Ministry in Context

Preparing "the final paragraph"

It seems like you just got finished with the mid-year evaluation (that is finished and submitted, isn't it?), and now Easter is at hand and then the program year begins winding down and the end of an internship is in sight. As the last few weeks or months of internship approach, all of you interns, supervisors, and lay committee members will turn your attention to the final—and most important—evaluation.

Similar to the other evaluations, the final internship evaluation is used to assess an intern's growth and development over the course of the internship year; it follows the same format as the six-month form, with one additional section: the summary recommendation paragraph.

This extra section becomes a vital part of the student's approval and assignment process. The summary paragraph contains valuable information about the student's internship experience - including unique gifts for the ministry and growth areas for the future discovered on internship - that will be shared with the bishops when students are assigned. The recommendations made in this section also have the potential to affect a student's approval process.

The summary recommendation section is at the beginning of the final evaluation but is best filled in after the remainder of the evaluation is complete. It is divided into two parts: recommendation to the seminary and summary paragraph.

RANKING

The recommendation to the seminary has three ranks, "unconditional," "conditional" and "not recommended." A "conditional" or "not recommended" notation should include the reasons for the ranking. Such a ranking typically should not come as a surprise to the intern, but should be based on unresolved issues or concerns raised in previous evaluations and discussed with the intern. The student's seminary would follow up on either of these rankings.

THE 500-CHARACTER PARAGRAPH

The summary paragraph section allows for 500 characters, including spaces and punctuation, to describe/recommend the student for ordained ministry. It should give a thumbnail sketch of the student's gifts, strengths and growing edges.

While general glowing recommendations might be nice for the student's confidence, they are not very useful for bishops or others whose only knowledge about the candidate's internship may be what is written in these brief statements. They're glad that you loved Vicar Jane, but they need to know why. Give specific examples of what she excelled at and loved to do, what she struggled with and needs to work on, what types of ministry settings might best work for her when she is ordained.

Space is limited, remember, so brevity is essential.

EXAMPLES

Consider the following examples as good models:

"We highly recommend Maria for pastoral ministry. Her sermons are excellent, and her speaking style is clear. She relates well with congregation members of all ages and has good listening skills and the discipline necessary to multi-task."

"John is a person of deep faith and clear call. He has great skills in listening and being present with people. His preaching has become more engaging and gospel centered. He works well on a team. He needs more training and experience with stewardship and evangelism."

"Internship provided me with a great deal of opportunity to develop my pastoral presence through visitation, weekly worship leadership, regular preaching, and teaching numerous adult and confirmation classes. I found teaching to be a core element of my sense of call which I plan to make a central part of my future ministry."

If you're still struggling with what to write, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What would you want a congregation to know about this person if they were considering calling him as their pastor?
  • What could they expect from him?
  • What would a bishop need to know about this person in order to decide whether or not their synod has any congregations that might be good matches for her first call?
  • What distinguishes her from the rest of the candidates out there?
  • Would she prefer to work and/or excel as a member of a pastoral team or as a solo pastor (or could she adapt well to either setting)?

FORM D

All three summary paragraphs—the student's, the supervisor's, and the lay committee's—are put on the Form D, which becomes a part of the student's package that is sent to ELCA bishops as part of the assignment process. The Form D also contains summary recommendations from the faculty at the student's seminary and her/his candidacy committee, but only you can speak directly about student's internship work.

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