Launching an Intern Program

 


 

 

 

 

Before you begin a youth ministry internship program there are a few things you need to consider first. Over the years, I have seen many unhealthy intern programs whose only reason for existence was to find an inexpensive way to meet a need in the church. I have witnessed churches start intern programs because they thought an intern could do the job of a youth pastor.

I really believe there should be only one motivation for launching an internship program in your youth ministry and that driving force is that you personally have a passion to teach the art of youth ministry to the next generation of youth pastors. Before you begin developing an intern program, ask yourself the following questions:  “What is my motivation for doing this? Do I have a passion for teaching? Or am I just looking for someone to make Kool-Aid? Do I desire to pour Christ into another person? Or am I just looking for someone to setup chairs? Do I have enough spiritual fortitude to show someone how to stay connected to Christ in this combat we call youth ministry, or am I just looking for someone to run another trip?”

You should also consider if you even have enough time to supervise an intern. I have found over the last 9 years and the last nine interns that the time you put into them is what you get out of them. If you have an intern who is mature and if you put 10 hours a week into them, you will probably get about 10 hours of good ministry back from them; for other interns who might have a greater learning curve, you may still put 10 hours into them, however, you might only receive few hours of quality ministry in return.

Next, you should consider if your church and the families in your youth ministry are ready for a youth intern. Interns come to your church to learn, understand they will make mistakes, they will communicate inadequately, and yes sometimes they will even be a bit of headache. Ask yourself is my church ready to be an environment that will promote learning for a student intern?  If your church culture is toxic right now it might be a good idea to delay starting a program until that clears up.

There are many benefits to launching an intern program. For example by hiring an intern or two, you have a greater diversity of gifts and interests. One of the things we always try to do is hire a female intern. As a male youth pastor it is much better if I can diversify my team by hiring a female intern. The girls in my youth program are better able to relate to a female intern (this does not get you off the hook from trying- I once listened to an hour-long program on ballet, because one of my girls  loves ballet… Hi, Jess). Student interns bring a diversity of gifts and interests to your program.   Interns also help move some of the burden around. I believe you should allow interns to teach as much as possible. In general, one of our interns does a weekly teaching. This is one less burden for me, I do not have to prep another lesson, however, I do have talk about the teaching with them, make sure they have planned it out well, check to make sure it is aligned theologically with our church’s values, and in general supervise them while they implement the lesson. Finally, working with interns helps to sharpen your own teaching skills. Interns force you to be more reflective about what you do; they often ask really good but difficult questions.

There are some difficulties with hiring an intern. One of the biggest difficulties, (and you will notice this immediately) is that interns are often immature. That is why they are interns; they are exploring a career or a calling to fulltime ministry. Often interns are unprepared for all the responsibility they have because they have not had the experience of leading a ministry program. I have had my share of immature interns who displayed a litany of unprofessional behaviors such as not preparing adequately or not turning things in on time. I even had one not show up for work because it was raining too hard! The other difficulty with college interns is they are seasonal employees. By the time you get them fully trained, they are often walking across a graduation stage. However, you can be assured that you have made a difference in the life of that student intern. I am so thankful for the leaders that choose to pour into me as a college student (Geoff, Walt, Brenda, Bev, Brian, College Hill Presbyterian you guys all rock). Next time we will discuss what a healthy youth intern program looks like.

 

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