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Welcome to Contextual Education

Contextual education—known also as field education—is a component of formation and training in a variety of vocations … medicine, social work, education, performance arts, law, traditional trades (where it’s called apprenticeship), and, of course, ministry.

Classrooms are well suited for some kinds of learning: concepts, methodology, learning specialized language, analysis, and (for formation of church leaders) an understanding of the broad historical and ecumenical sweeps that inform mission and ministry.

Classrooms cannot replicate the layers of meaning and nuance of even the simplest everyday situations and the ways practitioners must assess; prioritize; access knowledge and experiences; and weigh responsible options—often in the span of just a few seconds!

Action. Reflection. Action. And reflection. And action. Students engaged in contextual education spiral forward on their way to gaining practical and practiced wisdom.

At Trinity Lutheran Seminary, contextual education takes three forms:

Leadership in Context (LIC): For students in the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Education, and Master of Arts in Youth and Family Ministry.

This course combines:
  • classroom time learning tools for reading ministry contexts with …
  • … 5-8 hours per week spent in observation of and the practice of ministry in congregations and other ministry sites.

Supervised Clinical Ministry: For students in the Master of Divinity program and other students with vocational goals that involve pastoral caregiving.

This clinical experience involves group and individual supervision, frequent pastoral contact with patients/clients/parishioners, written case study reflections, significant peer evaluation and support, integration of theology and practice, and intentional reflection on one’s pastoral identity

Internship: For students in the Master of Divinity program and some other students whose goal is to be on the professional roster of a church body.

Internship is a full-time residential supervised contextual experience. Students on internship work in a congregation or related ministry site and experience the entire range and rhythm of ministry. Trinity has internship sites all over the United States and, through the ELCA’s Horizon program, opportunities for international placement.

Trinity students in the M.Div. program complete two years of course work on campus and then do a two-year internship during which they take on-line and intensive courses, earning approximately 25 semester hours over the two years. Read more about this innovative curriculum here.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America requires internship of students who are seeking to be on the leadership roster of the denomination.

For more information about Contextual Education, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .