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How to Develop an Intern Program

Kids have another significant adult to whom they can relate. Marty worked on staff more than two years ago, but she still has strong relationships with some of the youth she worked with. It’s fulfilling to see how fruit has grown in these relationships.

Interns raise up other leaders. Because of our interns’ investment in kids, some of the youth are now leaders within the church and will be there in years to come. Some want to go into missions, youth ministry and preaching because of our interns. Some even want to be interns! In this way, not only is the intern equipped to do ministry, but others also are equipped. The intern can discover his or her vocational calling. Because the intern is being trained for a specific area of ministry, it’s obvious this person is open to ministry as a vocation. The internship offers the intern guidance. If he or she is not cut out for the work, it’s usually discovered during this time so other possibilities can be pursued.

Developing an Intern Program: If you’re considering an internship as a way to extend your youth ministry, here are some steps to take:

  1. Go to your church board and pastor with a specific proposal. Be sure to think through your plan prior to your presentation, including details about these areas:

• Purpose: What kind of ministry do you want to develop?

• Time frame and cost: Be specific. “We would like ______________ to work for the summer as youth intern. Beginning June 15 and ending Aug. 15, the intern would be employed at a salary of _______________.” Some churches start with a paid summer intern and eventually move to a year-long commitment. You also can add a non-paid intern later.

• Requirements: Include such specifics as commitment to Christ, church affiliation, age, level of education and availability.

• Job description: The goal is not to have an intern tell you what he or she wants, but rather for the intern to fit into your designed program. So you must have identified your needs before the person is hired. If one need is to establish mission priorities, for example, then list “mission projects” as one of the intern’s responsibilities. A typical job description might look something like this:

o The intern will spend five to six hours per week with the youth pastor in devotions, programming, dialogue and prayer.

o The intern will work 40 hours a week and should take one full day off.

o The intern will lead the Wednesday night junior high meetings with the help of volunteer staff.

o The intern will disciple a group of high school freshmen.

o The intern is responsible to the youth pastor. The church board also requires the intern to be at the August meeting for an evaluation.

o The intern will read a specified list of books (provided by the youth pastor) about youth ministry, as well as present a paper by July 1 clarifying his or her strategy for reaching our goals.

As you present your proposal, be prepared to hear, “We don’t have the need right now.” In this regard, an observation by Gordon MacDonald is helpful: “A growing congregation has somehow made a decision that it will project a ministry to its people built not on the present, but the future. This means that it builds structures, hires pastoral staff and set in motion programs based on anticipated growth. To program on the basis of actual growth is always to be at least one to two years behind the momentum. Unfortunately, most churches wait, for example, to hire a minister to youth until the youth have arrived, perhaps growing up through the ranks of preschool and children’s department.” Building an intern program should be based on anticipated growth.

2. Find the intern. This admittedly is not an easy task. Some churches look all over the country for the “right” person. Our philosophy has been to raise someone from within the local church rather than search outside. We call it “grooming our own.” If this isn’t possible, then we advise looking for someone within the community. Here are some characteristics to look for:

• Faithfulness: Is this person committed to the cause and Person of Christ? Is he or she committed to live and model the Christian life? Is he or she faithful in small things? Is he or she committed to the local church? What about his or her commitment to youth? The church staff? Faithfulness is imperative for spiritual service (Luke 16:10-12).

• Availability: Is the person available to young people and their needs? Can they discern between the important and the urgent?

• Teachability: Most interns are “wet behind the ears” in ministry experience. Teachable people are successful in ministry. Is the candidate a “know it all”? If so, that person won’t work. The teachable intern is humble, open to change and willing to learn from failure. Offer the intern freedom with responsibility and accountability. Once you’ve hired someone, allow the person to do the job! If he or she is given the area of contact work on the high school campus, allow the freedom to perform that task without constant scrutiny. Most interns are inexperienced and insecure. A pushy supervisor who hovers constantly will increase the intern’s anxiety. Establish boundaries to work within, then let him or her fly.