Excellence in Supervision

Adopted at the 22nd Biennial Conference
Austin, Texas – January 17,1993


Only once before have Christian believers looked around the corner of one century into a new millennium. Now, for us, the “hopes and fears of all the years” press against a new horizon when theological education must show faith to a widened and doubtful world. Is the Great Banquet just before us? In our presence can the Word-become-flesh take on all hues, the Tower of Babel cacophony be stilled to small voices of assurance and wonder? We take this moment of preparation to read the signs of our times given us in our students, our schools, and our ecclesiological homes as the conditions for setting organization and for programming in theological field education.

With roots in the Bible, church history, and the life of prayer, as well as in the human sciences, supervision comes into contact with contemporary possibilities. The field education supervisor looks in one direction to the classroom and in the other to the church. The ministry of supervision does not dead-end in the practical action; its rhythm goes from reflection into considered action and back again into reflective assessment. The cadence has no final beat; called to act, it rests in neither deed nor thought but challenges both in the name of God’s justice and truth.

We field educators think of ourselves as the connectors in the architecture of theological education, yet we do not want the synthesis of society and church, academic pursuit and ministerial practice, systematics and faith to belong to us alone. We expect that belief must challenge practice and the field must confront the classroom. Remembrances of Jesus, of the places His feet carried Him, of the table He prepared, of the end He endured – all these set to word, symbol, picture, act, and deed make of supervision a subtle art. It deals, too, with the variety of our physical and intellectual capacities, our local purposes, our interiorized personal justifications precisely to include honest regard in our work for all conditions of persons.

How can organizational outlines sound every tone, yet resonate for all? We can only witness to faith. All our work is with a confession of the narrowness of our vision. We have loved our own tunes, heard our own syllables, seen our own vistas, and safeguarded familiarity. We are called, however, to remain “on tiptoe” looking for insight into the administration of quality programs. We greet the third millennium with hope and courage, taking with humility our participation in touching the mysteries of God’s grace.


The goal of Theological Field Education is to provide comprehensive experience in ministry with regular supervision of the task and reflection on its meaning. Aiming towards a professional standard of performance, it brings together astute use of classroom learning, discernment of the gifts of the Spirit, vital self-awareness and reflection relying on the integration of theological, cultural, and experiential data. This rubric is a mandate for all persons in the program group participants.

PROGRAM DESIGN has the following intentions:

  1. To embrace both the diversities and commonalities of its students.
  2. To develop pastoral persons, whatever their specialization, who integrate all facets of ministry.
  3. To recognize scholarly learning, however that is appropriated, in particular faith communities.
  4. To oversee personal formation for ministry, sometimes interpreting this to mean transfiguring the person of the minister – the act of reaching for the likeness of Christ.
  5. To reflect throughout in a disciplined application of theology scripture, contemporary analysis, and personal experience.
  6. To work in partnership as a setting for mutual learning and the enhancement of leadership (in both style and content).
  7. To maintain groups that are small enough for persons and their experiences to have human faces and urgency.
  8. To value and invite diverse life journeys.
  9. To prize collaborative relationships and present the foregoing organizational expectations not only to facilitate schooling but to identify models for ongoing ministry.
  10. To allow students to test their professional call.
  11. To isolate areas, in both practice and study, that require further attention.
  12. To maintain a relationship between Field Ed and judicatory bodies in a manner that will honor appropriate confidentiality for the student.
  13. To construct organizational staff with regard to breadth and balance academically, theologically, and culturally.
  14. To incorporate evaluation which assesses the leadership as well as the work of students and sites.
  15. To address the question, finally, as stewards of Gods grace: How have we met God in field education?

Field Education Directors will have the following qualifications:

  1. Theological training.
  2. Ability to engage in theological reflection.
  3. Administrative ability.
  4. Preparation for the job, both in formation and function.
  5. Immersion in the social context(s) served by the school.
  6. Faculty appointment consistent with the normal procedures of the school.
  7. Supervisory skills.
  8. Public relations skills, can articulate the program with integrity.
  9. Membership in a professional organization.
  10. Expectation of continuing education.

Field Education Supervisors can be described as follows:

  1. Know the site well and its social context.
  2. Committed to intentional learning, both for themselves and for the persons on the site.
  3. Provide opportunities for actual ministry, not “shadowing” or mock-experiences.
  4. Committed to a process mode of learning.
  5. Able to listen and reflect.
  6. Aware of the academy and willing to be in partnership with it.
  7. Understand the implications of on- and off-site supervision.
  8. Think critically and do social, cultural, and theological analysis.
  9. Produce work in a timely fashion.
  10. Distinguish between supervisory training (training that can or cant be successfully completed or not) and the final approval as a permanent supervisor.
  11. Observe ethical behavior and appropriate boundaries with students throughout the program.
  12. Available.
  13. Willing to do the written work of reporting and evaluating, etc.
  14. Nurture their own spiritual life and encourage the students’ formational process.
  15. Participate in peer supervision or in continuing education.
  16. Have facility in using experiential learning as a resource for reflection.