Internships - Preparations & Beginnings

Keys - A Metaphor

If you pay someone to clean a large building with a diversity of locks—let’s get crazy and picture a church building, eh?—you have to give them the keys to all those locks. Otherwise, some rooms will remain uncleaned. At the same time, if you just hand someone every key to your building with no task or instruction, you’re asking for trouble.

Authority (power) must be balanced with responsibility. The responsibility of the task of cleaning is matched with the authority given when equipping with keys. It’s a simple idea, but bless the poor soul who has to learn this the hard way.

Our takeaway? Yes, an intern obviously needs the keys to the church building, youth room, office, printer room, etc. But this goes further than that. As you pour into your intern throughout the summer, keep this balance in mind when tasking and equipping them for ministry. And let us all remember that these “keys” we’re handing them aren’t just physical (Mt 16:17-20).

Personal Inventories & Assessments

One way to start off well (and begin giving your interns authority) is to walk through some personality inventories and/or gifts assessments together. Myers-Briggs & Enneagram^ have shown to be very effective in developing self-awareness in ministers. Also, testing for spiritual giftedness (testing source is your choice here) as well as something like StrengthsFinder^ should be required for all church-workers—volunteer or paid.

Doing these as a team—you, your interns and any other youth staff or volunteers you have—will bear immediate, and continuing, fruit as you work together throughout the summer. Going on a missions trip in the second week of the summer before you’ve had any real time to delegate and empower your interns? At least your team has done some self-assessing! Throughout the trip, you can frame the preparations before each day (and debriefings after) through the awareness gained from these personal inventories.

Some Closing Wisdom from Spiderman* and Solomon:

“With great power comes great responsibility” - Spider-Man (2002) and various Spider-Man comics

“Where there is no vision, people cast off restraint” - Proverbs 29:18a

^ Enneagram does cost money ($10), and there are free versions out there, but I prefer this specific version of the assessment over any of the free versions I’ve encountered. Strengthsfinder has no free alternative (that I’m aware of) and costs $20. Trust me: these are both worth it.

* Yes, I know it was said by Uncle Ben to Spiderman, but it was in the Spiderman movie/comic! (Okay, fine, I’m kinda wrong on both accounts—it was originally Voltaire, but he didn’t have web-slingers, so we’re sticking with Spidey)

Doing Internships Intentionally

When does your summer start?

Are you an astronomy nerd, and begin your summer with the solstice? (in 2019, it’s June 21st)
Is it about season-appropriate temperatures? (“When the pool is swimmable, it’s summertime!”)
Or is it when the Spring semester ends and school is out?

“Summer’s” beginning may be more subjective than you’d think, but our summer preparedness need not be affected by that uncertainty. In the context of youth ministry, there are three seasons—fall, spring and summer (four, if you count the 2-3 weeks of winter break).. It’s in that order too: fall starts the school year, spring ends it and summer is the end-of-year break, also known as eight weeks where we cram in two mission trips, a week of camp, a youth retreat, a week of VBS and seven pool parties (or maybe that’s just me?).

But, for churches that hire ministry interns, summer is also a season of intentional discipleship and ministry replication. We are bringing in young ministers and handing them the “keys to the kingdom” (cf. Mt 16:17-20). How Christlike of us!

With that in mind, the next few posts on this forum will focus on adding Intentionality to our Summer Ministry Internships.

Through the lens of intentionality, we’ll look at Preparing For and Beginning the intern’s summer off well (will be posted by June 1*). Then we will look at a Summer-long Framework around which we can build the entire internship (will be posted by June 15). Lastly, we’ll talk about Ending Well and Follow-Up (will be posted by July 1).

It is our hope that these three aspects—a “Beginning, Middle and End” of sorts—of a seasonal internship will allow youth (or children’s, next-gen, etc.) ministers to be freed to fully utilize their gifts, passions and abilities in their specific contexts while also preparing their Ministry Intern for general youth ministry (or children’s ministry, etc).


*Went up June 10th. Sorry about the delay!

Interviewing & Hiring Intern Candidates

So, your church’s Internship is out there—it’s posted on ministry forums; it’s sent to fellow ministers and alumni from your youth group; it’s posted on job boards at universities and college ministry foundations. Now you have to properly vet your applicants (yes, all of them).

If you’ve ever applied to a job, you may have a solid grasp of the process—resumes sent, multiple interviews, some references submitted, and a couple weeks watching the phone!

Here’s what the other side of that phone watching process can look like:

First Interview (Phone Call)

Keep it relatively short—20-30 minutes can enable you to zip through as many candidates as necessary. Here’s some example questions you can use to quickly get to know each candidate and also begin to formulate an idea of their fit for your internship (it’s a rare case where you get the chance to ask ALL of these, so pick the most appropriate ones while also adding any others as needed; and don’t forget to take notes!):

  • Tell Them About Your Church & Ministry (2-3 minutes)

  • Get to Know You’s: Where are you from? Hobbies? Fave classes in college? (2-3 minutes)

  • Ministry Questions: Do you feel a calling to ministry? If so, tell me about it? A couple highs/lows from previous ministry experiences? What brought you to apply for this internship? (5-10 minutes)

  • Faith/Life Questions: What does your faith look like on a daily/regular basis? What excites you in your vocational pursuits? Tell me about: …your theological background? …about Christ’s role in your life? …about Christ’s role in your ministry? (5-7 minutes)

  • Do They Have Questions? Make sure you leave a few minutes at the end for them to ask you questions. This can be especially valuable for your own discernment process, so don’t skip it. (3-5 minutes)

  • Next Steps: Lastly, give them your timeline (what next steps are; when they’ll hear from you) and thank them for their time!

Reference Checks

At this stage, you’ll want to pick your top few candidates, and reach out to 2-3 references for each. Call or email each reference and ask when they’d have 10 minutes for a reference check for the candidate. During the reference check, you can focus on the following:

  • The candidate’s Strengths & Weaknesses in ministry/service/employment (one or two of each is sufficient)

  • Then ask the reference to rate the candidate on a 1-10 scale on each of the following:

    • Faithfulness - how loyal (committed, faithful, etc) to their job, class or team are they?

    • Availability - Being “available” is more nuanced than simply, “Are they willing to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities?” but for the sake of this reference check, feel free to keep it simple.

    • Teachability - Are they a lifelong learner? Do they learn on the job? Are they humble, willing to admit when they’re wrong, and willing to be taught be “teachers” of all ages/races/genders?

Final Interview (In-Person or Video Call)

After narrowing down your field to your top 2-3 candidates, you move on to the final interview. Make sure you reach out to those candidates who didn’t make the cut!*

It can be very helpful to bring in members from your church’s HR/Personnel team (even if only a few of them), some of your volunteers or even some parents. Have them prepare questions beforehand, and feel free to coach them during that process. You may choose to share the candidates’ responses (from the first interview) with them as well. If you’re doing these final interviews solo, go more in depth with questions you asked in earlier interviews. Feel free to ask follow up questions that may have come up during/after the earlier interviews (this is one of many reasons you take notes during all interviews!)

After you’ve completed these final interviews with your top candidates, spend a couple days to pray and “marinate” over the decision, and then once you’ve made your decision, call them and offer them the gig! If they need, you can give them a few days to contemplate, but not much longer—you have your other candidates (who are now your back-up options) waiting to hear back from you! Once a candidate has accepted the position, make sure you let all other candidates know!*

Note: larger churches generally have more thorough processes—if you find yourself at a larger church, use those resources to your advantage! Get one of your personnel/HR people to guide you, or even join you for the interviews!

*This is always the most difficult part of this process. Be empathic, but keep it brief. Example: “Thanks for applying; we enjoyed getting to know you; while we were impressed with your qualifications, experience and heart for ministry, we have elected to move forward with other candidates”

Creating an Attractive Youth Internship

Hello Madam Youth Minister.  I bet your office is organized, your volunteers are scheduled for every youth event for the next six months, your funds are all raised, your Pastor is posting on facebook about their amazing Youth Minister and you’ve got a line of parents out your office waiting to pat you on the back and shower you with gifts.  So I’m certain you definitely don’t need any help finding an Intern!  I mean, it’s *insert month here*!!!  Of course you have your intern candidate lined out!

But you’re still reading this, you know, for a friend.  Well, thank you for being here on behalf of that friend!  Let’s help that friend find an Intern!  We’ll be looking at creating a “healthy internship” with diverse ways of finding intern candidates:

A Healthy Youth Ministry Internship has Attractive Salary & Benefits
It has a healthy pay package, and even provides housing for candidates, allowing anyone to apply for the job and not limiting the internship to local candidates.  For those who like numbers, $200-300 per week for 8-12 weeks plus housing provided is very competitive.

A Healthy Youth Ministry Internship has an Attractive Job Description
It may seem selfish, but mature Intern Candidates are always asking, “What will I get out of this?”  So a Job Description that shows, both explicitly and implicitly, THAT the Intern will grow throughout the Internship and even hints at HOW they’ll grow—how they’ll become better candidates for full-time gigs, how they’ll develop their professional tasks, grow in their own faith, and see more of their own passions, gifts and abilities in action.

A Healthy Youth Ministry Internship is Attractive… Everywhere*
The Attractive Job Description (with info on the Attractive Salary & Benefits) is OUT THERE!  It’s posted on facebook forums, on college campus bulletin boards & on your church website.  It’s given to your student alumni.  It’s emailed & texted to Pastors and other Youth Ministers.  It’s even posted on job sites like the YouthSpecialties Job Bank!   

One last thing… 

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Look before you leap.  The process doesn’t always look like progress.  Patience is a virtue.  All things come to he/she who waits.  Slow & Steady wins the raise.  The tortoise beat the hare.  You can’t hurry love...  okay, maybe it was more than one thing.

Oh wait!  They’re all the same thing!  Creating ANYTHING takes time.  And there’s even steps to do before the above-mentioned ones (like budgetary considerations, casting vision to church leadership, figuring out what your intern will do all summer, finding a workspace for them, etc.).  But these steps will help move your church a long way toward creating a healthy culture of employing seasonal ministry interns!

*Not actually everywhere