Pastor's Pastor: Ministerial internship: purposes and problems

Pastor's Pastor: Ministerial internship: purposes and problems

Policy suggests that a conference should not accept internship money if it fails to provide supervision for its interns*

Floyd Bresee is the Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

With all its commend able emphasis in recent years on advanced academic training for the ministry, our church has neglected one of the best educational programs available to the beginning minister—the ministerial internship. Some things can best be learned in a classroom, but any kind of skill, whether it be preaching or piano playing, is best learned by doing in a real-life situation, followed by insightful evaluation. Internship provides the opportunity to learn through field experience, taught by a teacher/model, in a one-on-one setting.

Purposes of internship

The principal purposes of internship have changed little from the denomination's original 1929 plan, which stipulated a "period of service spent in practical ministerial training ... for the purpose of proving the divine call." The plan was to be financed jointly from local, union, and General Conference funds. 1

The three main purposes of internship were and still are:

1. To keep ministerial training practical. As early as the 1920s the Adventist Church was convinced that ministerial training had become too academic, "theoretical," and "unattached to actual needs." Internship was to "bridge the gap" between academic training and actual field work. 2

2. To allow those trained for minis try to test their calling. Present church policy clearly states that the internship is "for the purpose of proving the divine call to the ministry." 3

Receiving a first-year internship should not mean guaranteed entry into the ministry. A case could be built for making the first portion of internship available to all recommended ministerial graduates, giving them a year to test their calling to the ministry. Apparently the original 1929 plan intended something of this nature, attempting to "give every young man who has the consecration and education an opportunity, for a year at least, to prove his call to the ministry." 4

The need for testing one's calling may be even greater today when so many new Adventists, many of whom may also be new Christians, are training for the ministry. Having had little Adventist Church background, they sometimes have a very limited understanding of ministerial work. They are wonderfully idealistic, but enter the ministry with unrealistic expectations. They greatly need a period of in-service training that allows them to meet reality and to assess more accurately their calling before making a lifetime commitment to a work for which they may not be suited.

3. To provide finances for hiring beginning ministers. The present policy reads, "The plan is designed to assist the local conferences/missions in such ministerial training by a sharing of the salary and expenses by the division, union, and local conference/mission." 5

The constant temptation

From its conception, the internship plan was seen as a means of rectifying "our present policy" of placing "inexperienced men in charge of districts, making them pastors of churches, . . . placing them in these positions right from the start." 6

Conferences continue to face the temptation of filling pastoral openings with interns and thus using the intern ship subsidy to man their fields rather than to train their interns. While the temptation is understandable, the practice is both contrary to church policy and shortsighted in that it cripples the development of the ministerial force.

Policy says this training period is "to be served under supervision" and that "conferences/missions shall assume obligation for direct supervision in training ministerial interns." 7 So, policy suggests that a conference should not accept internship money if it fails to provide supervision for its interns.

As a church, in the matter of the training of ministers we have planned our work well. Now it's time to work our plan. In the October column I will discuss the new program we are preparing for interns.

1 Review and Herald, June 6, 1929.

2 Ibid.

3 General Conference Working Policy 1988-1989
(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub.
Assn., 1988), p. 301.

4 Review and Herald, June 6, 1929.

5 Working Policy p. 302.

6 Ministry, July 1929.

7 Working Policy, pp. 301, 302. (Italics supplied.)


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Floyd Bresee is the Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

August 1989

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