The Integrative and Field-based Education (IFE) Program at Union aims to foster learning communities that model and teach students ways of doing, being and thinking that are integral to their vision of ministerial identity and practice.  It cultivates ministerial imagination, which is about integrating knowledge, skill, moral integrity, religious traditions, and religious commitments in ministerial practice.  It is integrative, embodied, and relational. This is at the heart of professional formation.  As such, in partnership with teaching churches and agencies, the IFE Program provides learning communities that hone critical reflection on practice and theology, models for ministry, the examination of social issues related to ministry, and development of professional identity and skills. It models ways of doing, being, and thinking.

During field education, students will engage in “intentional, disciplined, and sustained cultivation of the imaginative capacity for engaging in complex and rich professional practice.”  This imaginative capacity involves: a) knowing the Scriptures/sacred texts and tradition(s) deeply, and how to interpret them in contemporary life, b) developing “an accurate sense of what makes human beings tick,” c) possessing “a complex understanding of how congregations and other institutions actually work” and, d) having both “a clear awareness and an analytical understanding of the world.”  Through the field-education process, students will learn to integrate these four practices with intentional spiritual/faith practices.  Students will practice pastoral intelligence.[1]


Field Education involves three apprenticeships: an intellectual or cognitive apprenticeship, a practical apprenticeship and an apprenticeship of formation. These apprenticeships involve different types of knowledge: intellectual and cognitive that a student obtains in classroom study, practical knowledge—skills learned by engaging in the actual activities of ministerial practice—and knowledge of oneself in the formation of one’s professional identity and ethics.[2]  These three apprenticeships are integrated in field education through two experiences: 

•          Supervised work in a ministerial field site, and

•          Facilitated work in a weekly integrative peer-group seminar.


Together, these experiences make up field-based learning.  The learning that occurs is facilitated through intentional, sustained practices such as theological reflection, weekly supervision, a learning agreement, and contextual field site of the student's field site.  It is through these practices that fieldwork becomes field education.

[1] Dykstra, 2-3, 15; Craig Dykstra, “Pastoral and Ecclesial Imagination” in For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education and Christian Ministry, Dorothy C. Bass and Craig Dykstra, eds. Grand Rapids: Eerdsman, 2008, pp.41-61.
[2] Charles R. Foster, et.al. Educating Clergy: Teaching Practices and Pastoral Imagination.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006, pp. 5-10.