Intern 101: Hiring an Intern

Mentoring and pouring into an intern can be one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of youth ministry. As I write this post, I find myself preparing for my eight intern during my 13-year tenure at Hazelwood Christian church.  I absolutely love the opportunity to invest in students and future ministry leaders, and I value the friendships that I have forged through internships even to this day. As I have experienced the highs and lows of internships, I have learned a few tips that may be helpful to you as you seek to invest in interns as well.

This first post will focus on the steps leading up to the internship, including the hiring process. Subsequent posts will talk about what to do during the internship and even how to be a mentor after the internship is over.
1. Convince your church leaders of the value of internships.
The first step is to make sure that your church leaders are on board with the idea of having an intern. While every church is different, I would recommend waiting until you have been at the church for at least a couple years before requesting an intern. That gives you time to learn the culture and the people and get your stride before bringing in an intern.  As you approach your church leadership about hosting an intern, here are a few of the benefits you might want to point out to them.

  • Having interns is a great way for your church to invest in future ministry. Your church can play a major part in the next generation of ministry.  I currently have 6 former interns serving in local ministry, and that brings me great joy.
  • Interns are cheap and helpful. Interns typically work over 40 hours a week for very little pay. While I think you should take good care of your intern (more about this in the second post), your church leaders should know that this is very inexpensive help.
  • We expect other churches to do this for OUR students. We encourage students to enter full time Christian ministry, and we assume that other churches are going to provide a great internship for them. We should be doing the same for others.

Once your church leaders are on board with the idea of an intern, it’s time to begin the hiring process. The next few steps deal with how to do that well.

2.  Get really good information from applicants.
Most times, colleges will have an online database of internships and job openings. You can use this resource to invite students to apply for your internship. Once they contact you, make sure you get really good information from them so that you can learn a little bit about who they are and what their talents may be. Make sure you have an application that asks some good questions right from the start. Also, be sure to include some questions about their spiritual background, their previous experiences, references, and why they desire to go into ministry. Do the hard work and contact references, professors, previous employers, and even other contacts that you might just share a connection with. Doing the hard work here may save you heartache later.

3.  Don’t underestimate the importance of chemistry.
Through the application process, you will probably encounter a number of very talented and qualified individuals. But not all of these individuals are going to fit well with your personality, your context, your philosophy of ministry, or your staff. Chemistry is an intangible element in this process, but it is also the most important in my opinion. Make sure you speak regularly with your potential intern, do online hangouts so that you can see them face to face, and meet them personally whenever it is possible. Whenever I have multiple applicants that are talented and equally qualified, I always go with my gut in terms of chemistry.

4.  Communicate regularly.
One of the most common things I hear from people seeking employment with churches is that the communication is rare and usually unclear. Break the mold! Communicate with your applicants regularly, letting them know where you are in the process and what the next steps will be. Also, communicate your expectations and guidelines as well as any compensation packages early on so that everyone has the information that they need to pray and make a wise decision.

5.  Involve others in the process.
Sometimes, God uses others to speak into our lives. Make sure that you involve others in this process. I typically do all of the hard work when it comes to references and interviews. However, as I narrow my search, I invite our senior minister to sit in on an interview. It is always helpful to get another opinion from someone you respect.

6.  Make your decision and offer a clear invitation
Once you have decided which young person you are going to mentor, make sure to call them and let them know the good news. Don’t allow any room for confusion. Make your invitation clear, and make sure that they clearly accept the position so that you can move forward together. Once you have all of this confirmed, make sure to call the other applicants and let them down easy. Be honest, but be encouraging.

Internships can be a formative and life-changing experience both for you and the intern.  Make the most of the hiring process, and you will be blessed throughout.  What has been your experience with interns?  Is there anything you would add to the hiring process that I missed?

Hold Onto Your Butts: Wisdom for Rookie Youth Pastors

Jurassic Park is one of my all time favorite movies. If you have not watched Jurassic Park yet, please feel free to stop reading this post and go watch it now! If you have seen it and want to watch it (because you know how awesome it is), feel free to stop reading as well. I don’t mind, Jurassic Park is that good!

Did you watch it? Great! Now we can move on. Not only is Jurassic Park awesome, but it gives us one of the most famous lines ever, declared by none other than Nick Fury, I mean Samuel L. Jackson.

The scene. Dinosaurs have taken over the park. Dr. Grant and the kids are trying to survive, while the rest of the gang are trying to figure out how to stop the dinosaurs. Finally, an idea is declared. The crew could implement the Lysine contingency, which will kill all of the dinosaurs after seven days. The catch? All the power in the park will be shut down, leaving all the survivors in even more danger. A decision is made, and they tell Ray Arnold, played by Samuel L. Jackson, to shut the system down. Ray’s response, “Hold onto your butts!”

So what does Jurassic Park have to do with being rookie youth pastors? Well, probably not a whole lot, but I believe this scene describes a feeling all rookie youth pastors will go through. Think about it. You’ve worked hard studying your butt off at college, while you’ve interned at a church. You finally graduate and it’s your first day in the office. There comes a moment of clarity where you finally realize all the hard work and dreaming have finally come to pass. You’ve finally made it! Mission accomplished! God is good!

And then it gets real. Reality sets in and you realize you’re the person in charge. No longer do you have a safety net to catch you when you fall. Now, you ARE the net, and you catch all the good and bad that comes with being a youth pastor. You are now in for the ride of your life, and it can either be the best ride ever or a complete terror that leaves you broken and burned.

I know this feeling, because I’ve been there before and have made all the blundering mistakes that come with it. Yet, my folly is your gain, and if you’re willing to listen, then you’ll save yourself a ton of grief that could cause you to leave ministry for good.

So for the next few months I’ll be writing a series of posts to help you rookies out! Here’s a preview for what you get to look forward to:

If you are a rookie youth pastor, then I want you to consider these blog posts as an open dialogue. Feel free to share your thoughts, concerns, and even ideas that could be added to the series. Remember, there are no dumb questions. Finally, as a word of encouragement, I am thankful for your willingness to accept the high calling God has placed on your life to minister to teenagers. God does not give this calling to everyone, which means he believes you can accomplish this task through his power and love. Enjoy the ride and know you are not alone. See you in the trenches!

If you have started, or are on the verge of starting, your first youth pastor position, what excites you the most?

If you are a veteran youth pastor, what nuggets of wisdom would you give to rookies?

Part-Time Youth Pastor, Full-Time Hero: Final Thoughts

If you have followed this series in its entirety, then I’m sure you’ve come to the conclusion that part-time student ministry is not for the faint of heart. It is hard work that will make you question yourself multiple times a day; yet at the same time, it will be the most refining work you will ever participate in. Christ will grow you in ways you would have never imagined, and you’ll be better off in the long run for it. As this series comes to a close, here are the final thoughts I needed to hear when I was in part-time student ministry.

DON’T BOTHER WITH PURPOSE STATEMENTS

I know, everything you read tells you you need to have some type of purpose statement; but in all honesty, a purpose statement is the last thing a small church, especially a youth group, could care about.  What a small church cares about is if their minsters will love them for who they are, not take them down a vision quest.

It’s okay for you to have a purpose statement and vision where you believe God wants the student ministry to go. It’s even okay to share that with others and brainstorm with your team about it; however, don’t spend a lot of time on it and don’t make it your main purpose for being there. Use your time for better things, like loving your students.

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!

You have very little resources and you’ll never be able to put on a high-caliber outreach event like the big church down the street. That will always be a problem for you, but you can find a solution to it by partnering with other youth pastors in your area.

Invest your time in building relationships with men and women who are experiencing the exact same thing as you. As a result of these relationships, your ministry will benefit because resources are being pulled together. More importantly, you will benefit because you will have a group of friends to encourage you during your lowest times.

BE HONEST WITH YOUR SITUATION

When I was in part-time student ministry, my pastor always wanted me to do tons of fun events. Moreover, I was expected to put on a Valentine’s banquet that served 100 people. Of course, accomplishing these events would never work accordingly, because I only had six students and only three were guaranteed to show up.  But I would do them anyways because I was too scared of sharing how illogical it was to do these events with only three students.

One of the best things you can do is acknowledge the number situation and help everyone around you to set realistic expectations. Have events, but makes sure everyone understands that they are in line with what your church is capable of, not with the one down the street.

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL NOT COME.

You have no youth room, no slick flat screen TV’s to present your media, and no one can play a guitar. You may think to yourself, “If only I had (fill in the blank with a bell or whistle),” things would be different. Students would show up.” Well, guess what? They may, for one Wednesday, but then you’re back to square one.

I have never heard a testimony where a student came to know Christ because of a slick media presentation; however, I have heard plenty of testimonies where someone comes to Christ because their friend, parent, church member, or youth pastor loved them enough to share Jesus with them.

Student ministry will always be about relationships, so don’t fall into the trap and believe that your student ministry is inadequate because you don’t have all the bells and whistles.

BELIEVE IN THE CALLING CHRIST LAID ON YOUR LIFE.

There’s nothing like serving in a part-time position to make you question the calling God has laid on your life. You will experience many burns that will make you want to walk away: empty promises, pastors who can’t lead, and church members who like things the way they are.

Yet, with all the craziness you will endure, do not lose faith in God and his calling on you. God didn’t make a mistake when he called you to ministry, and he knows what he is doing with your life. Too many ministers walk away, way before they’ve even reached their potential, because they’ve lost faith in their calling. Don’t be one of those guys.

In the end, I commend you for being a part-time youth pastor. You may not believe it, but you are doing an incredible job, and your willingness to love Christ and students is making a difference.

And as always, if you ever have questions or need feed back, feel free to connect with me anytime! The YouthMin.Org team is here to be a resource for youth pastors like you to help you take your ministry to the next level!

Part-Time Youth Pastor, Full-Time Hero: Final Thoughts

If you have followed this series in its entirety, then I’m sure you’ve come to the conclusion that part-time student ministry is not for the faint of heart. It is hard work that will make you question yourself multiple times a day; yet at the same time, it will be the most refining work you will ever participate in. Christ will grow you in ways you would have never imagined, and you’ll be better off in the long run for it. As this series comes to a close, here are the final thoughts I needed to hear when I was in part-time student ministry.

DON’T BOTHER WITH PURPOSE STATEMENTS

I know, everything you read tells you you need to have some type of purpose statement; but in all honesty, a purpose statement is the last thing a small church, especially a youth group, could care about.  What a small church cares about is if their minsters will love them for who they are, not take them down a vision quest.

It’s okay for you to have a purpose statement and vision where you believe God wants the student ministry to go. It’s even okay to share that with others and brainstorm with your team about it; however, don’t spend a lot of time on it and don’t make it your main purpose for being there. Use your time for better things, like loving your students.

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!

You have very little resources and you’ll never be able to put on a high-caliber outreach event like the big church down the street. That will always be a problem for you, but you can find a solution to it by partnering with other youth pastors in your area.

Invest your time in building relationships with men and women who are experiencing the exact same thing as you. As a result of these relationships, your ministry will benefit because resources are being pulled together. More importantly, you will benefit because you will have a group of friends to encourage you during your lowest times.

BE HONEST WITH YOUR SITUATION

When I was in part-time student ministry, my pastor always wanted me to do tons of fun events. Moreover, I was expected to put on a Valentine’s banquet that served 100 people. Of course, accomplishing these events would never work accordingly, because I only had six students and only three were guaranteed to show up.  But I would do them anyways because I was too scared of sharing how illogical it was to do these events with only three students.

One of the best things you can do is acknowledge the number situation and help everyone around you to set realistic expectations. Have events, but makes sure everyone understands that they are in line with what your church is capable of, not with the one down the street.

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL NOT COME.

You have no youth room, no slick flat screen TV’s to present your media, and no one can play a guitar. You may think to yourself, “If only I had (fill in the blank with a bell or whistle),” things would be different. Students would show up.” Well, guess what? They may, for one Wednesday, but then you’re back to square one.

I have never heard a testimony where a student came to know Christ because of a slick media presentation; however, I have heard plenty of testimonies where someone comes to Christ because their friend, parent, church member, or youth pastor loved them enough to share Jesus with them.

Student ministry will always be about relationships, so don’t fall into the trap and believe that your student ministry is inadequate because you don’t have all the bells and whistles.

BELIEVE IN THE CALLING CHRIST LAID ON YOUR LIFE.

There’s nothing like serving in a part-time position to make you question the calling God has laid on your life. You will experience many burns that will make you want to walk away: empty promises, pastors who can’t lead, and church members who like things the way they are.

Yet, with all the craziness you will endure, do not lose faith in God and his calling on you. God didn’t make a mistake when he called you to ministry, and he knows what he is doing with your life. Too many ministers walk away, way before they’ve even reached their potential, because they’ve lost faith in their calling. Don’t be one of those guys.

In the end, I commend you for being a part-time youth pastor. You may not believe it, but you are doing an incredible job, and your willingness to love Christ and students is making a difference.

And as always, if you ever have questions or need feed back, feel free to connect with me anytime! The YouthMin.Org team is here to be a resource for youth pastors like you to help you take your ministry to the next level!

How To Serve Bad Leaders

We’ve all been there at some time. You may not admit it with the words of the title of this article, but you’ve complained enough about them: bad leaders. Bad leaders come in all different varieties: The Micro-Manager, The Blame-Shifter, The Tyrant, The Vague Communicatior, The One Track Mind, add yours here… At one time, maybe more than once, you have served a bad leader. We’ve been talking this past month about #leadingup, but how are you supposed to lead up when the person “up” is a terrible leader?

Let’s get one thing straight: leading up is on you, not them. Who, what, how they are is not something you can control. And when you are under someone who seems to be terrible at their leadership, it can be incredibly frustrating. You may be reading these articles asking yourself, “how can I change them?” I’m here to tell you, “YOU CAN’T!” All you can control is you.
So, here’s three quick tips / reminders when leading up to a “bad” leader:

1. Work on “You”

It’s tempting to focus on the other person, but you can’t control them, no matter how much you complain to other people about them. Because, let’s face it, you’re probably not complaining to their face, right? I mean, you still have a job under this person… So work on yourself. Do all that you can to support and be a blessing. Since all you can control is yourself, make sure that your righteousness is never tainted, even if you feel self-righteous.

Make it all about “them”, and you will fail or get yourself fired.

2. Remember God Is In Control

Chances are, God knows this person is in leadership, and He probably noticed your frustrations at some point as well. So give it up to Him. Pray for this person regularly, and not the “bolt of lightning” prayer. Ask God to make you an instrument of blessing for that person. Seek divine insight into their process so you can work with that.

Do not start expecting God to remove them “any minute now…”, but treat them as an anointed leader placed by God until He says otherwise. Read 1 Samuel 18 for inspiration.

3. Talk About It . . . With Them!

Have you tried talking it out? I mean really talking it through. Like, ask why they would say “this-thing-that-hurt-me”. Try asking what exactly happened the last time you got on their bad side, and give them a chance to respond without your defensiveness. Seek to know their heart, their motivations. And no matter what you think, you do not know why they do what they do. So you have to ask.

Don’t give up when it doesn’t solve everything right away. Be persistent, in love, and make it known that you want to work at fixing whatever it is you are doing wrong in their eyes. You just may find that not only does this increase your arsenal of ways to work with people, but you might deepen your friendship here (or build a new one) in the process. And best of all, you may lead them to change as they examine their motives and actions and realize the effect they have on you.

Have you tried any of these things? How did it work out for you?
Are you going through some stuff? I’d love to pray with you and for you! Share your experiences in a comment!

Ministering to Your Pastor's Child #LeadingUp

As we consider different ways that we, as youth pastors, can establish an influential voice in our church, we must remember the best way we are able to do this is by doing our jobs. As we minister to students we build credibility with their parents, yet there is one student in your youth group whose parents have the ability to make your voice be heard or drowned out above everyone else, and that’s your pastor’s child. As youth pastors, we sometimes forget our pastors are just like our other parents. They don’t always have it together and they’re doing the best they can to navigate their teenage child through the nasty pits of this world. Yet, we have the amazing opportunity to come alongside our pastors and minister to them in ways our other staff members can’t.

Now before I share how we can minister to our pastor’s child, I want to be clear: this is not a manipulation tactic to advance your own agenda. If this is the reason why you’re going to minister to your pastor’s child then you need to do some serious reflection on your role as a youth pastor. There is no other student in your youth group that will get pigeon-holed into a stereotype like your pastor’s child. They will deal with unspoken pressures to act a certain way, and they will see the messy side of church only reserved for staff members. Furthermore, you will want to minister to your pastor’s child because you too will one day have a child in their predicament, and you will want someone there to provide the same ministry you provided for your pastor’s child. With that said, here are 4 ways you can minister to your pastor’s child:

Speak highly of their parents

Every child wants to know their parents not only do right by them, but others as well. This is especially true for a pastor’s child since their parents are involved in world were people “shoot their own.” They need to know their parents made the right choice when they were being obedient to the call God placed on their life, and you can do that by sharing the many victories their parents are involved in. Furthermore, a pastor’s child needs to continually be reaffirmed their parents are doing a great job, because of the many disgruntled church members who will voice their opinion about the pastor’s decision. And the last thing they need to hear is their youth pastor chiming in with the rest of the crowd.

Open your home

You may already do this for all of your students, but make sure your pastor’s child has a personal invitation to your household. Church life has the ability to spill over into the home, and pastor’s child needs a safe place to just be away from it all. Our houses have the opportunity to be a safe haven for our pastor’s children to just breathe and be themselves. Moreover, make sure your pastor knows their child always has an open invitation to your place, in case of emergencies or when an unexpected “church meeting” takes place.

Affirm their choice to follow Christ

A pastor’s child may not have a choice when it comes to the life their parents have chosen for their family, but they do have a choice when it comes to their relationship with Jesus Christ. This one truth will help your pastor’s child navigate the trials that will challenge their faith. Remind them often that they choose the type of relationship they have with Christ, and how discipleship looks like to them. They live in a world where it can feel like their entire faith is forced on them, let them know they own their faith and nobody else controls it.

Don’t put unrealistic expectations on them

Because of their status as a pastor’s child, we can place higher expectations on them we wouldn’t normally put on other students. When we do this, we automatically set them up for failure. We need to remember they are teenagers, which means they too deal with all the craziness that comes with being one. Furthermore, we need to remind the other students about doing this as well. So when your pastor’s child makes a mistake and everyone makes the comment, “Aren’t you the pastor’s kid?” Make sure to step in and remind the other students he or she is no different from them, and that they all need grace.

In the end, what I have written isn’t anything new. In fact, I’m sure many of you are already doing this; however, what I want this post to do is to be a gentle reminder you are already leading up just by doing your job. In our quest to become a presence in our churches, we can sometimes forget the one thing that determines how much of voice we have is the one thing we are called to do. Love your students and their parents, but don’t forget about doing the same for your pastor and his child.