school theology and ministry
In an effort to provide supervised ministry students with opportunities to cultivate a broad repertoire of pastoral skills, ministerial competencies, and styles of leadership, we place a high priority on partnering students with appropriate supervisors. The supervisor is typically a ministerial leader or educator who commits to assist the student’s reflection on her/his ministry and ministerial identity. While the term ‘supervisor’ is used, in this context it is not meant in the clinical sense that is understood in some other fields. What we seek is a mentor who is able to assist the student in learning ministerial skills, as well as habits of theological and self-reflection.
We are convinced that a meaningful supervisory relationship, built upon honesty and trust, contributes as much, if not more, to the professional ministerial capacities and identity of the student as the experience of the ministry practicum itself. Therefore, we at the STM rely upon the ongoing collaboration with skilled and committed supervisors. In brief, supervisors share with the STM faculty the task and privilege of accompanying students in the formative process of developing habits that ground the lives of ministers in a faith that is characterized by compassion and justice.
What follows is a succinct list of what is entailed in the work of a supervisor:
The supervisor will meet regularly in one-on-one conversation with the student. The particulars of where and when to meet are determined by the student and supervisor.
- For on-site supervisors, the commitment is to weekly meetings of approximately one hour.
- For off-site-supervisors, the commitment is to meet for at least 90 minutes, for seven times each semester.
Opportunity for ministry
If the student is coming to work at the supervisor's place of ministry, the supervisor and site will make room for the student to take on responsible and appropriate roles within the site. The site will provide guidance for the student, either through the supervisor or through someone more directly related to the student's responsibilities.
As the experience begins the student may be expected to serve more as an observer to the life and ministry of the placement. However as the weeks and months progress, the student is expected to take on more and more ministerial responsibility. While STM students are skilled, enthusiastic, and intelligent, they should not be expected to take on roles and responsibilities without oversight. Nor are students to serve simply as administrative volunteers to the supervising minister. They are at the site to develop the skills of ministry and ministerial leadership, and so require opportunities to cultivate those skills.
The supervisor will help the student to think through his/her Learning Agreement, and to ensure that the student’s overall learning process moves clearly and smoothly toward the successful completion of his/her goal and objectives.
Content of supervisory conversation
The supervisor and student are more concerned with the issues and themes that flow out of the student’s experience in ministry as s/he works to achieve the learning goal and objectives. The student’s theological reflection papers serve as a starting point of the conversation. The supervisor is asked to comment on their contents, but these are not graded.
The intent of the conversation is to help the student develop and deepen the ability to reflect critically and constructively on her/his ministerial practice. In part this conversation is theological, asking the student to consider theological themes, questions, or concerns that are emerging through the work, to unpack the theological intent in her/his practice, and/or to explore the theological vision embedded in a ministry location. The student’s theological reflection papers serve as a starting point for some of the conversations. The supervisor is asked to comment on their contents, but these are not graded.
The student is primarily responsible for the submission of all site-related forms. However, the supervisor is responsible for contributing to the content of the following forms: the Placement Commitment, the Learning Agreement, the Mid-Year Progress Report, and the Final Evaluation. It is expected that the supervisor will complete his/her component and discussed them with the student, in a timely manner so the student can submit the forms to the STM on or before their due dates.
Expectations of supervisors include experience in ministry; graduate level theological education; reflective theological and spiritual practices that support ministry and ministerial awareness, and ministerial awareness; and significant experience in the field as well as in oversight of personnel.
Ideally we avoid students having multiple relationships with their supervisor (e.g., spiritual director, professor, employer, or confessor). Additionally, it is typically inappropriate for supervisor and student to have any fiduciary relationship (e.g., employer or colleague on the same paid staff). Boundaries of the supervisory relationship should be as clear as possible and not confused with other roles.
Student learning happens within a network of support that includes the STM supervised ministry personnel and the supervisor. Supervisors are encouraged and expected to be in communication with the STM supervised ministry personnel. The content of supervisory conversations should generally be kept confidential, except when the supervisor has concerns for the well-being of the student, the site, or anyone connected to the practicum. Additionally, if a supervisor has any concerns about a student’s work at the site, they are asked to express those concerns in a timely manner to the supervised ministry personnel of the STM.