Interns and supervisors view each other

A recent study indicates broad agreement on the purpose and benefits of the internship program. But the view of what is actually happening varies between interns and supervising pastors.

Roger L. Dudley, Ed.D., is the associate director of the Institute of Church Ministry.
Des Cummings, Jr., is the director of the Institute of Church Ministry
Kim White is a Seminary student who assisted in the study.

The leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is concerned with its total ministerial education program. This training program consists of several stages: (1) undergraduate college, (2) the intern ship or "fifth year," (3) seminary, and (4) postseminary training and experience prior to ordination. Research conducted by the Institute of Church Ministry (ICM) at Andrews University attempted to evaluate the second stage, the internship, which consists of a year or more of practical ministry in a supervised setting. The supervisors are pastors of experience who are expected to give practical guidance to the young ministerial candidate.

The study

Two surveys were constructed to obtain data for this study—"Internship Assessment: The Intern" and "Internship Assessment: The Supervising Pastor." Each survey contained items concerning the number and type of activities engaged in during the internship, as well as attitudes toward the experience. Each survey also contained one open-ended question that allowed the respondent to give comments on his experience and/or suggestions for improving the internship program.

This study used as its primary sample all conference-sponsored students who were enrolled in the Master of Divinity program at the Theological Seminary and in residence on campus during the 1982 winter quarter. There were 158 such students. A secondary sample consisted of the pastors who served as these students' supervisors during their internship experience.

Although 153 of the students responded (a 97 percent response rate), it was discovered that 29 of them had not served an internship. The information supplied by the remaining 124 students forms the basis for the view of the internship from the perspective of the intern.

Only 103 supervising pastors could be identified. Of these, 96 returned surveys, a 93 percent response rate. Seven of these were discarded because of incomplete information or lateness of return, leaving eighty-nine usable questionnaires. These form the basis for the view of the intern from the perspective of the supervising pastor.

The full twenty-page report with six detailed profiles and charts is available from ICM. * The following is a summary of the major findings.

The perspective of the Intern

On the average, interns engage in typical ministerial tasks: preaching, giving Bible studies, visiting homes, committee work, church schools, and youth minis tries. The profile presents the picture of an active pastor-in-learning.

Nevertheless, there do seem to be some gaps in the pattern of activities. For example, 47 percent of the interns had either limited or no experience in working with an evangelistic series, and 69 percent had never preached an evangelistic sermon. This appears to be a weak area.

A second weak area is in lay training. Only 27 percent taught witnessing courses to members fairly often or regularly, and only 20 percent participated on the same basis in taking lay members with them for in-field training.

The most obvious deficiency in the internship program, however, is the lack of direct teaching being done by the super vising pastor. Most pastors did hold staff meetings with their interns at least occasionally (half of them weekly). But 49 percent spent two hours or less per week with their proteges. This is hardly enough time for the effective development of a minister.

This deficiency is highlighted in the section that details activities modeled by the supervising pastor. In general, pastors did not do a great deal of showing interns how to perform successfully certain tasks vital to the ministry. In 43 percent of the cases the pastor never demonstrated giving a Bible study, and in 32 percent more of the cases, he did so only occasionally. Combining "not at all" and "occasion ally," it was found that in 70 percent of the cases hospital calls were not modeled. In 66 percent, the pastor did not demonstrate how to appeal for a decision, and in another 23 percent, did so only occasion ally. Only 14 percent of the interns witnessed their supervising pastor getting decisions on a regular basis.

The reverse of the learning situation calls for the pastor to observe the intern performing certain tasks and then offer helpful critiques. This too is a weak area. For example, 24 percent of the pastors never heard their interns preach a sermon. Also, 93 percent did not critique the conducting of a Bible study by the intern at all or did so only occasionally. In a similar fashion, 92 percent did not participate to any significant extent in observing and critiquing the intern while he was appealing for a decision.

Most of the students felt that the internship was quite a valuable learning experience, but it appears that most learning had to be done on their own on a trial-and-error basis. Perhaps this is why the students tended to be somewhat neutral in assessing the competence of their instructors.

The open-ended question supported this analysis. While the most often listed comment was positive, most of the other comments focused on the lack of professional guidance in education for ministry. In giving suggestions, thirty-three interns commented that supervisors should spend more time with interns modeling and training in all aspects of pastoral ministry.

The perspective of the supervising pastor

Some differences in emphasis are to be expected between the profiles of the interns and the pastors when it is recalled that only eighty-nine of the pastors who supervised the 124 interns are represented in the profile.

Nevertheless, the two groups seemed to agree in general on the nature of the internship activities. The pastors saw assisting in evangelistic meetings, preaching in evangelistic meetings, teaching witnessing courses to members, and taking along lay members for in-field training as areas in which they have not frequently assigned interns to a learning experience.

There is a tendency for the pastors to remember assigning more positive activities than the interns remember having been assigned to them. On the negative side this shows up as 30 percent of the interns performing "general flunky" duties fairly often or regularly, but only 13 percent of the pastors assigning them that often.

In the area of professional guidance in education for ministry, there are some interesting comparisons. While 50 percent of the interns reported weekly staff meetings and 16 percent monthly ones, the corresponding figures for the pastors were 67 percent and 23 percent. However, the pastors reported even fewer hours in supervision each week than did the interns.

The pastors agreed with the interns that they did not supply much opportunity to learn from observing. Occasional modeling or none at all was reported by 67 percent of the pastors for conducting Bible studies, 60 percent for hospital calls, 48 percent for making home visits, and 61 percent for making appeals for decisions. While these figures were lower than those reported by the interns, they were in the same general direction.

Perhaps no learning experience is more valuable than having the pastor observe the intern in a pastoral task and then critiquing him. Only 6 percent reported that they never did this with preaching a sermon (the figure given by interns was 24 percent). But 88 percent admit that they did not critique the giving of a Bible study at all or only occasionally (93 percent given by interns), and 84 percent did not participate to any significant extent in observing and critiquing the intern while he was appealing for a decision (92 percent given by interns).

This theme is borne out by the open-ended question in which fifteen pastors suggested that more opportunity for super vision, modeling, and reflection on progress should be incorporated into the program. Another eleven called for more training and guidelines for supervisors.

The major weakness of the internship program seems to be the lack of experiences in which the supervisory pastor models ministerial behaviors for the intern and in which the pastor observes and critiques ministerial behaviors performed by the intern. This is particularly true in regard to conducting Bible studies and making appeals for decisions.

Other weaknesses in the program revolve around the limited experience of interns in evangelistic meetings and in the training of lay members, especially by working with them in in-field ministry.

As the church reorganizes its program for educating ministers, it should also find better methods of screening and training the pastors who will supervise its interns.


* Write the Institute of Church Ministry, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan 49104 and enclose $4 for duplicating, postage, and handling.



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Roger L. Dudley, Ed.D., is the associate director of the Institute of Church Ministry.
Des Cummings, Jr., is the director of the Institute of Church Ministry
Kim White is a Seminary student who assisted in the study.

December 1982

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