An analysis of internship experiences in the education of youth ministers in Churches of Christ
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This dissertation examines the influence of youth ministry internships as a component of education for full time youth ministry. The need for evaluation of ministry internships is elucidated within a discussion of the current state of theological field education. The precedent literature relevant to theological field education is then discussed. This includes biblical discipleship, experiential learning theory, internships in higher education, and internships in youth ministry. The literature points to five basic objectives of internships that are used to guide the evaluation of learning from field experience. These are the expansion and assimilation of knowledge, the acquisition of skills, the formation of character, the development of mentor relationships, and the opportunity to test vocational interests in order to make a vocational decision. Purposive sampling was employed in this descriptive, quantitative research to reach the largest segment of the research population. The population consisted of junior and senior youth ministry majors in the seven largest universities associated with Churches of Christ who offer a bachelor's degree in youth ministry. Information was collected from these students concerning their internships through a survey instrument. Results indicated students perceive internships to be a vital component of their education for ministry. Interns ranked learning new skills in ministry, followed by growing in Christian character, and learning new knowledge about ministry as the most important contributions of their internships. Although interns ranked the influence of the supervisor relationship as fourth among significant contributions of internships, the supervisor relationship permeated every other aspect of internships. When supervisors were intentional about offering training and support in ministry, and when they practiced the spiritual disciplines with interns, their interns were more likely to say they experienced both educational and spiritual growth. The practice of journaling and theological reflection also emerged as influential disciplines of interns. The influence of internships on the vocational decisions of students to enter or avoid ministry was minimal. Applications for ministry education are proposed as they apply to professors, supervisors, and interns. These are followed by suggestions for future research in the area of theological field experience.