When launching an intern program, first consider how to make this program mutually beneficial for both your church or ministry and the intern. Launching an intern program is not just about what you and your congregation have to gain from their gifts and labors, but also about how you and your congregation can invest in the spiritual nurture and development of future church leaders. Many youth workers begin this process with unrealistic expectations of student interns. Occasionally youth workers use interns to meet staffing needs that the church is unable or unwilling to fulfill. While interns may provide short-term relief, you may not have the same student intern from year to year; therefore, your ministry will struggle from this inconsistency, which often leads to stunted growth. If your focus is on nurturing and developing your interns as church leaders, your youth and your congregation or ministry will be blessed and grow in return by their spiritual gifts and works of ministry.
Next, define the key parameters of your program. Are you looking to attract college interns? Graduate interns? Will your intern program be one year, two years, or three years? Will it be for the school year , for the summer or for both? Will you restrict your search to students with specific majors? All options should be weighed carefully because there are major advantages and disadvantages to all of these models.
I have had much success working with undergraduate interns who are Youth Ministry majors during the school year. Our congregation is located twenty minutes from Eastern University and we have generally been blessed with a crop of talented potential interns from which to hire each year. Working with these interns has helped them to understand what ministry looks like over the course of the school year, preparing them for the day when they are responsible of the oversight of a similar ministry. As they serve in this way, they will grow throughout the school year into greater levels of ministry responsibility, which will be a blessing to the youth, the youth leadership and the congregation.
While the decision to hire interns for the school year has been a blessing, this decision has prevented our summer program from growing as it could if we had the ministry gifts of interns available during the summer months. Many churches hire interns for the summer and have been able to build strong summer programs. I have known college students who have had youth ministry internships in New York, Alaska, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Europe and even the Caribbean. If you are not located near a college, work to build a youth ministry intern summer program and advertise on some youth ministry websites; you may not get a huge number of solid candidates, but you will likely get one or two.
Join us next time as we discuss the nuts and bolts of intern supervision.