Ethics and Boundaries

In all internships it is important for all covenant partners to understand and respect appropriate boundaries and to conduct themselves ethically. Ethics are of concern from the most basic of actions such as showing up on time and keeping commitments to the complexity of professional boundaries.

The issues related to ethics and boundaries in internship settings can sometimes take supervisors by surprise–as illustrated by the presentation below.

Violation of boundaries and ethics, e.g., sexual misconduct, emotional abuse, breach of fiduciary duty, and plagiarism should be reported immediately to the course professor and immediate action will be taken. Each seminary field education office has a policy for the termination of an internship should that step need to be taken.

Similarly, each seminary field education office has a sexual misconduct policy that all covenant partners must agree to observe during the course of the internship. Most likely you will find this policy in the field education handbook or in the covenant you sign.

Boundaries in ministerial internships are easy to cross and can become blurry because

  • The supervisor, students, congregants, and mentors are adults; “power” dynamics may be less noticeable because of this fact.
  • Self-care can be neglected, leaving a person less capable of monitoring his or her boundaries.
  • We still want to believe that unethical behavior won’t happen in our own congregation or agency; we may not be as vigilant because of this.

Click here to view a brief slide show to learn more about potential legal landmines in field education.

Next: Additional Resources