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5 Ways to Care for Youth Ministry Interns

Saddleback’s intern coordinator held a training last week to help people better understand and use their interns in a church environment. One of the big needs of an intern, really any employee, honestly, is their care and intentional development. Here are some things to consider as you ask yourself what the role of your intern is on your team and how to give them the most growing and meaningful experience possible. We tell our interns in orientation that their internship is not primarily about getting tasks done, but about God shaping them through the process. Here are some ways that you, as you mange interns or launch an intern ministry in your youth group, can maximize your intern’s experience:

  1. Get to know their heart and hear their dreams. Take the time (ideally, weekly!) to get to know your intern’s heart and invest in them on a personal level. This means that you must be available to them, which takes intentionality. They are here because they want to grow in specific areas. Check-in on them and continually ask them what they want to learn. Let them borrow books, point them toward a conference or podcast, develop personal goals together, or help them connect with a pastor who can pour into them over coffee. Ask yourself, “What can I  do to help facilitate their growth?”
  2. Help them make some initial relational connections. Sometimes, interns are overwhelmed being at our church and don’t know where to start. Talk to them about finding a small group, going to college ministry, going to services or meeting someone on staff for coffee once a week. They might feel intimidated to ask a busy pastor for their time, so step in—be an advocate for your intern and help them build relationships here.
  3. Give them meaningful tasks. Interns are here to learn and lead, not to do and file. Delegating and empowering are two of our values, and we need to learn to give meaningful responsibilities to our interns. They did not sign up to do administrative-level work. Depending on your evaluation of their capacity, delegate purposeful tasks that will challenge them. We all make copies and lick envelopes sometimes, but that is not the bulk of what an intern’s experience should look like here.
  4. Point them to church CLASSES, events and trainings. Let interns know about classes, serving opportunities and retreats, but you can also encourage them to take advantage of all the teachings and trainings the church has to offer. This will expose them to other ministries that they wouldn’t see otherwise and will greatly enrich their experience here.
  5. Make intern trainings a priority. Monthly intern trainings are a requirement at our church and the Internship Program, and the only time each month that interns all come together to network and receive leadership and Purpose-Driven training together. Make every opportunity available for your intern to make the trainings. They will notice the level of support to the program and to their personal experience when you make the trainings a priority for them and encourage them to be there.  
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jgriffin@churchleaders.com'
Josh Griffin is high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co-counder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and host of the Youth Ministry Garage Podcast. He's authored more than 20 youth ministry resources and is the author of "99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders" with Doug Fields. Josh is a father of 4 who speaks a little, podcasts a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot. You can find him at DownloadYouthMinistry.com!