Introductory Matters

Guidelines for Internship in the ELCA


The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America requires candidates for ordination to complete satisfactorily an approved internship. Internship consists of a supervised contextual experience designed to contribute to the formation of pastoral identity and the development of the requisite skills for the public exercise of ministry. Internship is normally full time for one year as the third year of the seminary four-year degree program. A unit of approved supervised clinical ministry experience may be counted as part of the internship year with the approval of the seminary and Candidacy Committee.

Normally congregations and supervisors approved by ELCA seminaries, in consultation with synodical bishops, provide the settings and guidance for internships. To
facilitate the internship program, the Congregational and Synodical Mission unit has established standards and guidelines for internship. Each seminary creates policies and procedures through which the standards are implemented. Responsibility for interpreting these standards and guidelines and considering requests for exceptions resides with the seminary in consultation with the appropriate synod and the Congregational and Synodical Mission unit.

ELCA Seminaries Shall


  1. Provide adequate policies, procedures, resources, support, and faculty staffing to maintain an internship program consistent with the expectations of the ELCA;
  2. Place eligible students on internship in accordance with the expectations of the ELCA and the policies and procedures of the respective seminaries;
  3. Distribute the seminary’s policies and procedures concerning internships;
  4. Maintain effective communication with synodical bishops concerning settings and supervisors and with synodical Candidacy Committees about internship candidates prior to placement;
  5. Provide common programs to orient and train every new supervisor and to further the development of experienced supervisors in partnership with the churchwide office;
  6. Maintain effective processes for placement and orientation prior to internship, as well as provide reflection following internship;
  7. Receive and review supervisor written reports on at least a quarterly basis;
  8. Confer with synodical Candidacy Committees as necessary and provide summary evaluations (Form D) at the conclusion of internships prior to the Approval Interviews of the candidates by the committees;
  9. Provide guidance and support during the internship year in a variety of ways including site visits; and
  10. When necessary, terminate an internship after appropriate consultation.

Internship Stipend and Benefits


STIPEND -- An undesignated minimum stipend of $1100 monthly.

HOUSING -- Adequate furnished housing, plus utilities (excepting personal long-distance phone calls) OR an adequate cash equivalent for the student to secure his/her own housing.

NOTE: If unfurnished housing is provided, moving expenses to and from the internship site are to be provided by the sponsoring unit, in addition to the payment into the travel pool which simply subsidizes the student's travel to and from the site.

BUSINESS TRAVEL ALLOWANCE -- in accord with current IRS guidelines

TRAVEL EQUALIZATION POOL FEE -- A one-time annual fee of $500 to be paid by the sponsoring unit to the seminary for reimbursement subsidy toward an intern's travel costs to and from the internship site. Due upon receipt of the assignment letter.

TUITION/ADMINISTRATIVE FEE -- A one-time annual fee of $1000 to be paid by the sponsoring unit to the seminary from which the intern comes. Due upon the intern's arrival on site.

HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUM -- To ensure interns have adequate health insurance coverage, Trinity Lutheran Seminary requires internship congregations to pay the student's personal health insurance premium. (Annual premium for 2013-2014: $3419.)

FICA (Social Security) TAXES -- The Tax Reform Act of 1986 requires congregations to provide the employer's share of the FICA tax liability not only on the stipend but also on the fair market value of the non-cash benefits (housing and utilities). If congregations/agencies are able and wish to assist the intern in paying her/his half as well, they are encouraged to do so.

TIME OFF -- Interns must be granted minimally one day per week free time and two weeks of vacation time with continuing stipend for a twelve month, full-time internship.


Special Circumstances


I. Service in a parish without a resident pastor/supervisor

In some instances, an intern will be assigned to a parish which does not have a resident pastor. Carefully designed with counsel from the appropriate synod office, such arrangements may be attractive for mature students judged to benefit from such an arrangement. In no instance will an intern be assigned without a designated, off-site supervisor. Normally such situations call for at least half-day supervisory conferences weekly and place a high premium on a student's ability to seek out the kind of supervision that is most needed.

Occasionally, a supervising pastor will resign from and leave a congregation to which a student has been assigned for internship. If a vacancy occurs prior to the student's arrival, a reassignment is indicated. If it happens during the internship year, it may be necessary to reassign the intern. Both the student and the supervisor must communicate with the Director of Internship from the seminary’s Contextual Education Department if any pastoral change is expected.

II. Reassignment or early termination

Occasionally it will become necessary or desirable that an intern be reassigned for a portion of the internship, or that the internship be terminated. Request for such reassignment or early termination from the intern, the supervisor, and/or the church council (or other appropriate board) shall be referred to the Director of Internship. (See also Exhibit: "Procedures in a Troubled Internship Site.")

III. Change of marital status

Any student who contemplates a change of marital status during the intern year shall inform both the supervisor and the Director of Internship in sufficient time to arrange for any necessary adjustments.

IV. Cases where both the husband and wife are interns

Married students, when both are interning during the same year, will normally be assigned to adjacent parishes and will have separate supervisors. Several other configurations for married students have been utilized through the years. The Director of Internship welcomes conversation about possible scenarios.

V. Extended Illness

An extended illness of the intern can become a problem because internship is of such relatively short duration. In such situations, a careful balance must be maintained where fairness is exhibited to the student as well as to the parish. The following guidelines apply:
  1. Congregations that have sick leave policies for its paid staff are urged to apply that same policy to the intern, negotiating whatever unfairnesses may appear through the seminary's Contextual Education Office.
  2. In the absence of an operative sick-leave policy, the following counsel is offered to the student and the congregation:

DEFINITION: For the purposes of this policy, sick leave may be granted for any student absent from duty because of accident or illness, including any illness resulting from pregnancy or childbirth.

SHORT-TERM ILLNESS: Illness of up to one week shall not affect internship credit, the stipend, or housing arrangement.

LONG-TERM ILLNESS OR DISABILITY: Situations that keep the intern from work for more than one week may necessitate adjustments as negotiated among the Director of Internship, the intern, and the congregation. A long-term illness or disability extending beyond a month may necessitate a review of the internship by the Director of Internship and faculty.

INTERNSHIP REQUIREMENT: An extended sick leave may interfere with the student's ability to meet the one-year requirement for internship. There is some flexibility allowed for negotiation when the absence is for less than three months.

Procedures in a Troubled Internship Site


STEP ONE: Notify the Contextual Education Office of a Potential Problem

Students and/or Supervisors should feel free to call the Contextual Education Office at any time to discuss the internship, and particularly if they feel that the seminary should be made aware of potential problems that may be arising. The following are some suggestions as to when it is advisable to call:
  1. There is evidence of poor communication on repeated occasions
  2. Either the supervisor or the intern experiences a constant tension in their relationship
  3. More than two successive weekly supervisory conferences have been missed without good reason
  4. The student and/or supervisor are experiencing sexism, ageism, or racism on the part of the other
  5. The supervisor or student may need time off for an extended illness or a leave
  6. The supervisor becomes aware of the likelihood of taking another call
(The basic notion here is that if either party wonders if the seminary should be contacted, the call should be made.)

STEP TWO: Contextual Education's Response

  1. Someone from the Contextual Education Office (normally the Director who has handled the placement) will engage the caller in a caring manner. Suggestions will be offered. Follow-up will be assured.
  2. If, after a reasonable time in the opinion of those in the context, the problems appear to persist, the following procedures will be initiated:
    1. A conference call will be made which will include the director of Contextual Education, the intern, and the supervisor. It will be asked at that time if a special site visit might be helpful. If any party believes that to be necessary or advisable, a date will be arranged and announced as soon as possible.
    2. When deemed appropriate, the student's faculty advisor and academic dean will be notified of the difficulties.

NOTE: No internship may be terminated unilaterally by the supervisor or by the intern. If the termination question arises, it should be dealt with in consultation with the Contextual Education staff and not until the special site visit has been made.

STEP THREE: The Emergency Site Visit

During the site visit, the supervisor, the intern, and members of the Internship Committee will all be consulted. Concerted efforts will be made to understand the dynamics in the situation. A written plan of action will be prepared with a view to rectify and improve the situation for all concerned. Since termination scars are typically painful and slow to heal, counsel and encouragement will be provided to avoid termination if at all possible, provided, of course, that the learning and serving for which internship exists appears still to be possible. Yet clearly, there are circumstances when termination appears to be the appropriate option. If so, a procedure appropriate to the situation will be outlined so that minimal disruption ensues. Normally, at least one additional month's stipend and rent are to be provided by the internship congregation/agency.

STEP FOUR: Subsequent Seminary Action

The Contextual Education Director handling the matter will initiate conversations and consultations arranged to determine whether the student shall continue serving as an intern in a new arrangement. If so, efforts will be made to secure another internship site, providing for as much unbroken continuity as possible.

Occasionally, a student may choose or be counseled to defer immediate continuation on the internship track. Return to seminary classes or a temporary leave may be considered as advisable. Later reassignment to an internship site remains an option.

At times it may be determined that the student's vocational choice has not been wisely made and that pursuit of ordained pastoral ministry is no longer advisable.

Following the termination of an internship, careful assessments will be made by seminary personnel regarding the on-going viability of a site and supervisor for a Trinity intern.

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