The Learning Covenant: A Case Study

The following is a composite of several different student/supervisor relationships.

“Susan” was a student intern at our church. Wanting to get a jump on things, she prepared a proposed Learning Covenant during her first week on site. We sat down to discuss it:

Pastor: Well, Susan, this looks thorough and well balanced. I have a couple of questions for you about it. I am wondering if you’re really going to be able to accomplish all this in the 12 to 14 hours per week. I’m thinking it’s a bit ambitious.

Susan: Oh, I don’t think it’ll be too much. I really want to get some experience in all these areas before my first call.

P: Well, O.K., but let’s be ready to scale it down if it does start to feel like too much.

Part of the covenant included the statement “Plan and implement a weekly quiet time for spiritual reflection and renewal at the church.”

P: Tell me what you have in mind with this, Susan.

S: Oh, it’s the greatest thing! We did it at my home church in New York. Every Friday night the sanctuary and fellowship hall were open to the public. People could come in off the street and take a break from their hectic lives. Our Spiritual Nurture Committee provided art supplies and candles and reading materials. It was so peaceful and people really loved it.

P: Do you sense a need for that at our church and in our (quiet) neighborhood?

S: Well, everybody needs some peace and quiet. Besides I really want to do it, and it won’t require that much work.

P: Are you aware that we don’t have a committee like that at our small church, or resources to provide supplies like you’re talking about?

S: That’s O.K. I can put it together myself and I don’t mind paying for the supplies.

P: Do you envision yourself being at the church to set it up, being present during the whole two hours, then sticking around to clean up? Even if it’s not strenuous work, that’s a pretty big chunk of time to commit to this.

S: Oh, I have plenty of school work to do, so the two hours of quiet shouldn’t be a problem.

Despite my misgivings, the program went forward. Week after week, Susan spent hours preparing, attending to and cleaning up after the program.

As I reflected later with Susan on my decision, it became clear that the next time I would do things differently:

• Exhibit stronger leadership in helping to shape the covenant

• Encourage the student to wait until she knew our church better before developing the covenant

• Not signed-off on an overly –ambitious covenant

Next:  A Covenantal Relationship  Self-Check