How does a Presbyterian become a Pastor?
In the Presbyterian Church, candidates for ministry must have a four-year Bachelor’s degree and a three-year Masters of Divinity, or M.Div., degree from a seminary to be eligible for ordination.
During seminary, students are under care of the church they belong to, meaning that their home church endorses them for ministry. Students are also under care of their local Presbytery, whose Committee on Preparation for Ministry supports their journey towards ordination. Each Presbytery requires its candidates to complete its unique slate of courses and/or experiences during their time under care.
Field education is required by both Presbyterian seminaries and Presbytery CPMs as a requirement of graduation and certification to receive a call to ministry.
Full-time pastoral internships are a precious form of field education, one that gives candidates an extended, real-world understanding of what pastoral ministry entails.
The San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo is unique among Presbyterian seminaries because its M.Div. students add a fourth year to their seminary program in order to complete a one-year, full-time internship, usually before their final year of classroom studies.
CPC’s geographic proximity to SFTS and our Presbyterian affiliation put us in a unique position to offer year-long, full-time pastoral internships to aspiring Presbyterian ministers. Indeed, CPC has a long history of hosting SFTS interns, although the program was dormant for about six years between 2007 and 2013.
Our intern ministry was reborn in 2013 and continues now because of our leadership’s renewed commitment to the many benefits the ministry bestows on the intern, the CPC community, and the Presbyterian Church as a whole. The internship runs from August through May each year. Recent interns include Audrey Wilkinson from 2005-07, Tad Hopp 2013-14, Alexander Wendeheart 2014-15, and Brooklynn Smith 2015-2016.
What does a CPC internship offer seminary students?
Expectations for and the quality of internship experiences vary widely across industries. Some may think of interns as cheap grunt labor who get a taste of the business by watching from the sidelines as they work at generic tasks and deliver coffee. This is not the vision for a pastoral intern.
A pastoral intern is only a few steps away from becoming an ordained pastor. Upon graduation, an intern may answer a call to serve a congregation of their own.
There are so many crucial skills a pastor cannot learn in a classroom. Only in the field, participating in worship planning and leadership, congregational administration, and pastoral care, can a candidate for ministry get a real sense of what life as a pastor will require of them. At CPC, our pastoral intern is given the opportunity to gain skills that will help them become a pastor and test their wings to see how they will fly.
What does the intern program offer Christ Presbyterian Church?
Offering the afore-mentioned experience to seminary students is a profound Christian ministry of support and education for the individuals who intern with us. It allows CPC to practice hospitality and offer guidance to students who will dedicate their lives to ministering to others.
By a more practical measure, an intern expands our staff’s capacity at a considerable financial discount. Our ministries are injected with a new, full-time staff member equipped with seminary training, personal experience in ministry, and a passion for helping foster Christian community.
What does the intern program offer the wider church community?
Every church wants their new pastor to have lots of experience, but pastors must start somewhere. A full-time internship allows candidates to experience growing pains and work on their personal growing edges before they are at the helm of their own congregation. And it allows our pastor to pass along the benefit of her experience to a new generation of leaders. With year-long, full-time internship behind them, candidates for ministry can better understand and anticipate their congregation’s needs and how to meet them from the very beginning of their ministry.
CPC’s intern ministry puts our unique location and ministry to work for the larger church to help ensure that there is always a supply of well-trained pastors to lead churches everywhere.
How can you participate in CPCs Intern Ministry?
Your annual pledge of financial support enables our intern ministry. In 2014, we added a $500/month stipend to our budget for an intern, allowing our internship to be a more realistic and supportive option for seminary students.
Interns are required to preach at least four times during their internship. Your written feedback is very valuable to them as they develop their confidence at the pulpit.
You can also get more involved with the interns by participating in the Shepherding Committee–just tell Linda you’re interested.
Finally, any support you feel led to offer our interns is valuable. Inviting them to lunch or dinner to get to know them, encouraging them after worship, or any other way you like to let them know they are valued is welcome. Modeling Christian fellowship is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to anyone–particularly those looking for good examples to shape their lives of ministry!