Jake Jones, Senior Bible Major
Regarding my education, many people have given me the analogy of a toolbox. They have encouraged me to put as many tools (skills and knowledge) into my toolbox as possible. This admonition is usually followed up by an encouragement to apply for seminary. However, not as a fault of any, I have heard very little about the value of internships as a part of the educational process. From my experience, I want to share just a few of the benefits of being involved in a pastoral or ministerial internship.
During the past three summers, I have served in three different ministries. After my freshman year, I was a counselor at The Wilds of New England. After my sophomore year, I was a pastoral intern at Calvary Baptist Church in Simpsonville, SC. This past summer, I was a pastoral intern at Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, NH. Three different ministries in three different contexts taught me dozens of lessons. I would like to share the top ways that my internships have helped to grow me and prepare me for a future in the ministry.
We can easily involve ourselves in so many good things, that we end up losing sight of what is most important. When planning the order of service for youth group, setting out tarps for kickball slip n’ slide, buying snacks for the kids’ group, or dealing with other random responsibilities that come up, it is pertinent that we don’t miss the purpose of these program-oriented tasks – the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Learning this lesson in an internship context can help to establish a lifelong habit of prioritizing the Word of God in ministry. There is a daily juggling act between the program and the preaching. Never allow the preaching and centrality of the Word to fall while the program and games remain strong. Through the pastoral internships, I have learned first-hand that being intentional to keep the Word as the foundation is a necessity.
Internships teach the valuable lesson of flexibility, which is necessary before becoming responsible for the entire ministry. Most pastors go through countless interruptions during sermon prep or administrative tasks. A counseling situation arises, the phone rings, someone is on their deathbed across town, and the pastor’s to-do list collects dust as the people are prioritized. The intern doesn’t always get to do what he wants, and that is a very good thing. For example, in the last two summers, I have helped at least six people move, removed bushes, pulled weeds, set up chairs, and pressure washed buildings; none of which were on my “bucket list” of ideal internship experiences. However, with every one of these seeming disruptions, I learned a valuable lesson. With every couch, bed, and filing cabinet that I moved, I saw an overarching theme – I must be flexible in order to be people-oriented and need-focused in the ministry.
Being in two different church ministries and one camp ministry over the last three summers has uniquely benefited my personal development. While I was a counselor at camp, I learned the importance of discipleship and how to apply the Word directly to sin and situations in lives. At Calvary Baptist, I gained clarity to my calling and began developing my missions philosophy. While at Trinity Baptist, I learned the importance of intentionality and organization. (And that is just a sampling of the many things I have learned.) In every place, I saw things that I liked, and some that I did not; I took some, and left others. Evaluation during internships allows these experiences to shape the future ministry. This is something that is much harder after graduating. For most people, learning comes from observation and evaluation. Being in different contexts within a short amount of time gives the ministry student the great privilege of observing, evaluating, and comparing ministerial philosophies.
Pastors, counselors, future church leaders, and church members should never undervalue the importance of gaining experience and wisdom. For future pastors and ministry leaders, internships are a great way to gain that experience and wisdom. Being mentored by older men who are wiser and have ministry background is invaluable in the student’s educational process. In order to learn and grow, I believe everyone desiring to go into ministry should do church internships early and often. Being intentional with the Word, learning to be flexible towards people’s needs, and seeing diversity in ministerial views are just a few of the many lessons of a pastoral or ministerial internship.
Rebekah Daniel, Biblical Counseling Graduate Student
It was my second summer counseling at the Wilds. For the first time, biblical change had fully clicked in my own mind, and I could not wait to explain it to each of my campers. One week, a girl in my cabin had a birthday. I didn’t usually buy my campers anything for their birthdays, but I had told her I would buy ice cream for hers. I learned later that night that this girl was not saved and had some heavy burdens in her life. I soon found myself not caring about getting her ice cream for her birthday but wanting instead to find out what serious things were going on in her life and give her the gospel. The urgency I felt about this was consuming my mind. I talked with a close friend and explained I was considering skipping the ice cream trip and diving in with her to see what was going on in her heart. My friend encouraged me to celebrate her birthday as planned in order to build the relationship. With a renewed sense of peace, I met up with my camper, bought her ice cream, and played games for a while. I was still pained by an anxiousness to hurry up and talk to her.
As we left the snack shop to go sit somewhere quieter to talk, she turned to me and said, “No one has ever bought me anything for my birthday.”
All of my anxiety shattered in the wake of her statement. My noble plans completely crumbled. It was like God’s plans and intentions slapped me in the face when I realized that this was, in fact, His agenda. I was overwhelmed by a deeper love for my camper to know Christ.
This encounter marked the beginning of the story of discipleship the Lord has unfolded to me over the last few years. Discipleship and ministry are much more than one-on-one, heart-to-heart conversations. Ministry is life. Buying that camper ice cream was a bridge to a gospel conversation. The Lord also showed me this when I was an RA at Bob Jones. I learned that when I have a group of people that are my assigned ministry, I tend to get tunnel vision. Rapport is built, spiritual needs are identified, and truth is spoken, but I often limit ministry within the box I have allotted for it.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to co-lead a team at the Wilds. This was the opportunity to disciple and love twenty-five girls for eleven weeks. God taught me much last summer, and I still have awesome relationships with some of those girls even now. However, halfway through last summer, I realized I didn’t really know them well as people and hadn’t spent as much time having fun with them. I tried to adjust this mindset toward the end of last summer, but it wasn’t until this past school year that I began to see the fuller timeline of discipleship – truly a life on top of another life with influence for Christ integrated with the mundane.
This past school year I had the opportunity to be a mentor in a dorm at Bob Jones. What I learned this past year has widely shifted my view in leading at the Wilds this summer. Throughout the school year, the Lord gave a variety of kinds of discipleship relationships. I learned that ministry happens when a girl comes into my room and just uses my microwave and tells me about her day. I learned that counseling a freshman each time they fail a quiz is ministry. Listening to a close friend who knows God well but is struggling to believe His promises is ministry, even if truth never leaves my mouth. I learned that having discipline conversations with students who got in trouble was part of their growth, too; it all falls under the umbrella of discipleship. And YES, the conversations where I talked with someone about a habitual sin pattern or a lack of an in-depth knowledge of God are thrown in there, too, but discipleship is not exclusive of those ordinary-life opportunities.
While this may sound simple and already evident to some, this has radically reshaped my view of ministry and my role in it. I am a steward of each relationship God gives me. I’m a steward of the relationships with the girls on my team this summer, not an owner of them. It is not up to me to calculate the timeline of change in their lives or mine. God promises that what He began in me and them He will complete (Phil. 1:6). As a disciple and a disciple-maker, I am a steward in both roles. An owner will manage, and a good leader will lead in transparency. No matter my role or title, in God’s kindness He allows me to be a participant in His mission of redeeming and restoring His children by His precious grace for His glory.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.