Internship Committee Manual

(or everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask... Abridged Edition, of course)

You can also print this manual here:
pdfInternship Committee Manual


…member of the congregation’s Internship Committee,
….partner with us in the theological training enterprise,
…friend, mentor, and fellow pilgrim with your intern,


…to a task as simple, yet awesome, as helping someone to grow;
…to the challenge of assisting someone get better prepared for effective pastoral ministry;
…to the venture of using your faith, love, sensitivity, courage, patience, and loyalty in a very personal,
practical ministry of the church;
….to a careful review of this booklet prepared by the Contextual Education personnel at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio (illustrations by Pam Mann) in response to requests for assistance in learning how better to serve on the congregation’s Internship Committee;
…to receive our sincerest thanks for your faithful service. May you be richly blessed by it.

Questions Most Often Asked By Members of Congregational Internship Committees

1. What's expected of us?
It’s hard to detail everything that love does when love sees needs. But let’s start with these:
  1. Befriend the intern in ways that are supportive, helpful and encouraging.
  2. Reveal and disclose information the intern could use to relate better to the congregation and community.
  3. Evaluate the way in which you see the intern’s ministry being perceived and received.
  4. Interpret to the congregation the role and functions of the intern.
  5. Attend faithfully and participate fully in all meetings and activities of the Internship Committee
  6. Support needed changed in the internship program as may be determined through consultations involving also the supervising pastor and intern.
2. Who are we anyway?
Hopefully, a cross-section of congregational members in terms of age, sex, background, education. length of membership in the congregations, Christian maturity, sanctified good judgment, and present involvement in a broad range of congregational activities.  We prefer a heterogeneous group, though one united in their love for the Lord and in their desire to be of effective service through membership on this committee.  If one or more have had experience in some type of personnel work or guidance counseling, so much the better.  Six to eight congregational members is about the right number.  Additionally, the intern should be regarded as a member. The intern’s spouse’s attendance is optional.  It is recommended that the supervising pastor not serve as a member of this lay committee.
3. Who chose us?
That will vary from congregation to congregation.  Some church councils or executive committees take initiatives to appoint all the members.  Occasionally groups such as the women, youth, and church council will wish to elect their representative to the committee.  The supervising pastor often has several helpful nominations.  At times, the final one or two members may be named by the intern as persons with whom the intern and spouse felt an immediate, understanding rapport.  Most importantly, whatever the method of selection, dare to believe that the Lord of the Church has called YOU because what is needed on this committee, among other things, is something only YOU can provide – the gift of yourself in loving helpfulness.
4. How often do we meet?
Our experience in monitoring internship committees through the years reveals that monthly meetings provide the best opportunity for continuity and a sense of community in which helpful sharing can take place.  Normally, the committee should meet at least once before the intern arrives to assist in making ready for the arrival (especially the housing and office facilities) and planning some useful orientation events.
5. Are we to supervise the intern?
No, the seminary looks to the supervising pastor to provide supervisory guidance.  The Intern should be accountable to no more than one person.  The committee’s sharings are supplemental inputs, not supervisory directives, unless the pastor has specifically requested the committee’s assistance in supervisory matters.  Occasionally, committee members have felt strongly that changes need to be made in the supervisory relationship and have taken appropriate initiatives with the pastor and intern to review the situation.  It is most important that open, clear lines of communication be kept with the pastor whenever committee members feel moved to become advocates for changes the work patterns or behavior of the intern.
6. How can we feel confident in our role as evaluators and loving critics?
Ministry is to, for, and among the people of God.  You are the expert in what you believe your needs and concerns to be, in how you feel about the intern’s learning and serving, and in how you perceive the intern’s ministry to be going.  Share that.  Ministry, to be effective, must be contextualized – customized to fit the place, the people, the times.  You can and need to report your perspective on how that is being done.  Remember that growth requires both caring affirmation and loving criticism.  Don’t be overly concerned that you personally may become too harsh or severe in your comments.  Trust the fellow members of the committee and your intern to assist in balancing strokes and pokes in a blend that helps.  Don’t make the mistake of believing that others must agree with you for your observation to be valid.  We desire a mix of persons so that we get a mix of perspectives also.  Whenever there are tension points among committee members or with the intern, discuss the issues until clarity, not necessarily unanimity, is achieved.  It may be constructive to disagree at times if one can avoid being disagreeable in the process.
7. Do we have to make any written reports?
Yes, we do request two written reports – one at mid-year and the other at year’s end.  We invite each committee member to complete the report form supplied by the seminary, and to share your evaluations with the intern, preferably in committee session.  We request the chairperson to mail all of the completed report forms to the Contextual Education Office at the seminary.  The chairperson may also share at least a summary of the committee’s assessments with the supervising pastor.  Since we know that it is difficult for many committee members to register their evaluations in writing, we give you double thanks in advance for your needed and appreciated helpfulness in this regard.
8. Who is to set the agenda for our committee meetings?
We expect the intern to take major initiatives in learning how to work with this group of persons as resources for learning.  The intern and committee chairperson ought, in our judgment, to propose an agenda that is responsive both to the intern’s concerns as well as those of the committee members.  The proposed agenda ought always to be subject to amendment if and when you as an individual member believe that some issue not scheduled deserves priority attention.
9. Ought the supervising pastor to be present at our committee meetings?
Our counsel is “normally not.”  It’s too easy for both intern and committee members to relinquish responsibility for making things happen.  Occasional drop-in visits by the pastor are sufficient to demonstrate his/her support.  Some committees deem it important to have the pastor’s presence to assist with committee orientation early in the year and at other times specifically request the pastor’s guidance during the discussion of specific agenda items when they believe that to be advisable.
10. How long should our terms of service be on the committee?
An internship normally lasts for twelve months.  Ideally, committee members should commit themselves for the entire period of an intern’s service even though the congregation’s term of a committee year may not be synchronized.  When congregations continue in the program for another year, our counsel is that a new committee should be named.  However, to provide some helpful continuity, we believe that up to one-third of the members may be invited to continue serving for a second year.  Rarely should anyone serve more than two consecutive years.
11. Why does the morale and fun-level of internship committee members tend to be higher than for many other committees in the church?
It happens frequently, all around the country.  We are pleased and not wholly able to explain why that seems to be so.  We have observed that often a very close sense of community develops as members share themselves in deeply personal ways.  The comments, counsel, and caring of all are appreciated.  Often you see prompt and significant results from your positive nudgings and loving helpfulness.  You are loved and respected for who you are.  Here you are expected to give your honest reactions.  Joys and happinesses are celebrated; disappointments and anger get processed.  The committee can become a mini exhibit of what life in a redemptive fellowship is like.
12. Just for review purposes, what is internship?
…a full year of major and intensive involvement in a responsible ministry of the church and is itself a ministry of learning and serving;
…an integral and required component of a seminarian’s preparation for ordained pastoral service, meaning that one-fourth of the total post-college training for ministry takes place among the people of God in a chosen internship site;
…a way of preparing for ministry based largely upon an action/reflection learning model, meaning that an intern is not only immersed in the many doings of ministry but also spends time analyzing, reflecting upon, and learning from all those involvements;
…an integrative experience by which a student’s knowledge, skills, attitudes, and commitments become interrelated with the planning, doing, and evaluating of ministry;
…carried out under the joint supervision of a pastor and the seminary’s contextual education staff with cooperation and assistance from lay members of congregations, staff of social agencies or college campuses, and other pastors and interns;
…inclusive of preaching, teaching, visiting counseling, administrating, leading in worship, work with various age and interest groups, evangelistic outreach, stewardship training, community involvements and engagement with societal concerns, interaction with various church judicatories, administration of Holy Baptism in emergencies, conducting funerals when requested by the pastor, and serving as an assisting minister at celebrations of Holy Communion.
13. What more can you tell us about being an intern?
…is normally working on the third year of a four-year post-college program between the middler and senior year of academic studies;
…has committed him/herself to learn and serve within the designs of the program;
…has been approved for internship by Trinity Seminary’s faculty;
…has clearly defined and repeatedly stated personal and professional growth goals, but refuses to make of internship an excessively self-serving enterprise;
…will enter into a covenant (a “learning/serving contract”) regarding areas of ministry and mutual expectations with the supervising pastor;
…intentionally moves through the rhythms of action and reflection, doing ministry and studying about ministry, “theoria” and “praxis”;
…recognizes that the relationship with the supervisor is the primary means by which the learning/serving process is effected;
…is expected to insist upon supervisory conferences of at least an hour’s duration no less frequently than weekly;
…is expected to attend regional Internship Cluster meetings together with the supervising pastor;
…shall submit reports and other requested exhibits to the seminary;
…expects to have the opportunity of learning to work with an internship committee as a resource for learning and serving;
…is expected to keep one eye and ear open to the people of God among whom she/he serves and the other eye and ear open to the Lord of the Church who has sent her/him to do the work of ministry;
…is most apt to grow when s/he knows her/himself to be loved just as s/he is;
…may be asked to return to the seminary for consultation;
…should help prepare the congregation for the ministry of the intern who may succeed him/her;
…shall not terminate his/her internship without prior consultation with the seminary’s contextual education director who administered the placement;
…will never forget his/her internship year: the treasured relationships, the lasting memories, the equipping for pastoral ministry.
14. What are some things you look for or expect from a supervising pastor?
…ideally has had a minimum of three years of demonstrated effectiveness in ordained pastoral ministry;
…has normally completed at least one year of service in the site for which an intern is requested;…shall agree to be involved in supervisory training programs provided or recommended by the seminary;…should demonstrate general understanding of an agree to comply with those functions designed to safeguard the educative components of the internship experience;…evidences a lively, positive attitude towards parish ministry and the mission and ministry of the larger church;…normally has basically positive recollections of his/her own internship;…must commit him/herself to supervisory conferences of at least an hour’s duration no less frequently than weekly;…agrees to help fashion an initial learning/serving contract;…provides evaluative reports on the intern on forms supplied and requested by the seminary;…serves as a mentor for the intern providing guidance, friendship, and modeling;…serves as a spiritual advisor for the intern;…provides adequate initial direction and then pursues a strategic course towards that time when the two move towards a more collegial interrelationship;…remains concerned to provide adequate emotional support plus the confrontation which stretches the “intern’s growing edges;…exercises special care when initiating, modifying, and terminating the internship supervisory relationship;…sees him/herself as a transitional figure who invites and welcomes the intern into the world of responsible ministry;…becomes in effect an adjunct seminary faculty member who assists significantly in the theological training enterprise;…invites consultation with the seminary through its contextual education staff, initiation of which may rest with either side;…demonstrates a lively interest in his/her own continuing education;…shall, in a multiple-staff arrangement, be one of the pastors so designated ;…may expect to be rewarded for his/her self-investment in this program in multiple, unpredictable ways – some of which only eternity will bring to light.
15. What do you see to be the role of the sponsoring congregation?
…is expected to provide the broadly diversified training opportunities and resources called for by the program, but is free to indicate those special areas of ministerial need for which an intern is requested;…must assure the provision of competent supervision;…needs to know that the intern has only one supervisor in the congregation, the pastor, and that requests for the intern’s services ought to be cleared through the pastor;…should provide for an internship committee as requested by the seminary;…shall provide supervised opportunities for the intern to examine and experiment with emerging personal and professional identities while experiencing the full range of professional decision-making roles and responsibilities;…shall recognize that the intern comes as one who, at the start of the internship year, is normally only half-way through the theological training process;…should remember that each intern is different from any and all others and that those differences contribute to the sacred uniqueness of each personality;…should expect the intern neither to be controversial nor to avoid all controversial matters; should be open to a person with some fresh ideas, new approaches, and different perspectives;…can through their love and understanding ease the stress of an intern’s having left friends and familiar routines and the need to adjust to a new and strange situation;…should not expect the intern’s spouse to function as an assistant pastor, though inviting the spouse (and family) to participate in various congregational activities is always appropriate and appreciated;…should plan to tell the intern their names before being asked each time you meet for at least the first three months;…should normally be expected to be in the program for a minimum of two successive years;…should provide for the intern an adequate stipend and package of benefits, in no instance below stated minimums;…shall not terminate an internship without prior consultation with the seminary’s contextual education director who administered the placement

Supervisory Session Summary


It is highly recommended that the supervisory session be a weekly, 60-90 minutes meeting between intern and supervisor.

This is not "staff time" to plan the week's work, etc. Rather, it is the intern's chance to discuss situations which arise during internship and to discuss theological and pastoral issues.

Find "neutral ground" for the meeting, where there will be no interruptions.

Intern's Preparation: Content

It is strongly suggested that the intern prepare a one-page, written report regarding a situation she/he would like to discuss during the session.
The report would consist of:
  1. One paragraph describing the situation,
  2. One paragraph of analysis of the situation including the professional and personal issues relating thereto, and
  3. One paragraph evaluating the situation, the intern's action, etc.
Intern provides this report to the supervisor at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

The intern's initiative in setting the content agenda is important for empowering the intern as a life-long learner.

Supervisor's Preparation: Structure

Assuming that the supervisor receives the report enough in advance, s/he can then prepare the structure of the meeting.
The supervisor writes a "lesson plan" for the hour. Mental designing is good, but writing it usually fosters greater clarity.

The supervisor may choose to think about some questions to ask the intern to further the learning process, may seek resources from his/her library or think of personnel resources for reference, suggest follow-up topics or activities, etc.

Outline of Supervisory Session

Generally, the following procedure is recommended, leading the supervisor and intern through preparation, the session itself, and reflection afterwards:
  1.  Intern selects issue.
  2.  Intern defines issue by writing report.
  3. Supervisor reviews report and prepares structure of session.
  4. Session takes place.
    1. Supervisor guides intern's exploration of the issue.
    2. Sharing by supervisor of thoughts, experiences, insights, and resources which might aid learning.
    3. Dialogue between supervisor and intern.
    4. Summary of session, probably led by supervisor with response from intern.
  5. Supervisor and intern reflect individually on how the session went.
  6. Possibilities for "second thought" sharing afterwards.

Getting Started Checklist

A list of some things that make for a good beginning.

You can also print out this timeline here:
pdfGetting Started Checklist

Intern's Responsibility 
Mutually responsible  
Supervisor/site's responsibility 
Communicate concerns or issues promptly
to the supervisor. 
 Pay special attention and
plan for easing spouse/partner’s
adjustment to new surroundings.
 Provide adequate housing.
Reflect on the importance of first impressions.  Discuss time off policies. Remediate critical housing and office space issues swiftly. 
Celebrate the primacy of grace in ministry.   Establish and communicate a
regular day off (Sabbath). 
Provide a list of recommended shops, stores, restaurants,
banks and financial institutions, medical professionals, gyms,
parks, etc. in the area
Determine how best to make contributions-of-
record to sponsoring internship
Spend quality time together socially to get better
Provide an adequate intern office in terms of space, lighting,
ventilation, heating, book shelves, ease of access, internet
and phone access 
Communicate with, engage and/or form the
Internship Support Committee 
Share pet professional peeves Clarify "pay day" matters including required paperwork and
contact information for who to contact with questions and concerns.
Subscribe to and read the local newspaper. Establish worship leadership involvement
Provide instructions for auto allowances and expenses
Weigh carefully the value of keeping a journal  Establish and document preaching schedule for at
least the first quarter
Clarify expectations regarding intern's reports on visits made
Keep a resource and referral list. Seek out and
ask for assistance as needed. 
Establish and document teaching assignments for at
least the first quarter
Communicate expectations regarding dress and grooming
Meet with and covenant to learn from person(s) responsible for
music in the parish (paid and volunteer)
Establish and document visitation objectives and
Share information about conference, synod and local ministry
gatherings and make attendance a high priority.
Meet with and covenant to learn from parish
administrators, secretaries, communications
administrator, etc. (paid and volunteer)
Discuss youth ministry involvement and
Make appropriate introductions to partner agencies (hospitals,
nursing homes, assisted care facilities, prisons, etc.)
Learn the office procedures and machines. 
Be open to helping occassionally without 
becoming assistant administrator or chief
office volunteer
Schedule and communicate the internship cluster
meeting(s) are on the calendar for both intern and
supervisor. Check with the seminary in your region
for further information
Share early leads and introductions for getting acquainted
in the neighborhood, outreach, synod, and ministerium
Show particular care with time allocation
and management during the early weeks,
cognizant of the power in setting patterns
and paying special attention to safeguarding 
time for devotions, reading, exercising, and
other forms of self-care and spiritual
Discuss expectations around punctuality Communicate expectations regarding office hours
Complete notice of safe arrival Establish the supervisory session schedule. Clarify
when and where to meet, advance preparations by
each, how inviolate that time shall be
Communicate expectations regarding written reports for church
newsletter, council/board and congregational/organizational
Submit the completed Learning-Serving-
Covenant electronically
Review nature of staff relationships Provide early and ample valuative feedback. Model honesty,
openness, candor and kindness while doing so
Update contact information using the Change
or Address form on TLSnet
Discuss and agree on mutual expectations regarding
counseling opportunities 

Federal Income Tax While on Internship

prepared by Contextual Education office
trinity lutheran seminary
columbus, oh

You can print this information here*:
pdfFederal Income Tax While on Internship Information

* Please give one copy to the church treasurer.

What is taxable income?

Your stipend, the rental value of housing provided to you, and the cost of all utilities (if they are paid for you by the congregation) are taxable as income and for FICA.  In effect, the congregation becomes your employer and you are its employee.  The value of the housing provided you is taxable, just as is the stipend that you receive in cash.

What will be withheld?

For each pay period the treasurer must withhold from your check 7.65% of both your stipend and the value of non-cash benefits for Social Security and Medicare taxes, and an additional amount for federal income tax, which is determined by the number of exemptions you claim on Form W-4. [The congregation is also required to contribute 7.65% for Social Security and Medicare taxes.]

I have to pay tax on the value of the housing provided me?

Yes. Neither ELCA polity nor I.R.S. regulations consider an intern "clergy." While ordained pastors may exclude a housing allowance (or the rental value of a parsonage provided them) from their income, interns may not.

Why aren't interns treated like pastors?

Interns are not "ordained, licensed, or commissioned," which are the only categories recognized by the I.R.S. as entitled to special tax considerations provided to clergy. The official I.R.S. statement about theological students says, "You cannot exclude a housing allowance from your income if you are a theological student serving a required internship as an assistant pastor, unless you are ordained, commissioned, or licensed as a minister." You are a student, and internship is part of your educational program, even though you are getting paid for doing it.

This means that I have to pay taxes on something I don't receive?

In effect, yes. What it really means is that you have to pay taxes (and FICA contributions) on a benefit that you did not receive in cash. The distinction is mostly academic, however, because you are required to have the taxes on the value of your housing withheld regularly from your cash stipend.

So I won't actually get all of my stipend?

Well, the money that the congregation sends to the I.R.S. is really your money, if that's any consolation. Considering the financial hardship that this works on an intern, the congregation may choose to increase your stipend somewhat, but, if so, that extra amount is also taxable--and for both FICA and income tax.

How can I determine how much will be withheld from my stipend?

The amount withheld will vary according to marital status, employed or non-employed spouse, number of dependents, and rental value of the housing and utilities provided you. It will have to be calculated according to your personal situation. The church treasurer ought to be able to provide you with the fair rental value of your housing (and utilities). You need to add that to your anticipated income from your stipend and any other income, earned or unearned, you or your spouse have already received or may expect to receive during the year.

What do I do then?

After you have estimated your income (both in cash and the value of your housing), you should obtain a Form W-4 from either your church treasurer or T.L.S. and use it to calculate the number of exemptions to which you are entitled. Then the treasurer will consult the I.R.S. Circular E and tell you how much needs to be withheld from each stipend check. (To obtain a copy of Form W-4 and/or Circular E from the I.R.S., call 1-800-TAX-FORM or go to

Aren't there any breaks?

Yes, as of 2012 you will owe no income tax at all if your adjusted gross income is less than $9,750.00 for a single individual under the age of 65 or $19,500.00 for a married couple under the ago of 65 filing jointly with no dependents.  Your tax liability will also be spread over two years.  The normal internship format of August 15 to August 15 will have four months in one taxable year and eight months in the following year.  It may be possible, if your income is going to be low and your exemptions high, for you to exempt yourself from withholding.  BUT DON'T TAKE CHANCES!  If you exempt yourself but do owe tax at the end of the year, you may be assessed a penalty in addition to having to pay the tax.  (Note: Even if you can exempt yourself from federal income tax for the year, you cannot exempt yourself from FICA; the 7.65% must still be withheld from your stipend and the value of your housing, and it will not be refunded.)

How about state and local taxes?

You have to pay them, too, if you reside in a state and/or municipality (even for only part of a year) that imposes income taxes. We cannot advise you on all state or local tax regulations, but we suggest that it is prudent for you to find out what law applies in the locality where you are assigned to internship.


 500 Years of the Reformation

2017 marks five hundred years since Martin Luther posted the Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg, Germany. As we await this celebration in the church, we prepare for the milestone that 500 years is. In the coming months, we will feature different resources and publications here. We hope to engage you, in conjunction with Hamma Library, in celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation! For now, these two websites offer additional information about preparing for the anniversary and about the Reformation's history. 

        elca500        lutheranworld