Posted: 3/15/17 at 7:30am. Post by Danny Quirin.
Punxsutawney Phil made his famous weather prediction the morning of February 2, emerging from his burrow to see his shadow. Although the famous rodent prognosticator predicted six more weeks of winter weather, the bigger question of the day is this, “Once the winter chill is gone, is your church ready to meet the needs of your student ministry this coming summer?” Many smaller churches struggle with student ministry in the summer months because they are unable to afford a full-time or even a part-time youth minister.
If you think creatively and plan ahead, you might be surprised at the gift you can give to your students this summer. You will also be a blessing to a college or seminary student who is trying to get their “feet wet” in student ministry. The key is planning ahead, and although summer is quickly approaching despite what “Phil” predicted, it’s not too late for your church to seize the day and the summer by welcoming a summer intern into your congregation.
There are college and seminary students who need to fulfill an internship or supervised ministry experience of some type in order to fulfill the requirements for a degree program. Others may be sensing a call to ministry but want to “test the waters” before jumping in and declaring a major or beginning a seminary education only to discover that maybe it wasn’t as much of a calling as they once thought. Your congregation, no matter how big or small, may be the vehicle God uses to help get them to the destination He wants them to go while also enjoying the benefits of having a person investing in your teens this summer.
Here are some things to consider in aiding you to think creatively as a congregation:
- Have a clearly defined job description while being realistic and reasonable. Simply saying, “we want someone to keep our kids busy this summer” isn’t realistic or reasonable. Add to that fact that there will be plenty of parents and church members who may each have their own set of expectations of what your summer intern should or should not be doing, and the waters that were so tempting for the intern to plunge into have suddenly become murky and even shark infested. What are some reasonable tasks and goals that you would like to see accomplished by an intern in your church? Bring a team of parents and teens together, dream as big as you want, and write them all down. Then step back and be realistic and reasonable while keeping in mind what you are willing or able to pay this person as you are coming up with a job description. A good perspective to keep is, “Would I be happy in this job or having my own college student doing this job for that pay, or would I feel abused and taken advantage of?”
- Know whom you are looking for. Once you know what you’re looking for, you need to consider whom you’re looking for. What kind of person do you want to fill this position? Are you looking for a specific age or gender? Do you want someone who is sensing a call to ministry or someone simply looking for a summer job? Would someone who is pursuing a degree in education with a desire to teach at the middle or high school level work? What about their own spiritual maturity? Do you want someone who has been growing in his or her faith for a certain number of years? Could it be one of your own college students who went through your youth ministry and already understands the rhythm and heartbeat of your congregation, or do you want someone your teens may not know as well?
- How will your church support the intern? Will you provide housing in the homes of church members? You may have church members who are willing to pay the intern to house sit while they are away, and that will help in providing intern income. Will their meals be provided, or must they be responsible for buying groceries from the money you are paying them? Will you be able to pay them, or will they have to do personal fundraising in order to cover their expenses? Who will oversee the intern this summer and serve as a mentor or coach? Will they be expected to attend weekly staff meetings in order to receive regular feedback? Will you give them a mid-summer and end-of-summer review and if so, who will conduct those? Will you provide some kind of training? Each May, the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) has a training opportunity for youth workers called Forum. Discover more about Forum.
- How will expenses be covered? Will you allot money for the intern to attend camp and the activities described in the job description? Will that include incidental money to cover their meals at fast-food stops on the way to and from your summer camp, mission trip, or day trips? Can you offer assistance with things such as mileage reimbursement, an allowance to take teens to the local coffee shop or hang out, or even help offset their cell phone bill? You would be surprised by what providing some of these extra things can do to help offset a lower income. Do you have a computer they can use, or will they be expected to provide their own? What about internet accessibility and printing options?
- What other expectations should they be aware of? Are there specific hours they will be expected to be in the church office? What about office policy and procedures and who will train them? What are the expectations concerning their dress for the office, worship, or other times? Will there be other people they will be expected to listen to or report to other than their immediate supervisor? What are your expectations for them regarding handling relationships with the opposite sex? What guidelines will you have as to how they handle social media websites and networking with others throughout the summer? Having a clearly defined starting and ending date will be very important for the church and for the intern. Do you expect them to work ten weeks or twelve; is there any time built into their work schedule for participation in a family vacation?
- Celebrate the summer and provide a good closing. If you do things well and help the intern to succeed, you will want to take the time to provide positive closure for them, for your students, and for your church family. Everyone longs to hear that they did a good job, so take the time to celebrate the ministry that takes place over the summer, along with the person who helped to make it happen. You could encourage people to bring them notes of thanks and encouragement. If you give them gift cards to restaurants or coffee shops near the campus they attend, they will be reminded of the experience long after the summer is over and each time they use the cards.
As the Youth Minister in Residence for the BGAV, I would enjoy helping you brainstorm ideas or provide more information or insight concerning summer interns. I have a sample job description and questions to consider when interviewing prospects as well as questions for a mid- or end-of-summer review. Don’t let the “winter blahs” keep you from investing in a memorable summer for your teens, a college intern, and your church family.
If you would like assistance recruiting prospective interns from our network of BGAV collegiate and young adult ministries, please contact our Kairos Collegiate/Young Adult Coordinator, Welford Orrock.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.