I’ve worked with a lot of interns over the past 18 years. Internships are critical, because they allow people to experience and engage with the environment and responsibilities of the area they are considering vocationally. I handle internships differently than most people I know, but that’s not to say my way is correct. That said, I obviously have reasons for my approach. Here are a few things I do:
- I give them as broad of an exposure as possible. I encourage them to “just be around” our team and staff as much as possible. Practically speaking, this means I do not narrow their experience to a specific area of ministry. And, I don’t assign them any tasks. Of course there is no shortage of things to be done and there are always things they can help our staff with, but I want our interns to understand our culture and what it’s like to be a part of a team of people working together. So, although they engage in ministry in different areas as needs pop up, I do not want them to focus on just one area.
- They can join in on and question anything. Of course there are times when confidentiality limits this, but our interns are invited to join me on any given day for meetings or just working beside me in a coffee shop. They are invited to sermon and staff meetings.They can sit in on elder meetings. They know the financials of our church and have a voice into all of what I just mentioned.
- I make sure their time is focused on people versus task. Too often internships are about grunt work. I understand we all need to be willing and able to do the harder work of ministry. But I’ve found people are more apt to jump into those areas when they aren’t treated like a grunt worker.
I’ve found this broadened approach helps accomplish a few things:
- Interns learn what it actually looks like to work among a church staff versus just one specific area and with one individual/team.
- Interns are naturally forced to really figure out who they are and how they fit into a team.
- Interns gain skills in seeing needs that they wouldn’t necessarily have seen if we assigned them narrowed tasks.
The bottom line is this: internships in ministry should be focused on people versus tasks.
Here are a few observations of people in an intern “stage” of life:
- They tend to know who they want to be more than they know who they are.
- They usually know the types of things they would want to do more than they are in-tune with how God naturally uses them in the lives of people.
- There is often more of a pursuit of a position than a ministry – this is a positional pursuit versus the pursuit of people.This, of course, is not universal but is pretty normal.
Anyway, just a few “random” thoughts…