouragement and reflection on the student’s development as a pastor or educator.

3. Get to know your intern (in as much as is practical) before their first day on site. What would you like her/him to know before they arrive either about you or the site itself? What do you want to know about them? An initial conversation about the learning covenant would be helpful for the student as he/she considers entering a new ministry setting. What are the major areas of opportunities for learning for the student?

4. Help your congregation/agency understand the covenantal relationship into which they are entering. They too, share in the care and nurture of this pastor-to-be. Ministry doesn’t happen in a vacuum – the congregation’s faithfulness and participation in the student’s formation for ministry is essential to the fulfillment of the covenant. A context-appropriate “welcome” is helpful for the congregation or agency to embrace this learning partnership. Some settings host potlucks, include litanies of welcome in worship, provide a newsletter introduction that welcomes the student (and family), or a special staff coffee to mark the beginning of the intern’s ministry.

5. Determine, in collaboration with the seminary, any financial commitments.

Next: The Learning Covenant: A Case Study