Tips for Interns

This is chapter six of a new ebook coming soon I wrote for interns who are looking to find an internship and succeed in their internship.  Pass it on to anyone you know looking for an internship, especially in Christian ministry, but this chapter applies to all internships.



As I have worked with many interns over the last nine years, I find that some interns come ready and show responsibility, while others do not.  I am far more likely to look to hire interns who are come ready and to recommend them to be hired to others than interns who are not unprepared. It may sound small, but self-leadership involves being prepared, following through and showing yourself able to handle responsibility.  Interns who develop self-leadership are far more likely to be in ministry roles and stay in those roles five years later.  To be an intern who is always ready, here are three things I want you to own to help you be successful: Be Proactive, Be Prepared, Be On Time.  If you do these three things well, it will help you in the chaos of ministry to not only be a successful intern, but to reach your full capacity in ministry and responsibility.

Be Proactive

I look for proactive interns.  I would much rather slow you down than try to light a fire in you.  As an intern, know that the leader you are interning under is full with ministry opportunity and challenges.  The more proactive you are the greater blessing you will be to them.  The more reactive and passive you are, the more likely your intern experience will not work out well.  Being proactive in your internship means pursuing students without being told to.   If you wait for your team leader to tell you every action to do, you will have a bad internship experience and you won’t flourish in ministry.  If you are concerned about your supervisors’ perception, ask them if your plan for hanging out with Tom and John for ice cream and then going putt-putt with a group that day is okay.  Unless your leader has told you to be at the church, or given you a specific task to be focused on, then go find students.  Don’t sit in the office waiting for busy work. Go and be with others.

Proactive also means asking your leader in busy times if there is anything you can do to help.  If the ministry is prepping for an event or a retreat, ask in advance if there is anything you can pick up or something you can do to help with.  This will enable you to be someone who has the heart of a servant and is a proactive teammate which others will greatly value and appreciate.

Proactive communication means you take initiative to ask what the week looks like if your leader is not communicating well so that you don’t plan something with students on a day when something else is happening or during an all church staff meeting.  Be proactive in getting information that you don’t know about by simply asking them, “what do I need to do, where do I need to be, what do you want me to focus on this week?” 

Be Prepared

When are given a reading, an assessment, are asked to lead a bible study or preach a message, be prepared.  Nothing is more frustrating as a leader than an intern who is not prepared.  Nothing is also as encouraging, as an intern who is passionate and takes great responsibility for what they’ve been given.  Being prepared for events, meetings and teaching opportunities will help you thrive in your internship and larger ministry life.  Being prepared is a skill you need to cultivate.  Don’t show up late for meetings; don’t over-sleep just because you watched a late night movie.  I’ve worked with interns who were prepared and followed through responsibly and I’ve worked with interns who had an excuse every time we gathered as a team for why they didn’t read the chapter we were going to discuss or why they don’t have their outline done yet for their message.  Don’t think because you hung-out with students that it exempts you from being organized. Bring the right book, the expected paper, the exercise you were suppose to do.  Come ready with the evaluation that was supposed to be filled out and the chapter read. Be ready, be focused, and be prepared.

Be On time

Be on time for everything.  By on time I mean early.  Don’t show up ten minutes before something starts.  Get there early and see how you can help.  If you are early you can help create a welcoming atmosphere or put the finishing touches on room set up if they are behind.  Just because you weren’t asked specifically to do something, doesn’t mean your presence isn’t essential.  As an intern, you always have an integral role in what is happening.  There is an expectation that you will be helping to lead, serve, empower, and make the mission happen.  You cannot do that if you are late or absent.  It seems overstated, but being on time consistently and asking to serve communicates something about you.


Go Above and Beyond

Have you ever worked on a group project before?  Don’t you love it when someone goes above and beyond and it makes the whole group better?  Be that person.  If you want to maximize your effectiveness and your influence, always go above and beyond.  Never seek to do the bare minimum you have to do to get by.  This is an attitude issue.  When you do the bare minimum asked of you, you aren’t hungry to really lead.  You want to clock in and clock out.  I am not advocating an unhealthy perspective of overworking or a workaholic mindset.  But you will create a habit that will not only help you thrive in your internship but also for the rest of your life if you seek to make everything you touch better.  Do it as an act of worship. 


Reflection Questions

  • Why does your supervisor need you to be proactive?
  • How can you start anticipating needs before being asked to do something?
  • How will you juggle tasks and relationships?
  • Why would you want to hire someone who goes above and beyond?