For some time now I’ve been meaning to share my observations on having two summer interns with our youth ministry. There is a long history of a summer internship program at my current ministry, and I inherited this program when I arrived. In the past, I supervised various workers, but not in a ministry or internship context. I’d say this summer went well–though, of course, next summer will be better. It helped that I had two of the most amazing people as youth ministry interns.
Most of what I’m about to say can be found elsewhere, but these are things that I found helpful or that I observed over the course of the summer.
1. Interns take more time, not less – I think it is easy to fall into the thinking that interns provide more manpower, and thus free up hours for the youth pastor. This simply isn’t true. I found that I spent more time supervising interns than if I had simply done the tasks myself. I don’t begrudge this opportunity, far from it! There are a host of reasons why a church might want an internship program, but saving time really shouldn’t be one of them.
2. Interns force you to better articulate your philosophy of ministry – As an analytical person, I have always naturally had an inclination toward thinking through why we do what we do. I also have a natural ability to articulate this. Interns ask questions, lots of them, and thereby force you to better articulate your philosophy of ministry. It makes perfect sense, since they are participating in the internship in order to learn. I spent a great deal of time in some phenomenal conversations with my interns last summer just talking about ministry, why we do things the way we do at our ministry, where we’re going, etc.
3. Interns challenge you – As many of you know, I’m not particularly into attractional youth ministry. I’ve experienced it, and I think the data clearly show that there are a host of cons that outweigh any pros. The interns and I talked about this at length over the summer, and read through Contemplative Youth Ministry. By the end of the summer, they were challenging me on this: “Calvin, if what you win them with is what you win them to, why do it this way?” “Is there a difference between entertainment and a social activity?” “If attractional youth ministry has so many obvious flaws, why do so many ministries still use it as a paradigm?” All of this questioning and seeking on their part, forced me to further refine my views and to grow alongside them.
4. Internships provide connections – Working with my two interns from last summer felt a little like establishing the kinds of connections for which colleges used to be important (and, to some extent, still are). These two individuals are going to go out an be incredible youth pastors one day. Not only will I have had a chance to speak into their development as ministers, but I fully expect that one day I will call them up asking for advice. We’ve established a connection that will continue throughout life and be a benefit to both of us.