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Don’t Waste Your Time with Interns

Becky Pechek

Becky Pechek

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As a church planter or pastor, you’re always on the lookout for new leaders. And sometimes you see that these leaders are ready for more—more challenge, more training, more responsibility. At this point, you might consider pointing them to an internship.

Internships can be a wonderful training tool, and a helpful step in discerning a leader’s calling, but they require a high level of commitment, time, and responsibility. You don’t want to waste your time with the wrong person. Before throwing your leaders into the deep end of an internship, try to make as sure they are ready for it. Here are a few basic things to look for:

First, they are already a leader. This sounds obvious, but sometimes when a person has tons of potential and talent and enthusiasm, we want to skip right to titles and job descriptions. You want people with a track record of leadership; a person that others want to follow. So take a look at your prospective interns. Is anyone following them? A leader without followers isn’t really a leader.

Second, they are F.A.S.T. These are actually key characteristics for any leader, but the intensity of these qualities should increase with the intensity of the responsibilities. So an intern should be:

Faithful—They have a track record of showing up when they say they’ll show up. They do what they say they’ll do. They serve consistently over a significant amount of time.

Available—Another no-brainer. An intern must have the time to do an internship. Some people are incredibly gifted leaders, but they have other priorities or responsibilities that keep them from being able to commit to something like an internship right now. It could be an aging parent or a sick child or a financial crisis. Whatever it is, it may just mean that an internship isn’t going to work for now.

Servant-hearted—Interns need to be the kind of people who show up willing to serve however they are needed. They may love leading worship or teaching 3rd grade Sunday school or praying on the ministry team the best, but they have to be willing to also step in to do the things they don’t love quite as much, whether it’s cleaning up after a clogged toilet or filling in for the kitchen volunteer who didn’t show up.

Teachable—Interns need to be able to admit when they are wrong and graciously receive correction. There are lots of ways to test this out before getting into an internship. Watch how they lead and look for opportunities to coach or redirect them. Teachable people listen to advice and correction and work to change their behavior accordingly. 

Teachable people listen to advice and correction and work to change their behavior accordingly. Tweet this Quote

If these basic requirements seem to be in place, we recommend that you then have potential interns fill out a formal application. You can tailor the application to the specific type of internship you will be doing, but you want to look at their track record. Work and education history, references (be sure to actually call them), etc. You’ll also want to ask some short essay questions about the applicant’s spiritual life, what they hope to gain from the internship, where they see themselves as particularly strong or weak, etc. You want to see that they are willing to think through these things and uncover or address unrealistic expectations they might have.

In the end, the more chances you have to talk through requirements and expectations before accepting an intern, the better your chances that the internship will go well and be a good fit.

For more on running effective internships, check out the full recording of the How to Run an Impactful Internship webinar.

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