With about half of Adventist clergy eligible for retirement within the next few years, the mentoring of new pastors through the internship program becomes increasingly important. A growing number of beginning pastors will need to connect with seasoned pastors who have mentoring expertise.
To raise the level of expertise in internship programs a representative group of conference ministerial directors gathered on June 7, 2017, at Walla Walla University, and shared their best practices of internship. Below are some of the ideas that were gleaned from this gathering that could serve to start building a standard template that other conferences could draw from.
The Ministerial Internship describes the time of employment in pastoral ministry between seminary and ordination/commissioning. It could also include the time spent employed in pastoral ministry between college and seminary. Internship is normally completed with ordination/commissioning after about five service credit years. The completion of MDiv qualifies as one year service credit.
The intern should have a strong desire to learn, be a self-starter and willing to spend at least ten hours a week focused on learning activities. In addition, the intern will also be given ministry assignments that may not directly contribute to learning activities.
The Mentor assists the intern in building up skill sets and experiences in preparation for ordination/commissioning. The mentor and the intern work together to identify and engage in ministry activities that will build up the portfolio of evidence of proficiencies as defined by the Core Qualities. It is ultimately the responsibility of the intern to manage the development of the portfolio. If there are not enough learning activities to cover all the Core Qualities in the district, the mentor may work with the intern on occasional activities outside of the district. At least ten hours a week should be devoted to skill development. During an internship, the intern may be served by several mentors, some at the same time.
While the intern is developing the skills for ministry, there is also an expectation that the intern is productive in ministry. The supervisor oversees the intern’s performance of ministry tasks in the church district. The role of the supervisor and the mentor are different. These two roles may or may not reside in the same person. The supervisor’s authority is positional and the intern is accountable to the supervisor. The supervisor is supportive of the intern devoting about ten hours a week in learning activities that may not necessarily contribute directly to the pastoral needs of the district.
Interns ideally are placed in a healthy congregation/district where members are patient, tolerant, supportive, and affirming. Members should have the ability to teach and acknowledge the authority of the intern supervisor. They are willing to invest in the future of the denomination knowing that the pastor is still in development and may not yet be as productive as a seasoned pastor.
The Core Qualities ‘Check off List’ for ordination/commissioning
The goal of the internship is for the intern to develop the skills/attributes of ministry as outlined in the Core Qualities. Each of the seven core qualities has several descriptors that serve as a definition. Each of the descriptors have an Intern Learning Outcome that serve as the ‘check off list’ for each attribute of ministry. An Intern Learning Outcome consists of an attribute (what is the skill), context (where the ministry will take place), criteria (the quality at which the task is performed).
The Learning Cycle
1) The Intern and the Mentor first select an Intern Learning Outcome and then create learning activities where the intern can develop the skill set.
2) The mentor either demonstrates the core skill or directs the intern to someone else who can demonstrate the core skill. The intern observes and then the intern and the mentor discuss what they saw.
3) With the support of the mentor, the intern practices the core skill set. The mentor observes and then the mentor and intern discuss what they saw and did.
4) The intern continues to practice the core skill set on his/her own until the mentor can show evidence that the intern has performed the task at the level of quality called for by the Intern Learning Outcomes. The intern and mentor post the evidence into the intern’s portfolio. Evidence could consist of documents, videos, or a description by the mentor of the achieved performance by the intern.
The Weekly Meeting
Ideally the mentor and the intern meet for at least an hour every week. During that time, they will review the previous week’s learning activities. What went well? What could be done better? What might be tried next time? Or is it ready to post to the portfolio? Next, the intern and mentor create the next learning activities, and the learning cycle continues.
Readiness for Ordination/Commissioning
1) When an intern has reached the proficiency standards for ordination as outlined in in the Core Qualities of Ministry, the local conference administration will arrange for a preliminary interview with the prospective candidate and his/her ministry. In the interview, the candidate will provide evidence of readiness for ordination/commissioning through the ministry portfolio. If the conference ordination/commission committee is persuaded that the intern has provided sufficient evidence for readiness for ministry, the committee will recommend the name of the candidate to the local conference executive committee.
2) If approved, the conference executive committee will recommend the candidate and supply evidence for readiness for ordination/commissioning as outlined in the Core Qualities to the union committee.
3) The union committee will evaluate the candidate by the Core Quality evidence supplied by the conference. If the evidence is sufficient, the union committee will approve of the ordination/commissioning.
4) The conference will schedule and perform the ordination/commissioning service.