Editorial

Pastor's Pastor: Ministerial internship: purposes and problems, concluded

Pastor's Pastor: Ministerial internship: purposes and problems, concluded

Floyd Bresee is the Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association.

One of the main problems the Seventh-day Adventist Church's present ministerial intern program faces is lack of supervision. Conferences often feel pressured by finances to place their beginning interns virtually by themselves or with ministers who want assistants, but who spend little time with them. We believe this to be a false economy and a misappropriation of the subsidy given the conference for the in tern's training.

Untrained supervisors constitute another problem. Even when conferences/missions conscientiously supervise their interns, they almost always assign the interns to ministers untrained for the task of being their mentors.

In response to this need, a 1946 Annual Council action to strengthen ministerial internship led to an article in the March 1947 Ministry that declared, "We need real field trainers, men who, by experience, education, and spiritual leadership, are equipped to mold future workers." In October of 1968, Ministry insisted, "It is time for this church to assign interns to only a select group of overseers."

In 1983 I took a survey for the General Conference Ministerial Association, asking interns and intern supervisors about the need for a program to train supervisors. We anticipated that interns would support such a plan and they did. They made such comments as: "We were poorly trained by a pastor who was poorly trained, ad infinitum." "The attitudes, role concepts, and relationships during internship significantly affect the entire professional life, often determining whether the intern will even continue in the ministry."

Amazingly, supervisors seemed to feel as strongly as interns the need for supervisory training. Supervisor responses included: "I feel very inadequate in training interns. I did not receive proper training as an intern and do not know how to train others. I need to be trained."

"When I was first assigned an intern, no one ever explained to me my duties and responsibilities. I could have done a much better job with my first intern if such a program had been available to train me in supervising an intern."

"I feel that, generally, our interns have been placed with pastors of certain churches because of their position rather than their real interest in the training of interns."

"A ministerial internship ought to be at least on a par with a medical internship."

"It would be for the intern's best interest if the training program was the same throughout the country."

New program for internship

For decades we have complained about the problem of properly training interns. Now we have made a start at solving it.

The Ministerial Training Advisory Committee has appointed a committee (which included several pastors) that has worked with the General Conference Ministerial Association in preparing the first draft of a manual for Seventh-day Adventist ministerial interns and intern supervisors. We hope that the day will come when an intern supervisor is considered qualified to supervise only after taking special training such as this course provides.

The manual includes a core of 50 ministerial functions the intern is to experience before ordination. Separate work sheets outline each function. Typically, the supervisor and intern talk over the ministerial function as outlined. The supervisor then performs the function while the intern observes. Later, the in tern performs the function while the supervisor observes. Finally, supervisor and intern evaluate the performance, the in tern taking notes useful to his or her ministry.

The manual also includes a covenant that the intern, supervisor, and conference negotiate together. This covenant outlines the responsibilities of each party. While the manual mandates that the conference ensure that the intern experience all 50 functions before ordination, conference representatives designate which parts of the intern core the supervising minister is to teach and how much emphasis should be placed on each. So the conference stipulates its own priorities in the training of its in terns. (The conference may supply instruction that it does not assign to the supervisor through other sources, such as the video instruction being prepared by the General Conference Ministerial Association.)

Several parts of the world field are now piloting the new manual and program. It will be available for general use in the first part of 1990.

I plead with every administrator and intern supervisor to give it a try. It's time the church made internship the training program it was meant to be.


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Floyd Bresee is the Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association.

October 1989

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