Policies for Sites and Supervisors

Site affiliation

BU School of Theology (STH) is committed to identifying and cultivating long-term reciprocal learning and working agreements with congregations and organizations that can enhance and strengthen our contextual education program. Any congregation, agency, or other organization interested in participating in STH’s contextual education program or approached by the School in this regard will be required to complete a site application form. Ecclesial sites may access this form. Agencies and other organizations may access this one.

Site accreditation overview

According to the Boston Theological Institute’s (BTI) policy, contextual education sites are accredited by and directly relate to only one of the BTI schools.  This does not prevent students from other BTI schools from serving at the site. However, it does mean that sites and supervisors are responsible for relating to the school with which they are affiliated, for maintaining the required contact, for meeting the school’s criteria for field-based learning, for adhering to its policies, attending training sessions, and for following its timetables. (Please see the BTI policy statement in the Policies and Procedures section of this website.)

An organization that desires to become affiliated with STH’s contextual education program as a field-based learning site becomes a partner with the School in its educational mission. In doing so, the site provides an opportunity for a student to engage in service and/or ministry for 20 hours per week during the academic year or 40 hours per week during the summer. In total, a student’s field-based exposure should be approximately 260 hours to earn 3 academic credits. Included in this total are expected to be: one hour per week of one-on-one theological supervision, one hour of travel time, on- or off-site preparation, participation in activities necessary to the placement, preparation for and participation in weekly Integration of Theology and Practice meetings, and Sabbath keeping practice. Each site is also expected to contribute a $750 per semester stipend for the student.

Opportunities for on site exposure should be direct and concrete. They should address the general goals of the contextual education program as well as the goals of individual students. Site placements should involve the student in both challenging and collegial interpersonal relationships. They should empower the student to function in roles of ministry/leadership and service appropriate to the site and the student’s experience, goals, objectives, and available time.

The School of Theology requires the site to provide a competent, appropriately trained and certified supervisor. A satisfactory supervisory candidate is a person on site, whose work is fully integrated with the structure of the institution through which ministry is provided. This person should be full-time and have been in his or her current position for at least one year. Exceptions to these guidelines should be discussed with the appropriate Director of Contextual Education. Most importantly, the supervisor  should be able to devote the necessary time to supervise a student. The supervisor must commit to providing guidance on the tasks of the student’s role, and also to weekly one-on-one theological reflection meetings.

Site accreditation process

For an ecclesial institution, other organization or agency to be considered for formal affiliation with STH’s contextual education program,  the following process must be undertaken:

1. The potential theological supervisor and internship committee, a small group of 4-5 people from the prospective site complete the Field Site Application Form and submit it to the Office of Contextual Education (OCE) by March 1 prior to the academic year for which formal affiliation is sought.

2. The OCE reviews the application to determine the appropriateness of the site for field-based learning and STH students at the present time.

3. The application may be approved, approved with conditions, rejected, or returned for additional information.

4. If approved, arrangements for on-site supervision are confirmed and the process continues towards the certification of the supervisor (see below).

5. The approved site is then listed online of the Office of Contextual Education policy documents.

Retention of site accreditation

To retain accreditation, the site must maintain regular contact with the Office of Contextual Education. This contact includes, but is not limited to: timely responses to requests for annually updated site descriptions; maintenance of proper supervisory certification; and the timely submission of Learning Agreements and student evaluations.

A site may retain accreditation and yet be unavailable to students for up to five years. For example, a site may need to suspend its direct involvement with the contextual education program because of a change of leadership or other organizational reasons. After five years, if the site is still unable to accept STH students for placement, the site will be removed from the list of officially affiliated field sites. Once a site is removed from the listing, it must go through the application for accreditation process in order to be re-accredited.


The field supervisor and internship committee work closely with the School of Theology to oversee the development of the student’s Learning Agreement, help the student reflect on experiences gained at the site, review the student’s performance, and provide the School with written evaluations of student progress in terms of stated objectives and learning goals.

Supervisor certification

The Office of Contextual Education certifies those persons who supervise STH students in accredited field education settings. A prospective supervisor must have been at the site in her or his current role for a minimum of one year before becoming eligible for certification or student supervision. Doctoral students cannot serve as supervisors until they have reached the candidacy stage. Exceptions to these guidelines should be discussed with the appropriate Director of Contextual Education. Supervisors must also participate in the Supervisory Training Program, and should not miss more than two such sessions.  To be certified, the prospective supervisor must fill out an application for supervisor certification. The application is then reviewed by the Directors of Contextual Education and School of Theology administration, and a recommendation is made as to whether or not the supervisor should enroll in the supervisor training course.

If the prospective supervisor’s application is approved, the supervisor is then required to enroll in the Supervisory Training Program (either at STH or at Harvard Divinity School, Episcopal Divinity School, or Andover Newton Theological School) at the time she or he agrees to supervise the first contextual education student. Requirements for the STH training course include attending all scheduled meeting times, being prepared for class, and participating in class discussions. Upon successful completion of the class, supervisors will receive a certificate of completion and full status as a field-based learning supervisor with the Office of Contextual Education.

Supervisor responsibilities

1.   Provide theological and task supervision.

2. As needed throughout the year, meet with faculty, students, and/or Directors of Contextual Education to enhance the overall program.

3. Be present on site when students volunteer.  If the supervisor is unable to be present, ensure that another employee or internship committee member (where applicable) is responsible for the student.  Be sure that emergency contact information for the student is readily available, in case it is needed.

4.  Provide a thorough orientation of the site to students.

5. Provide appropriate identification for students to use on site.

6. Coordinate the work of the students on site with other site employees.

7. Coordinate the weekly hours students are on site by establishing clear guidelines for them to check in and out; keeping accurate records of the weekly hours that students volunteer; notifying students, faculty, and Contextual Education directors of concerns as they arise.

8. Have student insurance and emergency contact information available as well as notification policies in place with this institution and their own should an emergency arise.

9. Consult with other site employees and volunteers, when appropriate, to write the evaluation of students due at the end of each semester.

Maintenance of supervisory certification

To remain in good standing, the supervisor must attend certified supervisor gatherings while they are supervising students at their site. These gatherings occur twice a semester. The Office of Contextual Education will provide these dates during the summer.

Supervisors may retain certification while unavailable to supervise students for up to five years so long as they continue to meet the requirements for good standing. After five years of unavailability, supervisors will be removed from standing and will be required to go through the application process to be recertified, should they wish to participate again in the contextual education program.

Last updated Mar26, 2015