Summer symbiosis: A guide to ministry internships

by Joshua Seth Minatrea on April 27, 2015 in Church Admin

Summer is upon us. As I write this in mid-March, I'm interviewing candidates for a handful of internships within the Convention's communications department. While it takes time and energy to establish a perennial program, the payoff both for our department and the interns themselves is well worth the effort. Interns bring boundless life, energy and awareness to our team, they tackle projects in new and creative ways, and while they collect only modest compensation, the experience, school credit and resume bolstering they receive can be life-changing.

Here are some tips if your ministry is considering a formal internship program this summer, or any time of the year for that matter:

  • First and foremost, A work-study or internship is a learning experience for students. While their work can help your ministry accomplish objectives, you shouldn't expect to get cheap labor. The learning experience is the most important thing. An intern is not an employee.
  • High school and college students may be able to receive school credit for their work with your ministry. Inquire with educational institutions regarding for-credit or degree programs that allow for internships.
  • Work-studies and internships, especially when for credit, allow for clearly defined parameters and expectations. It is best to draft an agreement spelling out those parameters before you begin. You might also consider transitioning student volunteer positions into formal internship opportunities.
  • Faith-based organizations have a broader freedom to set compensation for internship and work-study opportunities. A position can be paid or not, and you can offer nominal financial support or a stipend for travel, housing and meals if you choose.
  • Internships can provide an opportunity to minister to and mentor young people who may be exploring a particular calling in their lives. Identifying a particular gifting in an intern could be significant as they seek direction.
  • An intern might have a lot of skills, but less real work experience. Be ready to spend extra time teaching interns about your organization and the practical application of what they're learning in the classroom. Close supervision may be required to assign tasks, answer questions and ensure expectations are met.
  • Former interns can potentially make great hires. If an intern is valuable to your ministry team and you are sad to see them go, you might consider offering them a position in the future.

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