We are coming to the end of the 2nd year of our ministry internship called Next Generation Interns (www.nginterns.com) and I am blown away at the caliber of leaders that God has produced through this program. Are you thinking about starting a church internship? I wanted to give you some points to help you along your journey. I also wanted to give you two filters that really helped me decide when the right time was to start NGI. Before we get into the practicality of starting an internship, please allow me to state a few of the obvious starting points. You need to pray and then get the approval from your pastor and eldership team. If your pastor and/or church staff is not on board with having an internship, then do not bother reading the rest of this blog because you will not be unified. Unity is unbelievably important!
When Should I start my internship? How do I know if I am ready?
Our church has wanted to start an internship for the past 9 years, but never did because we couldn’t get our program to pass through both of my filters. The first filter is “Will my internship be for the intern FIRST and the church SECOND?” I have seen internships started as a result of trying to grow their church for as little amount of money as possible. These interns are people! They are not slaves for the growth of our church body. Growth will happen as a result of healthy interns (people), but should never be the focus of the internship. It took me almost nine years to ensure that would not be the case for NGI. The second filter is ,”Would I send my own son to this internship program?” If I would not send my own family, then why would I look a mom or dad in the eye and tell them that they should enroll their child into NGI? That makes no sense! Once I was able to honestly have a good response to these questions, I knew that it was most likely the right timing to start having serious conversations about starting an internship program.
How to start an internship at your local church:
- Do your homework and research other internships.
Don’t reinvent the wheel! There are some great minds out their that have gone before that want to make disciples just like you! Humble yourself and learn from them. Take notes of what you like and don’t like. Recognize what would work in your ministry context and not wouldn’t work in your ministry. Think about what it will look like in 5 years. If you interview internship staff and leaders, ask them questions about culture, who they are trying to produce. Get past the cool banner and get to the heart of their program.
- Don’t try to be someone else.
Do the hard work of figuring out what Jesus uniquely wants to do in your local church and in your leadership. Read Ephesians 4 and think about what ministry type of person you are (Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Evangelist, Teacher). If you are more of an evangelist, then that should help shape the type of internship you should lead. If you are a teacher, then your internship should be built more on the teaching side. This is one of the most difficult parts to creating a program or church culture that is unique to you. It requires you to be vulnerable, but if your goal is to help leaders find who they are, then you must first find who you are.
- Think with the end in mind.
Think about the person you are trying to produce before you lay out your action plan to produce him. I have seen people take other peoples curriculum without ever laying out who God has called them disciple. I am a firm proponent of using other people’s discipleship teachings and books, but those resources can not and should not replace the hard conversations with God determining exactly what Jesus is wanting to do in your church. Once you have a basic handle on WHO you are trying to produce, then you can build curriculum around that end result. Your plan must include an educational component and a ministry component. Both components must be flexible enough to meet the needs of your interns and not just the needs of your church.
- Clearly establish a mission statement.
Your mission statement should be the filter for everything you do as an internship. It should be the “lighthouse” for your organization to know which way to go and what NOT to do. Our mission statement is: “Forging leaders for tomorrow”. As a result, everything we do, must go through that mission statement. In other words, if something isn’t helping forge our leaders for tomorrow, then we don’t do it! Period! Our educational component, our ministry component, our events, our conferences is focused on leadership understanding that what works now may not work then. We are forging leaders of tomorrow!
- Develop an action plan:
An action plan is important because it allows other people to see your progress and help you along the way. The best action plans are S.M.A.R.T.
- Specific- Define exactly what you are trying to accomplish (Who, What, When, Where, & Why)
- Measurable- Establish cost, numerical goals, breakdown tasks on timeline
- Achievable- Make sure your goals are achievable and challenging
- Relevant- Link the goal of your internship to the higher mission of your church
- Time Bound- Establish the overall date that you want to have this internship started
- Do the practical
Calendar the year. Budget it with at least a 10% profit. Calendar Open Houses. Provide a discount for your inaugural students. Make a website. Create a Brochure. etc.
Hope this helps!