Frequently Asked Questions

Is field studies required?
One academic year of field studies done in conjunction with classes M404/405 Reflection on the Practice of Ministry is required of all Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Ministry students.

When is field studies done?
Students ordinarily participate in Field Studies during their middler year or after they have completed nine units.

What kind of sites are available?
There are numerous field education sites that offer supervised ministry. Local churches, representing several denominations and faith traditions, form the core of the program. There are also placements in specialized ministry agencies such as community-based ministries, medical centers, domestic violence centers, geriatric facilities, etc.  Field Studies is a time to learn from new experiences, letting those experiences challenge you with new questions, new realities and new thoughts. To that end, cross-cultural placements are strongly encouraged and placements in home congregations are strongly discouraged.

Should I consult with my denominational committee of oversight (e.g. CPM) regarding my plan for field studies?
YES!  Students are strongly encouraged to correspond with the denominational persons who are overseeing their preparation for ministry.  While field studies is a seminary course of study, every effort is made to cooperate with denominational committees of oversight.  Students may invite those overseeing their preparation for ministry to contact the Director of Experiential Education and Field Studies with questions and concerns.

How much time am I required to spend on site?
You are expected to be on site 12-15 hours per week for the academic year. The Seminary's reading weeks and vacation breaks are observed.

If I know where I want to do my field studies, should I go ahead and make arrangements to do so?

No.  You should not attempt to make arrangements on your own.  Of course you are free to talk with anyone about a possible placement, but the Director of Experiential Education & Field Studies must approve both the setting and the supervisor.  Before interviewing for a position, it is wise to share your thoughts with the Director of Experiential Education and Field Studies.

How do I find a church or agency in which to do my supervised ministry?
Approved Ministry Site descriptions are available in the Field Sites section of our Web site. Should you find no appropriate opportunities listed, please do not hesitate to discuss your concerns with the Director of Experiential Education & Field Studies.

When should I start looking for a site?

An informational meeting is held in mid-November.  Students unable to attend that meeting, should make an appointment with the Director of Experiential Education and Field Studies. Interview Day is ordinarily held in the month of February. All placements must be finalized by the end of the academic year preceding placement. [Please see Placement Procedure section of the website.]

Can I work in a church which has no pastor and receive credit?
Ordinarily not. The field studies program is designed for a student to work in a congregation where the pastor-supervisor is present. This gives opportunity for direct observation of the student's work and also for frequent informal and formal conversations. Exceptions may be made in the case of students who are serving as Commissioned Ruling Elders in the PCUSA or as Local Pastors. Other exceptions must be approved by the Director of Experiential Education and Field Studies and  by the student's denominational committee of oversight.

Is it possible to do field studies in a congregation where there is an interim pastor?
Ordinarily not. It is better to be in a situation with a settled pastor on site. Any exception to this guideline requires approval by the director.

Is it possible to do field studies in one's own home church?

No. We have found that supervised ministry is most productive for the student in situations where the student is able to establish his/her pastoral identity free from prior associations in other roles. Thus, if one grew up in a church or functioned there as an active lay person, the seminary would not approve supervised ministry in that setting. However, if the student is a new member and is relatively unknown in the parish, such an arrangement might be considered. Any exception to this guideline requires approval by the director.

May a recent seminary graduate serve as a supervisor?
No. Ordinarily, a person should have a minimum of three years of ministerial experience prior to serving as a supervisor.

What is a Field Education setting?
A field education setting is a congregation, agency or institution that agrees to provide the opportunity for a student to do ministry in a supportive environment. The setting provides a supervisor and a committee to reflect with the student upon their practice of ministry.

What is a Lay Ministry Support Team?
The Lay Ministry Support Team is a representative group of persons, normally 4 to 6, who meet regularly to reflect with a student about their field education experience.

How often does Lay Ministry Support Team meet?
It is important that the committee meet regularly. We require that committees meet for two hours each month from September to May.

Who prepares the agenda for the meeting with the student?
Normally, the committee chairperson in consultation with the student sets the agenda in advance of the meeting.

Does the Supervisor meet with the committee?

Ordinarily not.  However, this is determined by each setting. A supervisor's insight can be helpful to the meeting dynamics. On the other hand it may help the student learn to communicate in a committee environment when the supervisor is absent from the process. It is important that the supervisor not be the chair of the committee.

What is a Learning/Serving Covenant?

A Learning Agreement is written by the student in consultation with the supervisor and the Lay Ministry Support Team to describe the student's learning goals and determine a schedule of activities for ministry at the setting.