A congregation’s relationship with a student is an invitation to participate in the growth and development of a person called to ministry. At the same time, congregations that nurture and teach students often discover themselves reflecting not just on their students but also on their own identity and growth as a congregation, on the vocation of ministry more broadly, and on the challenges facing ministers who would lead congregations into a new era.
Becoming a member of a Ministry Support Committee is an invitation to journey with a student as he or she learns the many facets of congregational life; to offer constructive feedback as she or he tests out new skills and concepts; to help the student complete congregational course assignments, competency exercises, and capstone projects; and to provide care and support for a student during several years of education. Committee members often discover that working with a student gives them an opportunity to learn about themselves, their own congregation, and about theological studies and ministry today.
This page outlines what a congregation does:
• Make a formal decision to enter a partnership with the Seminary for purposes of helping your student meet the Congregational Requirement. Identify someone to whom your student will be accountable.
• Approve the Congregation Information Form. (It is your student’s responsibility to submit it upon enrolling at LTS and thereafter annually by August 15.)
• (strongly suggested but not required) Provide a Ministry Support Committee (MSC). A MSC is a group of 3-5 congregation members who meet with your student regularly for support, feedback, and reflection. They often become point persons you’re your student is completing congregational course assignments. Members of the MSC may, e.g., gather folks to a presentation being given by your student, offer practical assistance in designing and implementing projects, participate in the projects, and complete evaluation forms of your student’s work for professors at the Seminary. Ideally, the MSC should reflect the diversity of the congregation and represent a cross-section of it.
• Arrange for a Liturgy of Commitment to welcome and/or install your student.
• (if applicable) Help your student who is already a member or staff person in your congregation transition into his or her new role as a student minister in training.
• Provide a minimum of 10 hours a week of ministry experience for your student. Connect your student to a breadth of ministry experiences, as appropriate and as time allows, so as to undergird his or her study in the M.Div. program.
• Provide opportunities for your student to complete his or her congregational course assignments. These might include, e.g., preaching a sermon, teaching a lesson, designing a program, conducting a congregational analysis, or interviewing members about a course topic or project.
• Expose your student to ministries beyond the congregation (e.g. ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, prison ministries, community organizing, etc.), as needed for congregational course assignments and as time allows.
• Provide resources necessary and sufficient for your student to complete his or her work (e.g., a job description, lines of accountability, workspace, budget).
• Have your Ministry Support Committee meet quarterly with your student.
• If a problem arises such that your congregation is unable or unwilling to partner effectively with the Seminary in your student’s education, do not hesitate to contact the Dean. Should your student’s accountable work role in your congregation come to an end (for any reason), please notify the Coordinator as soon as possible. Your student will have to find a new congregation to fulfill the requirement so long as he or she is enrolled in the M.Div. program. A grace period of only three credit hours is allowed during which the student may enroll in courses without having a congregation.
Expectations of the Pastor who will supervise the student (when the student does not serve as the solo pastor)
• Assist your congregation in arranging for a Liturgy of Commitment to welcome and/or install your student.
• Help select a Ministry Support Committee, if the student will have one (see above).
• Guide and support your student as he or she grows intellectually, practically, and spiritually.
• Provide constructive feedback on your student’s work and help him or her learn to solicit it from you.
• Assist the congregation in providing opportunities for the student to complete congregational course assignments throughout the breadth of congregational life.