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.
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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.