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?


This may be easy or hard, depending on the churches you’ve been connect to and how “hirable” you are. Before you identify churches that you could possibly intern at, you first need to identify what kind of internship you need. Here are the key questions you need to answer before looking at churches:

  1. What do you need to accomplish in this internship (school requirements, length of internship you want, role of intern you desire)?
  2. What specific responsibilities are you looking for from this internship? Leading bible studies, administration work, teaching, leading volunteers, planning events, learning, assessments?
  3. What do you have to offer? Though internships normally result in a higher value for you over the church you are serving, you still need to be able to contribute and serve in a meaningful way to be a good candidate for an internship.
  4. What is your personality type? What are your skills? What is your previous experience? Why do you want to do an internship? You need to prepare for the interview questions. More than that, you need to start moving down the path of ministering out of who you are. This will enable you to maximize your gifts and counterbalance your weaknesses in various ways. If you don’t know yourself, you are less likely to be hired by a church if there is another candidate who seems to have prepared more. Develop a resume, and it will help you be an attractive intern, communicating your responsibility and maturity.


  • Start with your circles of influence
    • You have connections. Regardless of who you are, the best place to always start is with the relationships and experiences in your life. Go to the youth pastor or pastor at any church you have been involved with and ask them if they have advice for you as you seek to find an internship. Ask if they could write you a letter of recommendation, and if you haven’t already, start by asking them if they see you thriving in ministry.
    • Ask the pastors and professors you know if they are aware of any internship opportunities. Many times, your initial internship opportunities will begin with you who know.
    • Check the message boards for job listings at your college
  • Utilize social networks
    • In the world we live in, you have a great advantage by posting your search for an internship in social media networks. Use the social networks you may be familiar with already, twitter, facebook and even Instagram. State what you are looking for and ask if anyone knows of a current internship opportunity or a good church that has interns each summer that you could apply for.
    • LinkedIn: If you don’t already have a profile on this site you need to develop one. This site is growing quickly as the foremost social network to find jobs and make connections.
  • Search youth ministry/ministry job sites

    Above all else, pray for God’s wisdom in your search.

Why You Should Intern if You are Going into Vocational Ministry O1


                For some of us it was a moment that we can still describe in detail.  For others our sense of being called into ministry developed over a longer period of time.  So here you find yourself…full of hope, full of ideas and full of passion at the beginning of what I hope is a long journey.  Ministry is this mix of beauty and brokenness, hopefulness and discouragement, joy and sadness all wrapped up together.  The road ahead will be far sweeter than you ever dreamed, and vastly more challenging than you can foresee.  It will require a radical trust in the God who called you through mountain tops and valleys, a desperate and contagious hope and an ability to learn and adapt continually.  This will be a journey where you must discover yourself while you are continually seeking to pour out to others the lavish love and riches of Christ.  Much like marriage, it is a journey you can become better acclimated for, but no one is ever fully ready to embark on this road. 

                This is why internships make sense.  Most of you reading this are likely driven by a passion to get into ministry and get your hands dirty.  Some of you are driven to simply fulfill the obligations for your college or seminary degree which requires an internship.  Few of us have the foresight at the beginning of our journey to know how utterly unprepared we really are for what lies ahead.  Many of us enter the race over-confident of our abilities. Though we have seen many leaders fail, we assume that we are better, stronger, smarter.  An internship introduces us to the complexities of leading others, leading ourselves and working in the system of a local church.  None of these are easy.  Really leading and caring for the souls of others is challenging work.  Leading ourselves seems easy during certain seasons and impossible in the next.  Serving in a local church means serving in a complex web of humanness, brokenness, health and competing visions.  It is one thing to discuss these things in a class setting, and even helpful, but many of these complexities must be experienced to know them at their fullest level.  And it is only when we know and understand these issues that we are ready to enter ministry in a local church.  An internship gives us a good opportunity to see and taste all of this up close.  To be exposed to the reality of the joy and pain of the local church.  And also to discover how God has gifted and wired us and what our place in the body might be. 

                You should do an internship because it gives you the opportunity to leave a gospel legacy in the lives of others.  You will have the opportunity to change lives.  God will work through, just as a much as he works in you to prepare you for the future.  You could change the trajectory of a student’s life forever.  The way you listen, the words you speak, the memories that are created will influence students in ways you will never know.  So though I’ve focused on the future benefits of an internship, know that what you do during the internship has the potential to change the lives of people around you.  You don’t know what God has for you.  You don’t the opportunities ahead.  God will use you to bless students in Jesus’ name.  God will bear fruit through you.  Amen.

9 Reasons to do an internship

1. To discover your strengths and weaknesses

2. Be affirmed in your spiritual gifts

3. See a church staff culture on the inside

4. Apply what you’ve learned in your classroom

5. Implement leadership and pastoral skills

6. Get feedback

7. Gain experience

8. Change lives

9. Test your calling