Your Summer Intern Wants More
Several years ago, AT&T ran a series of commercials in which comedian Back Bennett sat with a focus group of elementary school kids. In one of these ads, he asked this curious panel if they preferred having more or less. A sweet, logical girl responds, “We want more, we want more … like, [if] you really like it, you want more.” Your youth ministry interns will want the same. They took the internship because they care about youth ministry. They want more than just a good experience; they want to be developed.
Your interactions with your interns should be motivated by a commitment to raise up the next generation of church leaders. Every youth worker has the opportunity to develop skills, character traits, and habits in their interns and to equip them to become more effective servants in God’s kingdom.
With that purpose in mind, here are three Don’ts and three Dos for your internship program. I pray you’ll avoid the disappointments and frustrations associated with the Don’ts and pursue the long-term growth and impact that can result from the Dos.
Don’t just delegate the parts of the job you don’t like.
While handing off the least enjoyable parts of your job may lighten your workload, it could hurt your intern’s development. Taking attendance, planning games, sending emails, and managing forms are important tasks in youth ministry that need to get done, but on their own, they provide an incomplete picture of a youth worker’s role while also limiting an intern’s self-discovery.
Do give interns a variety of experiences to help them discover their gifts.
This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do some of the mundane and frustrating tasks, too. But those difficult assignments should be balanced with exciting and motivating tasks. By providing your intern with a wide array of experiences, you will allow them to learn what they love and where they excel. I learned about my love of teaching when someone gave me an opportunity to teach. Your intern could make a similar discovery. You might even walk them through a Spiritual Gifts Assessment, Unique Abilities Assessment, or a Passion Survey to add to what they’re learning about themselves.
Don’t give too much freedom or too many restrictions.
Allowing your intern to do whatever he or she wants communicates, “I don’t care what you do because you don’t really matter to this ministry.” Conversely, dictating their every move says, “I don’t trust you to get anything done.” We give trust to the level that we give responsibility, and an intern lacking real responsibility has no opportunity to make decisions that could lead to success, failure, and personal growth.
Do set clear expectations with defined responsibilities.
Consider giving your intern an opportunity to design a teaching schedule, recruit adult volunteers, or develop a growth plan for individual students. Once you’ve decided on their responsibilities, write up a job description that states your expectations in each area. Writing out these expectations should allow you to encourage and evaluate your intern’s progress in specific areas throughout the summer.
Don’t make experience the only teacher.
Experience can be a good teacher, but only when it’s paired with intentional training. Think about the papers you wrote in college. The act of writing a paper gave you good writing experience, but it was the feedback and criticism of your professor that actually strengthened and improved your writing. Similarly, your intern will gain a great deal of knowledge through their experiences, but without your training and mentoring, your intern won’t be able to process their experiences, hone their skills, or apply their learning in various contexts.
Do create a growth plan for your intern.
A growth plan puts you in the driver’s seat of your intern’s development. What does a growth plan look like? Here’s the breakdown:
- Take time to create a profile of your intern. List information about their background, interests, strengths, weaknesses, burdens, and goals.
- Then use that profile to determine three or four target growth areas. These could be hard skills (such as facilitating discussions), character traits (such as perseverance), or habits (such as regular prayer and Bible study). Each target growth area should have a corresponding goal and two or three growth steps.
- A goal is your measurement of success. For example, if you want to see your intern grow as a facilitator, you might choose to measure success by how many students engage in the discussions they lead or by how frequently your intern leads students to make practical applications.
- A growth step is a way to encourage growth in each particular area. You could encourage growth in the character trait of perseverance by challenging your intern to pray daily for three students.
Create your growth plan alongside your intern to give them ownership of their development. Set aside a regular time to evaluate together their progress toward their goals. And LeaderTreks has designed a tool to help. Check out the Internship Blueprint below.
Developing your intern in these ways will require more of your time, energy, and investment, but the more you give to your intern, the more they’ll give to your students.
Your intern will start to duplicate your teaching and mentoring in their relationships with students. They’ll explore students’ interests and passions, create environments of challenge for students, and look for areas to grow students in their faith. Give your intern a variety of experiences, entrust them with real responsibility, be intentional about guiding their growth, and you’ll equip them to invest in your students.
About the Author
Taryn Phiri grew up in various states across the East Coast and the Midwest, but now she and her husband, Jerry, are happy to call Glendale Heights, IL their home. After studying International Development at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, Taryn served at LeaderTreks for many years as a trip leader and training coordinator…. Read More