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.

Youth Group vs. Football

I am so thankful for the youth ministry training I have been getting from my school, Piedmont Baptist College. With all the youth ministry classes I have already taken and all the experiences I have had working in youth ministry so far I’m starting to get a deeper conviction that youth ministry in the world today needs to take it up a notch. Everyday I am amazed at all the stuff that is being thrown into the hands and life’s of students of all ages. With all of the new gadgets, sports, etc. that is being thrown at our students, where is the youth ministry at during all this. I feel as though students have a million voices pulling them from music, tv, computers, cell phones, sports and youth ministry is being drowned out by all of that. I am not saying that youth ministry isn’t being another voice, but that our voice is not even close to the level that all that other stuff is. Why don’t youth ministry at least level out with those things and be an equal voice? Or better yet, why not push that youth ministry is the loudest voice? We do have the life changing Gospel that students need and want. I am not saying that youth ministry should become all about entertainment and should “dumb down” its message to be like all the other voices. But we should make sure we are doing are very best at making youth ministry a major voice in the life’s of students. These thoughts have been racing through my mind the past few days because of a conversation I had with a young boy the other day. I will tell you about it.

On Tuesday I had an opportunity to go ice skating with the youth group of the church I will be interning at next fall, Weymouth Community Church. I have been in Ohio for the past week spending Christmas with my girlfriend and her family and she goes to this church. We went to this ice skating event because her little brother is in the youth group and it was a good time for me to connect more with the church and meet some of the students. I introduced myself to a young boy names Josh. After a few minutes I realized this kid loved one thing, football. He plays it, watches it, reads about it, and pretty much live football. I must admit he was a genius when it came to anything about football. I enjoyed talking to him about football and about his favorite team. Then I asked about youth group. I asked if he liked it and he replied with a very excited yes! I could tell he enjoyed youth group and I know the youth pastor there is doing a great job. But then Josh said something to me I will never forget. He said, “I like it, but it is not as fun as football and scouts.” I was speechless for a second and let what he said sink in. After I talked to him a little more he went off and continued ice skating. I could not get his statement out of my head. All I could, and still, can think about is youth ministry, not putting down that churches youth ministry but talking about youth ministry in a whole, is losing the battle against football and other recreational activities. Josh said it plain and simple, he enjoys, as with many other students, football rather than youth group. What does football and other activities like that have that is pulling students right and left, but we can’t seem to get them to enjoy youth group or even get them there? Here are three things I see that football and other activities like that have that students enjoy:

Friendships-They enjoy playing football because they get to hang out with their friends. They get to practice daily with their friends on their team and get to play in games with them. Simply put, they enjoy football because they get to be with their friends.

Excitement-Give students something to get excited about and they will love it. Who would argue for most youth boys football is awesome. Getting to play it is even better. The excitement that is around students sports is high and of course students, and parents, love it!

Ownership-I believe this is the biggest reasons students love football and other sports. Because they don’t just come and watch, but they get to play and be involved.

I believe those three areas, as strong as they are in football and other activities for students, are weak in our youth groups across the world. Out of the the friendships tend to be ok, but the friendships tend to be shallow and weak. We do not push excitement, but insist that too much excitement is not Biblical, but we need to make youth group one of the most exciting things ever in a student’s life. Lastly, ownership is very low in our youth groups. Students will continue to come and enjoy our youth groups if we give them ownership. Let them lead the praise band and be in the band, let them run media and sound, let them lead games and let them be highly involved.

After my conversation with Josh these are just a few thoughts that have been running through my mind. Why should we not try to make youth group the most exciting, high energy, fun time that student’s experience weekly? We can’t we provide activities that promote healthy friendships? Why don’t we allow our students to have ownership and let it be their youth group? I’m not saying we sacrifice good Bible teaching to our students, but we make make our youth groups top notch and much better to compete with the other voices so that the Bible and the Scriptures are being heard by our students? You might disagree and I might have not made much sense throughout this post, but God has been giving me a deeper and greater passion for youth ministry over the past few months.