Supervision and practical training for PTI students after the completion of their MA studies
The 4 (BA) + 2 (MA) years of study include theoretical as well as practical training in pastoral theology. Concerning the practical part, the academic curriculum includes regular courses focusing on practical instruction already from the very first year of study, receiving increasingly more focus with the MA. Apart from the regular curriculum, the summer period also includes 4 weeks of practice in various church- related facilities (congregations, etc.) usually beside a well-established mentor. Before matriculating for the new academic year, students have to provide evidence for their participation in these summer training programs.
This being said, the academic years are naturally outbalanced in favour of acquiring the necessary theoretical basis for performing practical duties after graduation. Nonetheless, after finishing their six year study and passing the final exam as well as obtaining their MA diploma in pastoral theology, there is another transitional year which aims to introduce them more specifically, and with a clear practical focus, into the real-life environment they have been prepared for. In this practical year, they work under the tutorship of a mentor, usually a more experienced minister trained specifically for this task, who introduces them gradually into the various types of work they have to deal with during their career. Instruction is now outbalanced in favour of practice, although the idea is that mentors supervise them and help them to correlate their formerly acquired theoretical knowledge with practical experiences.
Moreover, fresh graduates having their first year of mentorship meet twice a year for a weekly seminar (in the autumn and in the spring period respectively) to reflect upon their activities together with other fellow students, their teachers of practical theology as well as their mentors. This threefold connection – former colleagues, former teachers and current mentors – is essential in keeping theoretical and practical training in constant correlation with each other.
For these weekly sessions students bring with them their „homework”, which usually consists of sermons, bible class notes prepared for various age groups (children, young people, etc.), congregation-building projects, as well as reports of pastoral care with concrete cases from the congregation where they serve. Teachers of PTI and trained pastors discuss these written reports with them in small workshops. In these workshops, students have the chance to present their own work, whilst fellow colleagues and group leaders reflect on the presented topics. Workshops focus on five concrete issues:
- Homiletics: workshops dealing with all kinds of sermons needed in a congregation, especially those related to particular occasions (funeral, marriage, baptism, the Lord’s Supper in hospital, in homes, with ill people, at various feasts etc.);
- Catechetics: plans and schemes for classes, teaching Bible in schools, teaching the Catechism for youth and adult bible study groups;
- Liturgy: liturgical plans for general and special occasions;
- Pastoral care and counselling: students bring written reports, diaries of dialogues they held with members of their congregation;
- Church administration: workshops focused upon understanding the church as an organisation and as a system, including bookkeeping, canon law, log-books and registers; working with church elders (presbyters) and other church leaders.
At the end of the workshops an evaluation takes place where the problems are summarised. The aim is to draw the necessary conclusions in at least four directions.
- This is an excellent feedback for the PTI to see how pastoral training can be better correlated with the real working environment of its future graduates.
- Mentors receive feedback on how they can perform even better in their tutorial work in the future.
- Students receive feedback on what can further be improved in their activity. It is also important that during such meetings they are supported psychologically to overcome the first shocks, their embarrassment in coping with situations which seem to overwhelm them, or – more positively – they can share their joy with others if they wish so.
- Church leaders and responsible personnel received the necessary information to revise the legal and administrative frames within which the new employees can perform even better to the benefit of the church and its institutions.
After completing their seventh year, fresh graduates are visited by a committee which examines them in their concrete locations, focusing on how they implement in practice what they have been instructed for. Following this visit, they undergo an examination before a mixed committee formed by the deputy bishops of the churches, other church leaders responsible for pastoral training, as well as teachers of the PTI specialised in practical theology. Graduates must bring in written essays and reports and must be able to openly defend their reports, reflect upon their work including the goals they had set forth for the coming years.
Passing this double exam in the congregation and at the PTI entitles them to become regularly ordained ministers in the church with full rights. From this moment onwards they can be invited and elected by any congregation or by any church-related institution.
Some of the newly ordained ministers usually spend their first two years of work as vicars in larger congregations beside a more experienced colleague. Nonetheless, learning does not stop here, but continues with various types of workshops and seminars organised by the church (and by its institute for advanced pastoral training) on regular occasions.