As a Pastor of a local church, any help that we can get for our services or ministry throughout the week is incredibly important. So to have a college Intern for the entire summer can be a huge blessing to any ministry. I have worked with Summer Internship Programs for the past 13 years (5 summers at Liberty Baptist Church and 8 at Southern Hills Baptist Church) and there are a few things that I have learned along the way.
#1 – Find the Right People
I have learned that it is much easier to hire than to fire. You can save yourself a great deal of trouble by finding the right interns in the first place. Take time to interview each applicant. We have an extensive interview process not only for our staff positions but also for our summer internship positions. I have had to face too many summer interns throughout the years with extensive problems to think of this as just a mere detail. Interview, screen and choose only those people whom the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart for the position. It is better to have no person that the wrong person.
#2 – Get the Right Leader
They say that everything rises and falls on leadership. This is absolutely true for Summer Internship programs. This summer at Southern Hills we have four college interns and two high-school helpers. They need leadership. Whether you choose a current staff member or identify a leader amount your interns, this step is essential in keeping a well-oiled machine of summer ministry moving. The leader must be mature, disciplined, spiritual and absolutely loyal to your vision for the program. Take time to train him and it will save you countless hours of worry and problems later.
#3 – Expect Great Things
Don’t tell you summer interns how easy it’s going to be, how much fun they are going to have or all of the money they are going to receive. Express to your interns, during the interview process, what a difficult summer it truly will be. Let them know that this is a calling and they are expected to bring great fruit into the local church. Every year during our orientation week I teach a lesson about my expectations. I am very candid when I tell them that I expect each of them to have “people in the pews”. That they are failing as a summer intern if they are not able to get many new individuals to visit our church and several of those new folks to ultimately join our church. We set the expectations high and we are rarely disappointed.
#4 – Invest a lot of Time
I love spending time with passionate young preachers. They renew my enthusiasm for the ministry and make me want to continue in my calling. However, this is not the only reason I spend time with our interns every year. Understand why those interns came to spend their summer with you. They want to learn from you and spend time with you. If they never have time to really get to know their summer employer they are not really getting what they deserve and what they came to get. We open the summer with a BBQ at my house and spend the evening laughing, talking and getting to know the new interns. Every Friday I spend 1 1/2 hours in training sessions teaching the interns the aspects of practical ministry and answering questions about theology and trends in the modern church. I love to take our interns out to lunch one-on-one and get to know their needs and sort-of pastor them for the summer. These guys need this time with you.
#5 – Reward, Reward, Reward
Pay your staff! The Lord rewards generosity and I believe the contrary is also true. Even though they may “only” be interns, they also have financial obligations and it is important to consider this before asking them to join you for the summer. We don’t pay our interns a great deal at all but we do what we can afford. Throughout the summer we rent them a nice house or apartment that they can stay in and stock the place with food every week. We then provide a small weekly allowance for personal needs. We also give our interns a $1,500 scholarship directly applied to their school bill at the end of the summer. It’s not a lot, but the small token of our appreciation goes a long way in letting them know how much we appreciated their service.