I am currently in my sixth year of full-time student ministry. It’s been a great first six years and I’m grateful for all the ministry God has allowed me to be a part of thus far. For the last two and a half years I’ve had the privilege of having some interns on my team. It’s been a blast working with them and they have brought a lot of needed energy and support to our student ministry. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned so far in my short time of working with interns. I hope these things help you as you work with them as well.
Listen to them. Interns join your team because they want to learn and gain experience. It’s appropriate then for them listen to us as we lead and direct them. Interns should have a teachable spirit and always be open to our guidance, instruction, and even correction. However, how many times do we actually stop talking and do the listening? I’ve learned in my short time of working with interns that they often bring a lot of great ideas to the table. These are usually ideas that I should listen to and even consider. There has been numerous times where my interns have put an idea before me and my knee jerk reaction was to push back. However, I’m learning that’s an unwise thing to do. Instead, I should listen and consider.
Don’t be afraid to implement their ideas. As I said before, we should listen and consider when our interns bring us an idea. If their idea is a good one and we have decided it’s something we should do then we got to take the step and actually do it. It’s ok that’s it not “your idea.” In fact, have the integrity and humility to admit that and even make it known this was their idea. Leadership isn’t always about having “the idea.” Many times we as leaders need to get the right people on our team and empower them and their ideas.
Give them ownership. I stated earlier that interns join your team to learn and gain experience. The best way for them to do that is not to read books or just sit back watch you lead. Those things can be helpful but the best way for an intern to learn and gain experience is through them actually doing something. This is why we must give them ownership over things in our ministry. This should be a mix of random things but also something that can be all theirs. Let me explain how this looks in our ministry. First, my interns do a bunch of random stuff. It may be teaching one week and then the next week they could be creating graphics. The beauty of student ministry (or church ministry in general) is it’s the type of environment where interns can get experience doing a lot of different things. However, we also give our interns something that is all theirs to run with. For our ministry that is a Sunday morning worship option for middle school students called Tank Time. Our interns run it week in and week out. They come up with the ideas for games, teaching, and other elements. I obviously give oversight to it but I try and stay hands off so they can run with it. Whatever you do just give your interns ownership. This will help them gain the experience they are looking for.
Let them make mistakes. Another way they can learn and gain experience is through making mistakes. There has been times I could have stopped an intern from making a mistake but I let them move forward and make the mistake so they can have the experience of failing and learning from it. This isn’t an easy thing to do. As leaders we want things to be done right and smooth but sometimes we need to be ok with something going wrong for the sake of learning and growing. I’m not suggesting we do this without discernment. There are times and some situations we need to stop our interns from making a mistakes. There are some things we have to not let happen. This is where knowing your own context and knowing what things must go smooth and what things can go wrong and it still be ok. Use discernment but at the end of the day give your interns space to fail. They may not like it but it will help them.
Push them. Interns are usually worked harder then they would wish. However, that’s part of them gaining experience. They need to be pushed. However, this doesn’t mean just being pushed to work long days and hours. This also means being pushed to do new things and things they may not be comfortable with. This also includes them doing things outside their passion and gifting. Interns need to be pushed. That is part of them growing and learning.
Working with interns is fun. If you’re in student ministry I hope you have a team of either paid staff or volunteer surrounding you. In addition to those people I hope you have the chance to work with some interns. They will bring an element to your team that is not only fun but very beneficial.
For the past four years I have been highly involved at The Grove, student ministry at my home church, Union Grove Baptist. Because my school requires us to have a Christian service on a weekly basis I have had to not just volunteer, but have specific roles at The Grove. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities God has given me at The Grove over the past four years. Under the prior student pastor, Jeremy Pollard, I was able to run media/tech, be a small group leader, and other random things. Under the new student pastor, Josh Evans, I have got to run media/tech again, be a small group leader again, and do many more random things. I even had the chance to intern at The Grove for a few months! The Grove is a place where I have grown spiritually and also have grown in my love and passion for student ministry. I have got to apply the stuff I was learning in my student ministry classes straight to my ministry at The Grove.
The time has come for me to move on from The Grove. I have two internships to fulfill, student ministry and pastoral, to complete my degree at PBC. The student ministry one I am starting in a few days in York, PA under student pastor Brett Ayers. The pastoral one I will start at the end of August in Medina, OH under pastor Dan Jarvis. I am excited about the new opportunities that are ahead, but it is bittersweet leaving The Grove. I will always love, pray, and remember The Grove as a special place for me and a place God has used in my life and short ministry experience so far. To all the student, leaders, and my friends at The Grove, I love each and every one of you and stay strong in the Lord!
If you follow my on Twitter my name has always been @groveaustin due to my involvement at The Grove. Because I will be an intern in two places over the summer and fall I am changing my Twitter name to @internaustin. Follow me!
Many people have been asking me what is next for me since I am finishing up college soon. I have one word to answer those questions…opportunities. God has been giving me so many opportunities in the past few months along with opportunities for the near future. I had the opportunity to preach my senior sermon in chapel at Piedmont Baptist College. Then my pastor asked me to preach that same sermon that evening in the Wednesday night service at Union Grove Baptist Church. A few weeks later I was privileged to speak at a Valentines banquet at Trinity Friends Church. All three of those opportunities were great experiences and was blessed to have the privilege to preach God’s Word. I’m praying and hoping the Lord will open up more doors for me to preach and minister in the months to come.
So, what’s next for me? Well the Lord has given me two great opportunities for the next year. I have to complete two internships before I can graduate and the Lord has given me the opportunity to have those each of those interns in two great churches. First, this summer I will be a youth ministry intern at Church of the Open Door in York, PA. I will be working under the youth pastor Brett Ayers and will be doing tons of different things. I’m excited about this opportunity because I know God has called me to be a youth pastor and this will be a great chance for me to serve under a great youth pastor and learn more about ministering to teens. I have never been to Pennsylvania so I’m excited to spend my summer in a new place at a great church. Secondly, I will be a pastoral intern at Weymouth Community Church in Medina, OH next fall. I will come home for a short time after spending my summer in PA and then will head to OH to spend the fall as a pastoral intern at Weymouth Community Church. I will be serving under the lead pastor Dan Jarvis and will be insisting him in pastoral duties and serving the church. This is my girlfriends home church so that is a plus, but I have had a chance to attend this church many times and I love the community and what God is doing there. This church is doing great things and pushing towards the future with the goal of being a bigger, better, and stronger church for God. I’m excited to get to spend my fall there and be a part of what God is doing.
So that is it. I will be completely done with my degree from Piedmont Baptist College next December after I complete these two interns. I will have earned my bachelors degree in Christian MInistries with a minor in student ministry and pastoral ministry. I am praying and preparing to work on my masters in the near future. I am still not totally sure what I want to earn my masters in, but I am leaning toward Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School to earn a masters in christian leadership or discipleship ministries.
I would appreciate your prayers and support as I enter into the next year of internships and finishing up my time at Piedmont Baptist College. I am thankful and blessed to have the family, friends, church, and school that God has put around me, but above all I am thankful for Christ and God allowing me to serve Him!