Internship Committee Handbook

Purpose of Internship Committees

The overall purpose of the contextual placement is to train students in ministry while, at the same time:

  • Provide supervision and support by both the setting and by the School of Theology.
  • Offer an opportunity to refine their call to ministry by experiencing ministerial roles and practices.

The Internship Committee (IC) is important to this process. Members of the Committee add their insights to those of both the field supervisor and the staff of the School of Theology to give a more rounded understanding to the student. The local church and community setting are “called” because, by training students, the setting is giving something of value to the greater Church and society in general.

Who is the Internship Committee (IC)?

When contextual education takes place in a church, the Internship Committee is made up of four or more people who are from various areas and programs of the church. If the site is a community agency, the IC can include four or more people from the Board of Directors, the staff and, if possible, clients and others in the community being served by the agency. The appointment or election of the Committee itself depends on the policies or customs of the setting.

The Chair of the Internship Committee calls meetings, pulls together agendas, attends the contextual education orientation session at Boston University with other members of the IC, produces the mid-year review and final evaluation based on the input of the IC, and generally serves as liaison for the Committee to the student, congregation/people being served, pastor/director, and the Office of Contextual Education at the School of Theology.

What is the Work of the Internship Committee?

The purpose of the Internship Committee is to help a student become more effective and more aware in his/her ministry. Committees assist in this process in the following ways:

Functions: The Committee will work alongside the student while giving both commentary and support. Listening to a student and getting to know her or him is essential. In addition, members of the IC should make themselves available to receive feedback—both critical and affirming—from people being served by the student, taking care to suggest that people express themselves directly to the student when appropriate.

The Committee can help students think about their work in the context of their faith. That is, members can ask questions such as, “Where was God to be found in that difficult (or joyful) situation?” or “What biblical stories relate to this occurrence?” “How does that affect your understanding of God? Jesus? The Holy Spirit? The Church? Humankind? Ministry?” “How does the mission of this church influence your ministry?” How do the cultural contexts of this church (or organization) affect your work? How can we work within the organization’s mission and contexts and/or change them?” Committee members will want to ask such questions of themselves, as well as of the student.

The Office of Contextual Education can provide resources in this process, which we call “theological reflection,” (or “cultural/values-laden reflection”). See also the attached sample agendas for some more suggestions.

Meetings: The Committee should plan to meet at least monthly, more frequently if necessary. The chair of the committee can plan an agenda (being open to and seeking additions from others). Most of the meetings will include the student but a few meetings may not. The organizational meeting to elect a chair and clarify the Committee’s role and one or two of the meetings to do the mid-year review and evaluation could be for the Committee only.

These meetings are focused primarily on relationship building and theological reflection as well as the learning of the student. Therefore, minutes are usually not necessary but notes may be helpful.

A typical agenda might include:

  • Opening
  • Report and observations by the student
  • Theological/cultural reflection by all present
  • Discussion of a particular event or an area of ministry
  • Setting the date of the next meeting
  • Closing

Transitions: By working with the supervisor, the Internship Committee can help the student through the beginning, middle and ending of your time together. It is essential for board members, parishioners, clients, shut-ins, and the IC itself to have a chance to celebrate the student’s work at various points during the internship and to experience the feelings of having that person leave.

When a student starts in the setting, the church can introduce the congregation to her or him at Sunday worship. Perhaps on that day, the student can begin to participate in the service by reading Scripture, giving the children’s sermon, or in another way. After church, the coffee time could be a chance for people to get to know the student better. Short articles in the newsletter and bulletins will help people to know the new student’s role and something of her/his interests.

In the middle of the academic year, often right after Christmas, those working with the student may sense growth in the student such as having a clearer sense of identity as a minister called by God. The Internship Committee may choose to mark this growth in a symbolic way such as by presenting a personal copy of a service book or another small item to him/her in a Sunday service or at a meeting.

When it comes time for the student to leave, it is important that committees and groups have a chance to say their goodbyes and express their feelings. The Sunday service can include the recognition of the student’s work and opportunities to say goodbye. The IC may want to host a coffee or lunch after church.

Community agencies and other sites will be able to devise ways to mark transitions that fit their settings. Some illustrations are: introducing the student at the first board meeting, writing an article for the newsletter, being sure that clients and board members have a chance to get to know the student and, later on, to say goodbye when the time comes.

Requirements of an Internship Committee

Confidentiality – The discussions of the Committee are confidential and should not be referred to or shared outside of the meetings without specific clearance by the Committee and the student.

Attendance – Faithful attendance at meetings of the Internship Committee and at events and services of the organization is essential. Each person on the IC can attend the internship committee orientation at the School of Theology.

Evaluating – The School of Theology requires a mid-year review and final evaluation. From time to time, the Committee will give informal feedback, including comments of support as well as of possible suggested changes and areas for the student’s development.

Expectations – The Learning Agreement is a covenant entered into by the setting, the student, and the School of Theology that details what is expected from each other. It can be changed by agreement among the three parties, but, in general, the Learning Agreement clarifies the work the student will do and the support and resources to be given by the setting and the School. The Learning Agreement is reviewed and may be revised for the second semester.

Difficulties – Most sites remain relatively peaceful during the time that a student learns and works with them. Occasionally there will be tensions in any church or community setting. If these occur and are within the normal boundaries of the ups and downs of life together, then the Internship Committee can help the student to understand them. If there are serious difficulties between groups and/or persons in a contextual education setting, the Internship Committee and Supervisor will want to be sure that they avoid expecting the student to “take sides.”

For its part, the Office of Contextual Education of the School of Theology is ready to help in times of crisis and serious concern of any kind related to the student or to the placement. Please feel free to call us to keep us informed or to ask for our help in sorting out any difficulties that affect an internship.

Internship Committee Evaluations


The purpose of evaluation is to enable a person to learn and grow in ministry. It is an assessment of the learning plan that the student and supervisor have established as their agenda for ministerial growth and development.

Evaluating Ministry is Not Easy

Most of us are evaluated in our jobs. Often these evaluations are easy to understand because they are readily measurable. For example, we might be evaluated for our “KPM,” our “keystrokes per minute” while entering data on a computer, or on the dollar amount of our sales per month, or the hours we have logged that are billable to clients. These are quantifiable.

Some of the work of ministry is quantifiable: did the student show up for most meetings on time? Was the sermon of approximately the accepted length? Did the student contact the people in the study group to let them know when the field trip was planned?

However, ministry evaluation is often subtle and even based on impressions rather than data. Nonetheless, growth in students should be noticed in order to encourage them. Feedback about areas where we think there could be improvement must be given so that they can add to their skills and abilities. This needs to be done in the context of mutual evaluation, that is, how can the Internship Committee (or supervisor or Office of Contextual Education, for that matter) improve its work?

Evaluation Specifics

Evaluation by the Internship Committee should be direct, gentle, firm, and loving. It should be a constant factor, present at all times, and formalized at stated intervals.

Internship Committees are responsible for two brief written assessments of the student—one at mid-year and one at the end of the year (see samples below). However, there should be no surprises when the written assessments are done. Evaluation should be an ongoing process of give-and-take in which consultation with the student around her/his goals and growth occurs at least monthly. It will be helpful in this regard to keep some written record of sessions held with the student, noting both general topics of discussion and specific points that have been raised. The supervisor and internship committee can each use these notes to identify and reflect upon the essential elements of the evaluation and feedback provided to the student over the course of the semester.

Written evaluations should be simple, clear, direct, and confidential. They should reference behavior that is observed, not assumptions or hearsay.

Evaluations should be based on:

  • The student’s Learning Agreement
  • Professional practices in general

The student’s Learning Agreement will spell out tasks such as teaching, leading, preaching. Evaluation follows naturally from the learning plan.

  • It is specifically related to the student’s learning plan.
  • It is based upon assessment data that the student generates.
  • It incorporates input from persons who are acquainted with the ministry of the student.

With the student, you will want to look at improvement and growth over the time you work together.

Good professional practices are harder to define but the Internship Committee and student should talk about areas of ministry: relationships with staff, leaders and parishioners; preaching and speaking; writing; organizing and administration; faith development of everyone involved; visitation; and understanding that we are each called by God to our own work.  Over the course of the year, the student’s call to ordained and/or other forms of ministry will often become clearer to not only the student but to those who work with him/her. When this development in the student is observed, it should be affirmed.

The written evaluation also needs to address:

  • The quality of key relationships, e.g. supervisor, peers, and people being served;
  • General insights, feelings, frustrations, anxieties, and new directions which have emerged during the evaluation period;
  • How you have worked together as a committee.

The student, supervisor, and internship committee should each prepare a structured outline of what they plan to include in the evaluation report. They should then arrange to share this information and discuss it prior to writing the final version of the report. Specific instructions for the process of sharing evaluation reports are found on the mid-year review and evaluation forms.

The writing of the mid-year review and evaluation reports should take into account the aforementioned discussion. Strict adherence should be given to the specified due dates.

Sample IC Agenda – Church Setting

  • Prayer by the Chair of the Committee or other committee member (5 minutes)
  • Report by the student on her work this past month including (for example): elderly visitation, liturgist on two Sundays, and retreat planning for singles group.  (20 minutes)
  • “Theological Reflection” by all present on the ministries reported, People on the Committee and the student can ask and answer “God questions.” Some questions might
    sound like this: How does a person confined to their home by illness experience God, the church, and Creation? What faith principles or biblical stories come to mind? What does this say about God’s love?  (30 minutes)
  • Discussion about an area of ministry (One or two per meeting) Examples could include home visits, administration, preaching, teaching, pastoral care, ministerial identity. This is an opportunity for the student and Internship Committee to think about an area of ministry and how to evaluate the church’s effectiveness in this area. These will be opportunities to talk about specific programs, sermons, activities and behaviors and to give support and helpful suggestions for change.  At the middle and end of the placement, this time period can be used to complete the assessment process.  (30 minutes)
  • Date of next meeting  (5 minutes)
  • Ending prayer, song, or benediction led by the student or a Committee member.  (5 minutes)

Sample IC Agenda – Community Setting

  • Prayer – if appropriate in the setting  (5 minutes)
  • Report of the student’s activities since last meeting (for example: his/her meeting with a group of clients to discuss setting up a program, working on the newsletter, visits in the community, etc.).  (20 minutes)
  • Discussing an area or two of the student’s work, for example:  administration and organization; interactions with clients, staff, other agencies, or board members; counseling or teaching clients; and so on.  (20 minutes)
  • Reflection: Theological reflection if appropriate to the setting—see that section in the Church sample above. A Committee in a secular setting may use cultural and values-laden reflection if more appropriate. (see suggested process below).  (30 minutes)
  • From time to time, the Committee will talk about specific programs, sessions, activities and actions of the student to give support and perhaps helpful suggestions for change. At the middle and end of the placement, this time period can be used to complete the assessment process.  (30 minutes)
  • Date of next meeting  (5 minutes)
  • Ending prayer, song, or benediction-if appropriate-led by the student or a Committee member.  (5 minutes)

Cultural or Values-Laden Reflection

To engage in meaningful reflection in a secular setting, the Committee must be clear above all about the mission of the organization. In addition, the Committee (and the student, boards, supervisor, etc.) must strive to define the “culture” of the setting, that is, what are the values under which it actually operates? How does its history, organization, funding, and personnel affect how the mission is carried out? Is there a difference between the agency’s “mission as written” and “mission as lived out”? How does the larger culture (of the state, city, country) affect the organization?

Having begun the process of identifying the mission and culture of the site, the student and Committee can reflect on how the student’s work (and the work of the Committee and the supervisor as well) fits with the site’s mission and values as written and as lived.

It may be helpful if movies, books, and music are part of the cultural reflection. For instance, in a setting dealing with racism, the English movie “Secrets and Lies” could be relevant; in an agency working with families that batter, Roddy Doyle’s novel “The Woman who Walked Into Doors” might be useful. Stories from religious books such as the Bible, Koran, and Tanakh, and from diverse cultures such as Native American, Asian, African-American, and specific regions of the United States may give deeper meaning to present experiences.  (30 minutes)

Sample Internship Committee Assessments

Mid-Year Review (Church)

We very much enjoy having Sandra Sergey as our student. She has added enthusiasm and energy to our meetings and to our visitation program.

She has worked with the goals of her learning agreement in the following ways:

After some co-visits with the pastor to elderly shut-ins, Sandra has continued her visitations on a regular basis and the feedback has been quite good. For instance, she was able to handle one very individualistic, shut-in gentleman with care and good limit-setting. When he was hospitalized recently, he asked that Sandra visit him.

In addition, Sandra has assisted as liturgist three times in the Sunday service. She has done well, though we agreed that she can work on clarity, perhaps with a little slower pace. At our first noon Advent service, she gave a short meditation that was excellent—thought-provoking and lively—which augurs well for her first preaching experience with us in January.

Sandra seems to be growing in her sense of identity as a minister and as a person with a call to the local church, she doesn’t seem to feel odd any more wearing a robe at services or being called “Pastor Miss” by some of our older members.

We all struggle at our meetings with “theological reflection” but we hope to improve our skills over the next few months.

We look forward to the rest of the year with Sandra.

Final Evaluation (Community)

Dennis Muller has been a good intern in the Hispanic Community Center. When he first came to us, his Spanish was kind of bookish, but it has improved tremendously and he can even joke with people as well as really listen to them.

Dennis has grown in other ways over this year. We as his Internship Committee can see that he has a real gift for community ministry because he has a sense of what God’s justice calls for from us. His faith seems to shine from him, yet he doesn’t push it on people who do not feel as he does and he seems able to listen to people of all faiths equally well.

He has done a good job of researching the grants that might be available to the Center at the Massachusetts Foundation Resources Center. Dennis went on the group interview for a grant at the Boston Foundation and we felt he added a lot to the conversation while listening well too.

The “area for growth” for Dennis Muller might be to be clearer about what he can and cannot do. When he first came to the Center, he would give out his home number to people who were in emergency situations. He learned gradually that he was becoming overstressed with that, as were his roommates. He still does need to find a way to not take every situation home with him because he would face burn-out, as some of us have, in the long run.

We understand that Dennis wants to work in his denomination with immigrants and others who are having difficulty with everyday life issues here in the States. We feel that he would do an excellent job as he has done here.