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Also known as field education, Contextual Education is a component of formation and training in a variety of vocation including 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 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.
As church and culture change at a rapid rate, honing the ability to act, reflect, adapt, and act again is one of the most crucial skills for leaders in ministry. Seminaries can no longer train students in the best practices for how to lead worship, provide pastoral care, or further the church’s mission and expect that those best practices will serve a ministry leader well through the span of their career. However, teaching students how to act and reflect in all aspects of ministry allow ministry leaders to adapt their practices as situations and contexts change. Deeply integrating contextual learning into our curriculum allows Trinity Lutheran Seminary to provide rich opportunities for learning through the action, reflection cycle of learning.
At Trinity Lutheran Seminary, contextual education takes three forms:
For students in the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Youth and Family Ministry.
Leadership in Context (LIC) occurs during a student's first two years of study. The goal of the program is to allow students to observe and gain experience in ministry leadership and to promote critical reflection on these observations and experiences. The connection of contextual activity with academic practical ministry coursework infuses ministry practice with intellectual rigor and focuses intellectual pursuits on the real needs of people.
The contextual part of the LIC involves a time commitment of 6-8 hours per week in a ministry setting (usually a congregation). For full-time students, this placement typically begins spring semester of their first year and continues during fall and spring semesters of their second year. Practical ministry coursework is designed to intersect with students’ LIC placement. Students may have assignments in classes like Person or Ministry or Care of Souls that is intended to be carried out in their LIC site. Coursework in reading and interpreting contexts of ministry also occurs during the student’s LIC placement.
For students in the Master of Divinity program and other students with vocational goals that involve pastoral caregiving. Word and Sacrament and Word and Service candidates are required to take one unit of CPE as part of their candidacy process. Many candidacy processes for students from other denominations require or look favorably upon students who complete CPE.
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.
The requirement of a clinical term is typically fulfilled by enrolling in a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at a certified CPE site. More information about CPE and a list of accredited centers can be found at https://www.acpe.edu/ *
CPE programs are available in the summer and also during the academic year. Each unit of CPE involves 400 hours of experience. Most full-time students enroll in CPE during the summer between their first and second academic year. Students enrolling in a clinical term during the academic year will need to reduce their academic load. Many students complete CPE at a site that is within driving distance to Columbus, while others live with a friend or family member for a summer in another locale.
The seminary offers an informational meeting each fall about the nature of CPE and how to apply. If you are considering a summer unit of CPE, it is recommended that you apply to CPE programs by Thanksgiving before the summer you wish to complete CPE.
Please contact the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation if you would like more information about an upcoming informational meeting, or you have specific questions about CPE you would like to discuss.
*The ACPE website can be consulted to identify possible CPE sites. All arrangements for the clinical term experience, CPE or otherwise, are to be made in consultation with the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation.
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.
2+2 M.Div.Read the 2+2 feature in the Capital Magazine (PDF)
ELCAStudents in the word and sacrament candidacy process complete 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. There are opportunities for traditional internship placements in mid to large sized congregations as well as “detached site” internships. In “detached sites,” students become the primary pastoral presence for a smaller congregation while supervised by an experienced local pastor who coaches and encourages the student in their learning and growth.
ELCA students in the M.Div. program typically complete two years of course work on campus and then do a two-year internship during which they take online and intensive courses, earning approximately 25 semester hours over the two years.
Students have found that the second year of internship provides an incredible opportunity for continued growth and leadership development. Recent graduates of our 2+2 program have been able to help shape ministries and launch new ministry initiatives in their second year of internship. Students have also been able to fully engage learning about redevelopment ministry as well as participate in the development of new ministry starts.
2+2 students typically go through the ELCA approval process the second fall of their internship and participate in the Spring assignment process of their final year.
ELCA students who are able to move for internship receive a monthly stipend and housing as stipulated in ELCA guidelines over the course of the two years of internship.
The seminary also works with students who need to restrict to a specific location, Columbus, or elsewhere. However, a fully funded internship site may not be available. Talk to the Director of Contextual and Experiential Learning as early in your process as possible to talk over possible restrictions to ensure the best chance of finding a site that can provide some financial assistance.
Read the current 2+2 internship manual (PDF)
Students from other traditions will work with the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation to create an internship plan that meets their denomination’s contextual education requirements and takes advantage of Trinity’s contextualized learning approach that helps upper-level students integrate their theoretical learning with the practice of ministry. Internship will be at least 1000 hours and may be full-time or part-time.
If a student wants to graduate in three years, they will typically need to complete about 500 internship contact hours during the summer between their second and third year and 15-18 hours per week during their third year while simultaneously taking online and intensive courses.
Depending on your denominational requirements and the availability of funding for internship, a student from another tradition may decide to complete the M.Div in the same 2+2 time frame as our ELCA students. We have found the 2+2 program really does provide incredible formation and preparation for ministry.
Read the 1000 hour internship manual (PDF)
ELCA students attending other institutions who wish to affiliate with Trinity Lutheran Seminary can elect to fulfill a traditional one-year internship or join a two-year internship cohort. Because of ELCA candidacy cycles, affiliated students may find it beneficial to complete a second year of internship and receive a second year of housing and stipend while they complete the approval and assignment process. Talk to the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation to see which type of internship might be the best fit for you.
Affiliated students must typically complete CPE and debrief their CPE experience with the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation before being eligible for an internship placement. The Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation can talk you through the CPE application process if CPE is not a part of your M.Div program.
Typically, affiliated students will be placed for internship on the same timeline as our on-campus students. Students apply for internship by October 30th, complete a one-on-one conversation with the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation in late fall and interview with potential internship sites in late January or early February. Download the internship application form to get started. If you have any questions or concerns about the internship application process, please contact the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation as soon as possible.
Read the one-year internship manual (PDF)Read the two-year internship manual (PDF)
Because of the diversity of roles within the Word and Service roster, there is a lot of room for flexibility and creativity in designing internship experiences. The ELCA requires 1000 hours of internship for Word and Service students with at least part of that time being fulfilled in a congregational setting. Depending on which academic program you are enrolled in, some or all of those internship hours might be fulfilled in conjunction with your degree requirements. Typically, the Leadership in Context placement will fulfill the congregational component of internship, which allows other internship hours to be completed in a variety of settings, including a paid CPE residency. Talk to the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation as early in your program as possible to create a plan that best meets your vocational and formational needs. If you are a music student, contextual requirements may be overseen by the director of the music program instead of the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation.
View the current ELCA candidacy manual, which outlines the variety of ways a word and service candidate may fulfill their internship requirement.
We have provided this helpful document to help answer the most frequently asked questions about becoming an internship site. If you still have questions, contact TJ Carpenter at email@example.com He will either be able to answer your questions or schedule a phone conversation with the Director of Contextual and Experiential Formation.
For more information about Contextual Education, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have questions about Contextual Education at Trinity? Reach out to us!
The Rev. Dr. Anne Marshallamarshall2@capital.edu
Director of Contextual and Spiritual Formation
TJ Carpenter email@example.com
Academic Assistant for Academic and Contextual Matters