Carol Howard Merritt has an interesting reflection on mentoring and internships at her blog this week. Reading it made me grateful that Lutherans still maintain the tradition of the internship year, even though it does indeed create financial and family hardships in our current economic climate. The alternative -- being thrown into full-time parish ministry, often alone and isolated, straight from seminary, seems to leave way too much to chance. The ELCA has tried to develop models of first-call education, but in my experience they are not well-funded or well-supported enough to be of much use.
Of course, there are alternatives to our 2-1-1 traditional system of internship. Because I didn't attend a Lutheran seminary, the "terminal internship" worked OK for me, though it still left me with another year of virtually no income. Even better, I think, are the ways that the Lilly Endowment is sponsoring Transition into Ministry programs such as the "residency" model. The gifted people I've seen pass through that model finish their residency pretty much ready for anything.
In any case, I think the lesson is clear: it takes more than education to make a pastor. It takes relationships with other clergy, and, most importantly, a congregation that is willing to learn and grow with their pastor.