Intern 101: During the Internship

In my previous post, I pointed out how important the process of hiring an intern can be.  By working hard on the front end and hiring someone who is on board with your philosophy of ministry and works well with your personality, you can be relatively certain of a successful internship experience.  However, once you’ve hired your intern, it’s important to put together a deliberate and meaningful plan for his or her arrival.  By planning ahead and employing some deliberate strategies, you can maximize the effectiveness of the internship experience.

Below are the top ten tips and tricks I’ve learned through the many internships I’ve experienced that can enhance the internship WHILE your intern is onsite.  Maybe these can spur some great ideas for your next internship.

1.  Have clear-cut guidelines and expectations.
One of the best things you can do for your intern is to provide a solid framework for them to flourish in.  Clearly communicate to them about your expectations.  What should they wear to the office?  What does a normal week look like?  What are their responsibilities?  How should they interact with their host family?  Are there rules concerning hosting guests or spending time with students?  What is the schedule for the summer?  Answering these questions up front will help put your intern at ease and make “unwritten expectations” minimal.  Be clear and thorough.

2.  Have a comprehensive “to-do” list for them on day one.
In the same way you should be clear about guidelines and expectations, you should also be clear about the tasks your intern should accomplish throughout his or her time with you.  While this gives your intern clarity and purpose during the internship, it also helps you throughout the internship.  When your intern enters your office to “hang out” during a busy day, you can remind them of their task list and challenge them to work ahead.  This methodology can also aid your intern in learning how to be a “self-starter.”

3.  Make every moment a teachable one.
Never underestimate the power of example, and never miss out on a great teachable moment.  Sometimes in ministry, crazy things happen.  Sometimes in ministry, you have to do things you may not really “want” to do.  By bringing your intern along and walking through your thought process with them, you can help them formulate their own opinions and philosophies for future ministry.  Talk about ministry over a burrito, in the car, in the office, as you travel to a meeting or at a family dinner.  Don’t be afraid to do the hard work and make those ministry moments teachable ones.

4.  Emphasize the spiritual.
It’s easy to break ministry down to the nuts and bolts or the “how-tos,” particularly when interacting with your intern.  But the truth is that you could probably train a monkey to “do” youth ministry.  Planning events, making phone calls, reserving the retreat space…all of that is pretty pedestrian when you boil it down.  Teach your intern to “be” youth ministry by emphasizing the spiritual.  Challenge them to grow in Christ, to rely on prayer, to study the Word, to disciple with love.  The spiritual is where the power comes from, so don’t overlook it for simple nuts and bolts.  Among other things, we start every day of the internship with prayer together, just as a small way to make the spiritual a priority.  I challenge you to find ways to emphasize the spiritual for your intern.

5.  Give them responsibility, but not too much.
This is probably the most difficult balance to find, but it can make or break the internship.  Your intern needs to have an opportunity to spread his wings, to try out her own methods, or to figure out a new plan when things go awry.  When you intervene at every turn, your intern won’t really learn how to handle tough situations.  Give them responsibility and trust them, but be ready to intervene if things get out of hand.  Don’t micromanage them, but be sure to “have their back” in a pinch.  I require my intern to plan, recruit, budget, and execute at least one major youth event during the internship, while I act as a “youth leader” under his leadership.  Find your own balance, but let them learn by leading.

6.  Have hard conversations.
In every internship I have experienced, there has been the need for at least one “difficult” conversation.  Office etiquette, curfew, host family issues, distractions, word choice, and preaching evaluations all have the potential to be “difficult” conversations.  By clearly and lovingly communicating “constructive criticism” to your intern, you can help form their methods and habits for the future.  Confrontation isn’t always fun, but it’s usually formative.  Tough conversations are just part of the mentoring process, so be prepared to make the most of them.

7.  Connect them with a variety of people within your church.
Your church is full of unique individuals.  My knee-jerk reaction to hosting an intern was to guard them from some of the more “colorful” personalities in our congregation.  Recently, however, I have changed my tactics.  Truthfully, EVERY church is full of unique people, and your intern is going to deal with “colorful” people in her own church someday.  Allow them to interact with these folks in small doses, and then let them work through their thoughts with you afterwards.  This can have positive impact for years to come.

8.  Evaluate and communicate regularly.
Your intern is spending this time with you so that they can grow, learn, and be challenged toward future ministry.  Make sure you give them plenty of feedback.  My intern and I spend the first part of each day together praying and talking through things.  In addition, we schedule multiple “evaluation lunches” during the internship where I can share with them and they can share with me honestly.  This type of open communication sets a great tone for the internship and a relationship in the future.

9.  Listen and learn from your intern.
If you’ve got ministry entirely figured out, then you can skip this part.  However, if you’re like me and are learning new things about ministry every day, then your intern might be a great place from which to learn.  Your intern potentially comes from a different context and has a viewpoint of your church and your ministry that you simply do not have.  Listen to them, pick their brain, ask them questions, and hear them out.  I’ve made many ministry changes based on the recommendations of my interns.  Listen and learn.

10.  Show them ministry, and not just yours.
One of the greatest things about the Kingdom of God is that it extends far beyond your church’s four walls.  Make deliberate efforts to show your intern the greater Kingdom.  Schedule lunches with other Youth Ministers from your area.  Encourage involvement with other youth groups at camps, retreats, and conferences.  Invite other ministers to speak to your group as an example to your intern.  Show your intern the joy of collaborating with other co-laborers in Christ.

These top ten tips and tricks are important to me, but I’m certain many of you would add other things to the list.  What would you recommend adding to this list?

An Open Letter to Students on Identity

Dear Student,

I see what is going on.  You might think it’s invisible to the people around you, but I see it.  I see how you are working so hard for approval from those around you.  I see the clothes you wear, the things you buy, the music you listen to, and the way you act around others.  Sometimes, I wonder if these things really add up to equal YOU or just some version of you that is “presentable” to the masses.  You have so much of your identity wrapped up in what others think of you, and I want you to know that what they think really doesn’t matter.

You might wonder how I know these things.  Well, it’s because not that long ago, I was like you.  I know you probably think I’m way too old to understand, but I remember going through Middle School and High School.  I remember entering the school every day, hoping that I didn’t do anything stupid that would draw the ridicule of the “popular kids.”  I remember the uncertainty of the lunchroom, a virtual gauntlet, the caste system with tater tots.  Where do I sit?  Who are my friends?  Who can I trust?  I know it’s sometimes overwhelming, and I know you want so badly to fit in, but I think I’ve found a better way.

Instead of wrapping your identity around clothes, music, popularity, and how many “likes” you get on your Instagram, why not try putting your trust in Jesus?  You might think that sounds hokey or ridiculous, but here are some truths that I have come to find pretty powerful from God’s Word.

1.  God created us in His image.  We are His.


Genesis tells the story of Creation.  God crafted the world in six days.  Everything we see around us was crafted by Him.  Yet only one thing He created was confirmed as being “very good.”  It was us – humanity!  So, the solar system, the beautiful sky, the most incredible animal you can think of…all of it pales in comparison to you!  God created you, and you are His!

2.  God’s love for you is unconditional.


1 John tells us that God is love.  John 3:16 reminds us that God loves us so much that He sent His Son for us.  But I think Romans 5:8 says it best.  “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The world is all about what you bring to the table, what you provide.  God loves you unconditionally.  God’s love isn’t dependent on what you do, He loves you for who You are.  You can’t earn more of God’s love, and you can’t escape it.  God loves you…period.  Read Romans 8:38-39 if you don’t believe me.

3.  Trusting in God gives you purpose and direction.


One of the best truths that God gives us is that of purpose.  When we trust in God, we believe not only in His unconditional love, but also His divine plan for each of us.  God has something in mind that only you can accomplish, that only you can do.  He created you, He crafted you to be the person you are, and gave you your gifts, abilities, and personality to accomplish His purposes.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God has a plan, so you have a purpose.

I have found great joy and solace in knowing that I have a God who loves me unconditionally, who created me in His image, and who has a plan for me.  With these truths firmly in place, I am free to follow Christ, to focus on what He has in store for me, and to rest my identity in the One who will never let me down.  And that, dear student, is a beautiful place to be.

In Christ, Your Youth Minister

An Open Letter to Students on Identity

Dear Student,

I see what is going on.  You might think it’s invisible to the people around you, but I see it.  I see how you are working so hard for approval from those around you.  I see the clothes you wear, the things you buy, the music you listen to, and the way you act around others.  Sometimes, I wonder if these things really add up to equal YOU or just some version of you that is “presentable” to the masses.  You have so much of your identity wrapped up in what others think of you, and I want you to know that what they think really doesn’t matter.

You might wonder how I know these things.  Well, it’s because not that long ago, I was like you.  I know you probably think I’m way too old to understand, but I remember going through Middle School and High School.  I remember entering the school every day, hoping that I didn’t do anything stupid that would draw the ridicule of the “popular kids.”  I remember the uncertainty of the lunchroom, a virtual gauntlet, the caste system with tater tots.  Where do I sit?  Who are my friends?  Who can I trust?  I know it’s sometimes overwhelming, and I know you want so badly to fit in, but I think I’ve found a better way.

Instead of wrapping your identity around clothes, music, popularity, and how many “likes” you get on your Instagram, why not try putting your trust in Jesus?  You might think that sounds hokey or ridiculous, but here are some truths that I have come to find pretty powerful from God’s Word.

1.  God created us in His image.  We are His.


Genesis tells the story of Creation.  God crafted the world in six days.  Everything we see around us was crafted by Him.  Yet only one thing He created was confirmed as being “very good.”  It was us – humanity!  So, the solar system, the beautiful sky, the most incredible animal you can think of…all of it pales in comparison to you!  God created you, and you are His!

2.  God’s love for you is unconditional.


1 John tells us that God is love.  John 3:16 reminds us that God loves us so much that He sent His Son for us.  But I think Romans 5:8 says it best.  “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The world is all about what you bring to the table, what you provide.  God loves you unconditionally.  God’s love isn’t dependent on what you do, He loves you for who You are.  You can’t earn more of God’s love, and you can’t escape it.  God loves you…period.  Read Romans 8:38-39 if you don’t believe me.

3.  Trusting in God gives you purpose and direction.


One of the best truths that God gives us is that of purpose.  When we trust in God, we believe not only in His unconditional love, but also His divine plan for each of us.  God has something in mind that only you can accomplish, that only you can do.  He created you, He crafted you to be the person you are, and gave you your gifts, abilities, and personality to accomplish His purposes.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God has a plan, so you have a purpose.

I have found great joy and solace in knowing that I have a God who loves me unconditionally, who created me in His image, and who has a plan for me.  With these truths firmly in place, I am free to follow Christ, to focus on what He has in store for me, and to rest my identity in the One who will never let me down.  And that, dear student, is a beautiful place to be.

In Christ, Your Youth Minister

Instagram Won't Kill Your Ministry, But Something Much Worse Will.

Many of you have read Daniel Beckworth‘s  post “Instagram Will Kill Your Ministry” over at Youthministry.com. If you haven’t,  please make sure to read his post before you read mine.

First and foremost, I agree with the points Daniel makes, except for the part about kicking puppies, maybe kicking cats would of been much more appropriate. All joking aside, I appreciate what Daniel has brought to the table and how we should be more aware of the pictures we are posting up on Instagram. I, like many of you, have an Instagram and post pictures of my students.  I not only post  group pictures, but also pictures of an individual student, male or female, with only myself. I have no issue with this and think using Instagram for youth ministry purposes can be a great thing.

As I considered what Daniel was writing, I believe there is something much deeper than Daniel’s issues at hand. Instagram, or any other social media, won’t get you fired from youth ministry. Social media falls under those grey areas in the bible, since no such thing was even conceived as possible at the time. Yet, I treat social media in light of 1 Timothy 4:4;

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

It’s funny to think of Instagram as holy; but the truth is, how we use it to glorify God is what makes it holy. We have this amazing ability to use all of God’s creations to bring people closer to him, and we should be willing to figure out how to use all the tools God has given us in a glorifying way.

So with that said, what can get you fired? Bad judgement. If you keep making poor choices with the tools God has given you, expect to experience a backlash. If all you are doing is taking pictures with one particular boy or girl, expect people to start wondering about your relationship with them, which could lead to your termination.

However, if you’re taking pictures with multiple students, or individuals with guys or girls, than people will see the love you spread to others and won’t wonder about your motives. This is why it is important to have guidelines for yourself, your volunteers, your students, and your ministry so that you can protect yourself and others. We may have major guidelines, but sometimes little things, like pictures, are forgotten about. If you don’t have guidelines for the pictures you post up, I encourage you to make some. Here are some questions to ask ourselves when we are taking pictures:

  • How is this picture representing myself, my students, the student ministry, the church, and Christ?
  • How many pictures have I taken with this particular individual or group?
  • Am I favoring one student or group over the other?
  • What can I do to encourage students to take the proper pictures of themselves and each other?

In the end, make good judgment calls when you’re ministering to your students and their families. Have open discussions with your student’s parents and your volunteer team on what they believe is appropriate for all social media outlets. When everyone knows what your guidelines are when it comes to social media, texting, pictures, volunteers, etc., then you can minister without fear of someone believing your motives are impure. Have fun with Instagram, and take lots of pictures to show the world how amazing our God is!

What are your guidelines for social media?

Do you believe it is appropriate to use Instagram in youth ministry?

Instagram Won't Kill Your Ministry, But Something Much Worse Will.

Many of you have read Daniel Beckworth‘s  post “Instagram Will Kill Your Ministry” over at Youthministry.com. If you haven’t,  please make sure to read his post before you read mine.

First and foremost, I agree with the points Daniel makes, except for the part about kicking puppies, maybe kicking cats would of been much more appropriate. All joking aside, I appreciate what Daniel has brought to the table and how we should be more aware of the pictures we are posting up on Instagram. I, like many of you, have an Instagram and post pictures of my students.  I not only post  group pictures, but also pictures of an individual student, male or female, with only myself. I have no issue with this and think using Instagram for youth ministry purposes can be a great thing.

As I considered what Daniel was writing, I believe there is something much deeper than Daniel’s issues at hand. Instagram, or any other social media, won’t get you fired from youth ministry. Social media falls under those grey areas in the bible, since no such thing was even conceived as possible at the time. Yet, I treat social media in light of 1 Timothy 4:4;

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

It’s funny to think of Instagram as holy; but the truth is, how we use it to glorify God is what makes it holy. We have this amazing ability to use all of God’s creations to bring people closer to him, and we should be willing to figure out how to use all the tools God has given us in a glorifying way.

So with that said, what can get you fired? Bad judgement. If you keep making poor choices with the tools God has given you, expect to experience a backlash. If all you are doing is taking pictures with one particular boy or girl, expect people to start wondering about your relationship with them, which could lead to your termination.

However, if you’re taking pictures with multiple students, or individuals with guys or girls, than people will see the love you spread to others and won’t wonder about your motives. This is why it is important to have guidelines for yourself, your volunteers, your students, and your ministry so that you can protect yourself and others. We may have major guidelines, but sometimes little things, like pictures, are forgotten about. If you don’t have guidelines for the pictures you post up, I encourage you to make some. Here are some questions to ask ourselves when we are taking pictures:

  • How is this picture representing myself, my students, the student ministry, the church, and Christ?
  • How many pictures have I taken with this particular individual or group?
  • Am I favoring one student or group over the other?
  • What can I do to encourage students to take the proper pictures of themselves and each other?

In the end, make good judgment calls when you’re ministering to your students and their families. Have open discussions with your student’s parents and your volunteer team on what they believe is appropriate for all social media outlets. When everyone knows what your guidelines are when it comes to social media, texting, pictures, volunteers, etc., then you can minister without fear of someone believing your motives are impure. Have fun with Instagram, and take lots of pictures to show the world how amazing our God is!

What are your guidelines for social media?

Do you believe it is appropriate to use Instagram in youth ministry?

Youth Pastors and Self Promotion

How many times have I unfollowed someone on Twitter because they link to their blog every hour?

How many times have I rolled my eyes in a Facebook group for youth pastors because I ask a question, and instead of interaction I get linked to a blog?

How many times have I had a conversation with a youth pastor, and all they can talk about is their accomplishments?

It’s annoying, guys.  But it’s also pretty accurate of what most of us do at times.  Youth pastors, and pastors in general, love to promote themselves.  Why is this?

The Psychology

Youth pastors, by spiritual nature, are teachers and desire to contribute knowledge to their community.

Sometimes at church we might get shut down by a committee, pastors, or even our students.  And perhaps we are insecure; when things aren’t going so hot at church, we over-talk the things we are proud of.  We try to contribute to a community of other youth pastors that can see we have some strengths; strengths that our churches can overlook.

Youth pastors are also used to trying to promote their youth group and begging people to check out their church, web page, or event.  So it makes sense that when we post a blog, we begin begging people to read it.

The Problem

Pride creeps in and tells the pastor that their blog or contribution to the youth pastor community is their identity.  Pride tells them that if they get 100 retweets or comments on their blog, then they are valuable and worthy.

And others can see this pride–it’s redundant when someone fills up my feed with their blog posts and nothing else.  It’s annoying when I ask somebody for help and they just link me to their blog.  It’s usually irrelevant as well.  And hopefully, it’s misrepresentative of the pastor.

As someone who has always struggled with finding her identity in the affirmation of others, it is draining for both my self and for those I interact with.  If I am only finding my confidence in others, where is God in this equation?

The Proper Ways to Promote

Promote your group.

You want to fill my news feed up with something you love?  Quit filling it up with yourself–fill it up with how much you love your students. Your students see your stuff too, and will see that you love ministry not because it makes you “famous” (in your own little world) but because you love students.

Promote community. 

Realize that you need community, not a pat on the back.  It’s great when someone retweets me or tells me I had a great post.  But what we really yearn for is interaction with that post.  So that means we need to interact with others as well.

Promote others.

You want to post links to great information? Great!  Post a variety of links to others’ blogs.  I love posting links to different stuff in my Twitter account; whether it’s youth ministry blogs, parenting sites, youth culture reports, etc.  This shows I don’t just love my blog and what have to say, but many others.

Promoting others is promoting learning and promoting humility.

What do you guys think?  Are you fed up with youth pastors promoting themselves?  How do you make sure that you “promote” your blog, website, or group effectively without becoming obsessed or annoying?