IF AN INTERNSHIP BECOMES PROBLEMATIC
Occasionally internships experience more difficulty than is thought to be normal. When an internship begins to flounder, there are usually signs that such is the case. For example, one might look for the following.
- One participant, supervisor or intern, is working far harder at the relationship than the other.
- One participant is feeling forced to assume some behavior that seems inappropriate, for instance, when a student is expected to be the pastor's best friend or expected to cover for the pastor, or vice versa.
- Communication is poor; people operate on the basis of assumptions. Regular meetings and sessions are not held.
- Real encounter is avoided, negative feelings are not expressed. Games are played to keep the other at a distance.
- No words of appreciation, thankfulness or encouragement are spoken.
- One participant alone is in charge of the agenda or the relationship. A dependent relationship develops.
- One participant feels controlled. Trust is not evident.
- One participant feels manipulated; secrets are kept.
- One participant assumes responsibility for what is clearly in another person's job description and gives unsolicited advice.
- One participant delegates what is his or her duty to another to avoid responsibility or work.
Even paying attention to and working on such issues as those noted above can't always lead to a satisfactory resolution. When that is the case it may be necessary to end an internship before its scheduled time has been completed.
Any decision to end an internship early is the responsibility of the Contextual Learning faculty following consultation with those involved including the intern, supervising pastor, and internship committee. Additional consultation with the intern's synodical candidacy committee, intern's advisor, and other faculty members may also be helpful.
Internships can be ended early for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason, there is a need for both congregation and intern to process what has happened and the Contextual Learning faculty will attempt to make sure that opportunity is provided.
Intern, supervisor and internship committee will each be asked to submit a report within one month of the conclusion of the internship detailing their perspective on the internship and the reasons for its early termination. These reports will be made available to the Contextual Learning faculty and the student's candidacy committee.
With respect to the student whose internship has been ended prematurely, experience indicates that there is invariably a need for time and space to review what happened, attend to the variety of emotions involved and consider realistic options for the future. Accordingly, it is not advisable to seek an immediate re-assignment. Resuming seminary course work may be an option for some students, but in most instances a student is better served by stepping back from the process entirely for at least one month, or more. Students should be aware that they will receive such counsel routinely. An automatic Leave of Absence (LOA) is granted for the remainder of the semester in which the termination takes place. If more time is needed, a longer LOA could be requested from the Dean of Students Office.
Any decision with respect to an internship re-assignment will involve consultation with student, candidacy committee, and advisor. A prematurely ended internship is likely to mean an unanticipated extension of the student's academic program.
In situations where the internship was not completed primarily due to problems with the congregation or pastor, the necessity of extending the academic program may seem unfair. On the other hand, if the goal is primarily to learn and grow while taking one's experience into account, an extended program may be better educationally than not taking enough time to work with the issues that are present. The point is that students need to learn and grow from their experience and not allow anxiety or security concerns to move them too quickly into another placement process.
Students will routinely be expected to take advantage of the services of the North Central Ministry Development Center (for Luther students) or similar agency provided at seminary expense. An additional resource to assist students in reflecting on their experience is the opportunity to participate in a small group experience. Experience has demonstrated the value of being part of a group of colleagues and peers in which students can tell their story honestly and openly and know they will be heard.
Opportunity to become part of such a group is on-going with assistance for the cost for participation provided by the Contextual Learning Office. Financial assistance can also be provided for individual counseling if that is deemed appropriate by the student.
Support will be extended to the student (and family) during and after an internship termination. This can include:
- Provision for the counseling noted above.
- Continuation of internship stipend for one month.
- Transportation and relocation expenses not to exceed $500.