Summer Interns: Dream or Drain?

By Frank Newburn March 16, 2017

Summer youth ministry internships are something of a high risk, high reward enterprise. Interns get a glimpse of what youth ministry looks like on a day-to-day basis. Students have someone new to connect with and learn from. And full-time youth leaders get to share the wisdom they’ve gained from their tenure in ministry. But recruiting and training interns presents a series of challenges. Youth pastors risk hiring the wrong intern or being overwhelmed by the demands of creating a transformational training program. Use these steps to establish a clear recruiting strategy and a solid training program that you can use for years to come.

1. Recruit

Your first task is to recruit the right intern for your ministry. Look for former students who have expressed an interest in going into full-time ministry. Consider students who have served as part of your student leadership team; they’ll come in familiar with your ministry context and with a useful set of skills already in place. You can also approach other youth pastors about potential interns or advertise your internship at nearby colleges. An intern who is unfamiliar with your ministry may have a fresh perspective that could help drive innovation. Interview potential interns to learn who they are, where they see God leading them, and how they might mesh with your current ministry culture.

2. Set expectations

The next step is to set clear expectations. I’m very upfront with my interns that their focus will not be getting me coffee or making photocopies for me—I want them to know they’ll have real hands-on experience leading a youth ministry. Before the internship starts, go over your goals and expectations. Outlining these things at the beginning of the internship helps interns understand what they’re getting into and brings direction to their experience. What do you expect from your interns? What are your goals for them? Ask about their goals and expectations. What do they want to accomplish and learn? What do they expect from you? What do they expect from their time with your church staff and the students in your ministry? Consider providing a week-by-week calendar of what you hope to accomplish during the internship, but make sure it’s flexible and allows for modifications and adjustments.

“Giving your intern real hands-on experience will give them the tools they need for future ministry.”

3. Use experience to train

Giving your intern real hands-on experience will give them the tools they need for future ministry. Walk your interns through assessments to help them better understand how they’re gifted and how to effectively use those gifts in youth ministry. Allow your interns to lead in front during their time with you. Have them make announcements and teach in both large group and small group contexts. If mentoring is something your intern is passionate about, help them connect with a few students to mentor. Challenge your intern to develop their own lessons, create a youth budget, develop discipleship strategies, lead aspects of the mission trip, or shadow other members of your church staff. Spend some time each week evaluating how the experience is going so you can pinpoint areas of growth and areas to continue to develop.

Interns can be a win-win for everyone involved, but it’s important to know how best to recruit and train the interns under your watch. Be diligent in your recruiting process, agree upon a clear set of goals and expectations, and give your intern practical experiences and tools to add to their training. If done right, an internship can be a life-changing experience for the intern, for you, and for your students.

This post was originally posted on Youth Specialities Blog. 

Frank Newburn

About the Author

Frank Newburn

Frank Newburn is a husband and father of three. He has been the youth director for Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Illinois since 2006. Before that Frank worked for LeaderTreks as a Leadership Specialist and Trip Leader. His ministry focuses include mentoring and discipleship, student leadership, and missions. He has over 25 years of youth […]

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