The primary mission of Perkins School of Theology, to prepare women and men for faithful leadership in Christian ministry, precisely defines the mission of the Perkins Intern Program. In the Perkins Internship, students integrate the knowledge and theological reflection disciplines learned in the classroom with the practical demands of providing faithful leadership within a congregation or church agency.
The Perkins Intern Program is widely recognized as an exemplary program in preparing persons for effective Christian ministry. The four full-time Intern Faculty members are committed to working with each Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Ministry student to provide an internship that maximizes learning opportunities within a hands-on ministerial experience. The design of the Intern Program assumes interns to be adult learners who can assess and value their past experiences and vocational goals and build on these as they prepare themselves to become resourceful, faithful Christian leaders. To that end, the internship curriculum specifies a set of required competencies under the categories Be Aware, Think Theologically, and Lead Faithfully, but students design their own learning goals to achieve and demonstrate the competencies. While the intern carries out the tasks of ministry and systematically reflects on the experience, a trained Mentor Pastor provides professional and theological supervision; a Lay Teaching Committee gives regular feedback on performance; and the Internship Seminar led by the Intern Faculty and a mental health Consultant offers a time to share ministry stories and receive support and wisdom.
The internship, required for the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Ministry degrees, is nine months long, taking place over consecutive fall and spring terms of one academic year. M.Div. students usually do internship during the third or fourth year of their degree programs, M.A.M. students in the second or third year, depending upon their individual graduation plans.
Students do internships in a wide variety of ministry settings, with options as to type (full-time or concurrent, church or agency), community (urban, suburban, rural), and denomination (in most cases in the student's own tradition). This diversity meets the needs and interests of individual students while encouraging peer learning as interns share their experiences in the Internship Seminar. The internship curriculum requires the student to listen and learn about the history and culture of the church or agency and its community; to plan learning goals across a number of areas of ministry, which prevents being pigeonholed; and to demonstrate effective and imaginative leadership at their internship site and its community. This might mean working with congregations on projects in evangelism or social justice or stewardship that might not have been priorities in the past. Learning by listening and leading is the hallmark of the Perkins internship experience.