Working With Interns

rawpixel-com-310778I 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.

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3 Leadership Lessons from Moses

One of my favorite things to do is study and talk about Biblical leadership. I believe that everyone has the potential to be a Biblical leader. I shared this simple thought with a group of men this past Sunday. These were not your average church guys or men gathered for a Bible study, these were men inside the Medina County Jail. I went to the jail to preach God’s Word to these men and my message could have been summed up in this one though: Everyone has the potential to be a Biblical leader. I believe on major reason we don’t always believe that truth is because we allow our past and our mistakes keep us from moving forward as leaders. Certainly this is what these men felt when they were listening to me preach this message while inside a jail. I believe the person who has made terrible mistakes and been through many trails is a great candidate to be a great leader of God. Charles Swindoll said, “No one deserves the right to lead without first preserving through pain, heartache, and failure.

Maybe you feel that way. How could you be a Biblical leader with your past? I want to remind you, just as I did the men in the jail, that some of the greatest leaders in the Bible could have easily used the excuse of their past. One of these leaders is Moses. I want to share with you three leadership lessons we see from the early life of Moses:

1. Leaders have a past full of mistakes. In Exodus 2:12 we read that Moses murdered a man and then buried him in the sand! Think about that compared to your past mistakes. If God can forgive and use Moses, a murder, in leadership, why couldn’t He use you? We all have a past full of mistakes, but we must not allow that past to keep us from doing what God calls us to do. Jeremy Hales, camp director at Skyview Ranch, says, “The rear view mirror is smaller that the front window.” It’s easy to look in the rear view mirror of our life and see the mistakes behind us, but the front window is huge and is a full-view of what God has for us in the future. Again, Moses murdered someone and God used him; God can use you!

2. Leaders must go through the wilderness. The best leaders in the world have been through the wilderness. After Moses killed a man, he ran (Exodus 2:15) to the land of Midian, which was basically a wilderness. God had two purposes for the wilderness for Moses: to punish him for his sin and to teach him lessons for the future. This is how God disciplines His children. We see this twofold purpose in Hebrews 12:5-11. In this passage we see that God disciplines us because He loves us just as a good father disciplines his children. God is holy and must punish sin. Ultimately, He did this through His Son who bore God’s wrath for our sins. But even as Christians, God has to chasten us and correct us when we sin. What we see in this Hebrews passage is that even as God does that, He also has another purpose in mind: to train us and to make us more holy (Hebrews 12:10-11). Before you can be a leader, God has to train you and sometimes that training comes through a wilderness. Currently I am experience that. I am waiting and praying for God to open a door for my first full-time ministry job, but I am having to go through the wilderness of discouragement, learning to trust God, and patience on Him. Click here to view a post I wrote awhile back on this subject.

3. Leaders have a holy calling. I believe we sometimes don’t fully understand just how special and awesome it is to know God has called you into leadership of some type for Him! In Exodus 3:1-6 we read that God showed up to call Moses from within a burning bush! God then tells Moses to take of his shoes because the ground he was standing on was holy. When God calls you to do something for Him, it’s a holy thing! Don’t take lightly the calling of God on your life.

I hope these three leadership lessons from the early life of Moses are an encouragement to you. Remember, God can forgive you and use you! You may have to go through the wilderness to get there, but the calling of God on your life is a holy thing!

Related post:
3 Leadership Lessons from Jude
3 Leadership Lessons from Jeremiah
3 Ways to Handle Personal Sin as a Leader 

Top 10 Preaching Mistakes

David Murray, professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, posted a great blog about the top ten mistakes he sees preachers make. I wanted to share his thoughts on my blog because this list helped me identity a few mistakes I often make. We all can learn to be better preachers so let this list help you get better.

It’s one of my privileges to hear many beginning preachers preach their first sermon. Sometimes, it’s stunning how God has gifted a person and you hope Seminary doesn’t spoil them! Usually, however, first sermons confirm the need for much further training. As I’ve listened over the years to students begin to preach, I’ve noticed the same mistakes arising again and again, the same mistakes that we all fall into from time to time. The ten most common are:

1. Cramming: Squeezing all you have ever studied about the Bible over the years into 30 minutes.

2. Skimming: Taking too many verses and simply skimming over the surface of the text, teaching nothing that someone with average intelligence would not themselves have got from the text.

3. Floating: The preacher says many things that relate to the text, floating or hovering above the text, but fails to show how they are anchored in the text.

4. Proof-texting: Including lots and lots of texts from all over the Bible, and sometimes diverting hearers by expounding the proof texts as much as the sermon text.

5. Quoting: Too many quotes from commentators, theologians, and other preachers from the past and the present.

6. Lecturing: It’s difficult to define the difference between preaching and lecturing, but you know it when you see it/hear it. It’s about passion, eye-contact, persuasion, urgency, etc.

7. Assuming: Our own over-familiarity with the text results in us assuming that our hearers know the background of the text, the meaning of basic key words and concepts, etc. May also result in Mach 7 preaching speeds. And don’t assume your hearers are all converted either.

8. Confusing: Hearers are left confused usually because of a lack of structure or too complicated a structure (main points, sub-points, etc.); or sometimes there is a good structure, but it’s not sufficiently highlighted and emphasized so that hearers know where they’ve been, where they are, and where they are going.

9. Spraying: Lots and lots of data, but no single dominant thought; it’s the difference between a shotgun and a rifle.

10. Complicating: Instead of explaining the text, a preacher can actually make it more obscure. Usually involves words too big, sentences too long, concepts too abstract, language too philosophical/theological.

Related post on preaching: Three Things You Must do Well When You Preach