Learning/Serving Contract

More work gets done with better morale when areas and lines of accountability have been clearly drawn. Learning is more apt to take place when learning objectives have been stated. "Contract" is used to designate an explicit understanding of expectations in relation to learning and serving.

The Learning/Serving Contract has Four Major Dimensions

1. Goal: The Intern's Statement of Personal and Professional Goals

In order for the learning experience to be maximized, the student should clearly identify needs for both personal growth and professional development as perceived at the outset of internship. These goals should not be vague and general; rather, they should be explicit and specific. For example, a professional goal might read: "I would like to have opportunity to develop administrative skills, especially as they relate to finance and budget management." A personal goal might be this: "I would like to become more comfortable in my personal feelings as I relate to persons who are ill."

Before preparing such a list, recheck the document, A Checklist to Review before Completing the First Draft of Your Learning-Serving Contract, to make sure you are adequately taking into account the expectations the seminary and church-at-large have in relation to areas of looked-for growth and development.

2. Needs: The Congregation's/Agency's Identification of Needs

While the student is busy trying to identify his/her learning goals, the congregation/agency should be specifying areas where useful and productive work is needed. Some work toward providing clarity in this regard has already been done and was noted on the application for an intern. A more detailed specification of desired service duties ought to be sketched with appropriate laity involved in the process. Again, reference should be made to the above-noted documents to insure comprehensive exposures in preaching, teaching, visitation, counseling, worship, youth work, administration, relation with other professionals, community involvement, etc.

3. Negotiation: Negotiation of a Learning/Serving Contract

Mutually work at the task of defining your job description for at least the first quarter of the internship. Take into account:
  • the student's stated goals for personal growth and professional development;
  • the congregation's/agency's specified needs for the student's ministerial leadership; and
  • the minimal expectations of the seminary and church-at-large as noted in the "Checklist to Review" document.

As in any negotiation, no single party will likely get its way in every particular. Make sure your concerns get heard. Challenge any uni-directional operation. Yet, "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" and "outdo one another in showing honor." Don't let the legal-sounding "contract" language override the covenant of love and respect you have for one another and the work of ministry.

You should end this stage with a clearly defined written statement of job description which has the approval of the student and supervising pastor, and ratification by the lay internship committee.

4. Evaluation: Evaluation of Performance and Learning

The learning/serving contract (with any subsequent modifications) provides the framework for discovering and measuring personal growth, professional development, and job performance during the internship. Thus it becomes the starting point for reflection in the evaluation sessions involving the intern, supervising pastor, and lay internship committee.

See the extended Section I. on "evaluation" in the document, Supervision: The Key to Effective Contextual Education.

Mid-year - Preparatory to and as part of the mid-year evaluation, it will be helpful to review the contract and further refine and modify it as needed.