Intern 101: After the Internship

My first two posts in this series highlighted the importance of hiring the right person for your internship and making the most of the internship experience while the intern is with you.  This last post in the series deals with the most overlooked portion of the internship experience, namely how to encourage and mentor your intern AFTER the internship is over.

While the lack of proximity makes this the most difficult portion of the internship to do well, I believe it can also be one of the most rewarding.  Being a resource, an encourager, and a listening ear can be incredibly meaningful ways to enjoy the “fruit of your labor.”  Here are a few ways I’ve found to encourage my interns as their internship ends and as they enter the ministry on their own.

1.  Monetary Encouragement
One of the best ways you can encourage your exiting intern and also involve the congregation in showing appreciation is with a love offering.  When the internship comes to an end at our church, we take up a love offering as a way to say thank you for the hard work.  We also provide a one-time scholarship gift of $1500 to help them finish up their schooling.  These monetary gifts can encourage your intern and help them as they prepare to enter ministry full-time.  Be generous and consider it an investment in future ministry.

2.  Resource Them Like CRAZY
You’ve been doing ministry for a little while, and you have a plethora of resources that may help your intern get his ministry started on the right foot.  Generously give your intern resources to help them in the future.  When my interns leave Hazelwood, I provide them with a flash drive containing my computer’s “Church” folder.  Every lesson I’ve ever written, every church graphic I’ve ever made, every vision document, leader document, administrative spreadsheet, and budget worksheet are on that flash drive.  You’ve got a wealth of information, so don’t be afraid to share that with your intern.

3.  Deliberately Keep Up With Them and Their Ministry
With texting, social media, and the Internet, staying up to speed with former interns is easier than ever.  Go out of your way to check in on them and connect with them frequently.  They may post a picture of their recent Middle School Retreat on social media.  Like the photo and comment “Proud of you – keep up the great work!”  That small step takes 10 seconds, and it will make their day.  Write them notes, send them a text of encouragement, and connect with them on social media.  By doing so, you will encourage them and keep the lines of communication open.

4.  Be Available Whenever Possible
Accessibility is crucial to continued mentorship.  When your intern calls with a question, texts you to say hello, or hits you up on social media, be sure to respond and to do so quickly.  Let them know they matter to you, and that you are available for advice, to vent to, or just to chat.  Speak at their retreat if they ask.  Make time for a lunch if they are coming through town.  When a major issue comes up at their church, you may be an important voice they seek out.  Be available and you will have a front seat to seeing God work through them.

5.  The Recommendation
Inevitably, your intern will seek your recommendation as they seek employment, or as they look for a new ministry later on.  Don’t hesitate to offer your insights to those who may call about your former intern.  You have done ministry alongside them for months, and you may be the best source of information for a future employer.  Be honest about your intern and his abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and areas where he might improve.  Your honest recommendation could mean the difference between a great fit and a dud.

6.  Pray For Them Regularly
While this should go without saying, it’s important to lift up your former intern in prayer regularly.  Remember that they are on the front lines of ministry just like you are.  Pray for their family, for their ministry, for the balance between the two, and for their integrity.  Deliberate prayer is a great way to remind you to connect with them in other ways as well.

These are just a few of the way I’ve found to encourage my interns after their internship ends.  I’d love to hear from you about some effective ways you have maintained a relationship with your interns after they leave.  Keep up the great work!

Relational Ministry after Easter

At this point, you are probably pushing into your second meeting on how your church will be running this Easter.  As a youth worker, you might have a bigger stake in the Sunday service and many churches I know treat that Sunday as a family or big church service. Let’s be honest, this might be your only shot for the next six months at several families that only come on Easter and Christmas. We want to have great services, sermons, and worship experiences for that one hour that we have a captive audience.

You are giving so much time to that one Sunday, but what are you doing after Easter?

  • How are you following up with teenagers and their families after Easter?
  • Do you have a communication strategy to invite them to your youth group that they did not get to see that Sunday?
  • Are you planning any events for a week or two after to continue the dialogue with them about Jesus and develop strong relationships?
  • Where are your volunteers in this strategy approach?

One hour this Easter is not enough time to develop a relationship with them.

In my experience of hearing youth pastors talk about Easter, it is all about the day of and not about the weeks, months, and years after that. Honestly, one hour is not enough time to develop a relationship with them. You are squished in between a more enhanced-than-normal worship experience, more than typical number of announcements, communion, and any other out-of-the-ordinary activities this Sunday. How do we fully communicate to a teenager that we love them, that they have sinned and need the grace of Jesus, they matter, they should trust us, we are hear to listen to them, and that this church is a community of believers here to serve each other and worship God?

If you have not thought about how you are going to do relational ministry with your new visitors this Easter, we have some ideas for you:

  1. Use Social Media To Connect

    Have your volunteers and student leaders retweet, reshare, and like your Instagram pictures of photos you took on Sunday with new people. Offer daily content that is profound, callbacks to the sermon, or call-to-actions that will encourage engagement. Respond to ALL of the comments. Then ask for people to come back next week.

  2. Have An Activity Announcement On Easter

    We want teens and families to come back, not to come once and bounce until next Easter. Plan an activity that is free or discounted to new visitors and social. This does not have to be complicated, coffee, ice cream, and gummy worms. Challenge volunteers to ask new visitors after church to come to the event. Then on the day of the event, share with the parents what your ministry is about, give some examples of the fun that you will have (Remember the gummy worms? Your welcome.), and offer a quick devotional of what Christianity has done since the death, resurrection, and ascension.

  3. Don’t Stop Inviting After Two Weeks

    I see youth groups giving up too quickly to the Easter-only teenagers after by May, it is a focus on seniors, camp, and summer schedule. No! Keep going after those teens that already bought in a little because they came on Easter. Push in to them with love and presence. Make sure to have your whole youth ministry team to continue to invite them!

 

What does your after Easter relational ministry strategy look like?

Four Reasons You Should Have A Youth Ministry Website

Yesterday, I wrote about why you shouldn’t have a youth ministry website. It sounds a bit hypocritical of me, because I have my own youth ministry website and I create youth websites for other youth pastors. So here are some reasons why you should get a youth ministry website.

1. Because they are awesome

One page on a church website doesn’t convey all that is your youth ministry. Youth Ministry is complex and dynamic. It has layers and purpose. To only get one page on a big website is to only get a snippet of what is your youth ministry. You can showcase who your leaders are, talk about future events, the purpose and goals of the ministry, post messages from your youth talks, show pictures, give resources to parents, and resources for students. What you can do is almost endless.

2. Sign ups

This is literally the best reason for a site. Online Sign ups. I use Wufoo but there are tons of good sites that create forms that you can embed on your site. Students can sign up when they are home or their parents can do it for them. They can also pay with a credit card online which is sometimes difficult to do at church. What I love the most is the organized excel spreadsheets I can get after the sign ups. I don’t have to try to read kids messy handwriting. It is clearly typed in Helvetica online.

3. It can be extremely affordable

I shared in the last post that if you can’t fork over some cash, don’t get a website. Relatively speaking, websites are super affordable and super simple to use. In some cases with Hosting, Domain, and a WordPress theme, you are looking at about $200 that first year. The price is almost cut in half by the subsequent years. Also, if you are willing to spend some time equity on YouTube, you can create a website yourself to save a little cash from getting a designer. There is a little learning curve to over come, but it is worth it if you want a legit website.

4. It can help your ugly church website

It is a proven fact that Elders are not comfortable with the youth website looking better than the churches main website. I am sure The Barna Group has done a survey showing that to be true. I have made websites for youth pastors who told me that they hope the youth website will convince the church at large to change their website. It usually works. When they see how simple and quickly it is to get a super legit looking website, most find the money in the budget to make the switch.

Be wise with the money God has given you. If I can give you one encouragement, don’t settle for an ugly and sloppy website. If you are going for it, Go for it! Get help. Ask for the opinions of others (preferably those outside of your ministry). Like I said in the last post. An ugly or unkept website will do more harm to your ministry than no website at all.

Many know about our fantastic Facebook community for Youth Pastors, but we also have one just for church design and technology. If you have a website you want feedback on, our community would love to help out!

Four Reasons Why Your Youth Ministry Doesn't Need a Youth Website.

I love my youth website. I spent hours making it just right and after seeing my site stats, I know more than just my students and their parents are checking it out. However, I know a lot of people who don’t need a youth website. If you are considering getting a youth website please consider the following:

1. It’s hard to keep up-to-date.

It is far better to have no website than an outdated website. When people go to your youth site they want to see what is going on and get an idea of what your ministry is about. If it is outdated with old events you never took down or a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2010, it will actually deter people from going to your ministry. If you are not willing to spend sometime each week keeping it fresh with new photos, new content, and new posts, don’t get a website.

2. It’ll be a hit to your budget.

One thing I know youth pastors love is free. Free resources and free game ideas are literally the most searched things on any youth ministry website. I will keep it honest with you. If you are looking to make a website for free, don’t get a website (I can hear the people who like using Wix preparing a comment now). There are free options out there. WordPress.com offers a free blog format but you are limited on themes unless you purchase one. You can make something on Tumblr but I wouldn’t recommend it. And yes there is Wix. However, I am not a fan of advertisements on ministry websites.

  • Domains will run you typically $10 a year.
  • Cheap hosting can be as low as $10 a month (there could be cheaper but I would be scared of their servers). Quality hosting will be around $15 -$20 a month.
  • WordPress Templates cost anywhere from $35 – $65
  • Then there is the time equity of knowing how to install, create, and keep up with a WordPress site.

This doesn’t include hiring someone to make a site for you. If you aren’t willing to spend the money, don’t get a site.

3. Know your audience

Knowing your audience will always save you time and money. If your kids don’t use social media that much (I know it is rare but they do exist) you don’t need a website. If your kids are younger (Middle School age) you probably don’t need a website. If your youth group is small, you don’t need a website. I know small is subjective and I know small youth groups with great websites. However, small youth groups in rural areas perhaps don’t need a youth website because they same goals can be accomplished with handouts or emails.

4. It might be unnecessary

Youth Ministry websites are a recent thing. The intent behind them are good. Get info to the kids and they can have access to it 24/7. It can also be a free way to market the ministry to the students in your city. However, Youth ministry has long survived without a website and some of the strongest ministries I know only have a single page on their churches main site. Sign-ups can still be done manually in youth group. Pictures can still be seen on Facebook. Announcements can still be done from the pulpit or if it must be online, Twitter and Instagram. Your ministry will see far more growth from students inviting their friends than the odd chance of a student googling “Youth Ministries in my city.”

This isn’t to say their aren’t some legit reasons to have a youth ministry website. I address 4 reasons why you should have a Youth Ministry website in a post coming tomorrow.

How Do You Have Time To Post On Social Media?

If you look at my church’s social media feed on our ministry’s Facebook and Twitter account, you might wonder how I have the time to post social media while still doing ministry at the same time. It takes time to come up with ideas, construct the post, schedule it out, reply to comments, see what posts works so that I am coming up with the best content we can be sharing on the different social media accounts. I try to do that twice every weekday and once every weekend day on Facebook and 3-6 times for Twitter.

So how do I have time to do all of that? I don’t.

But I can show you how we are still able to pull all of this off. It requires a team. Here are the steps you need to implement to get to a great level of social media use.

  • Know What You Want Do not assume that you need to follow what I have done in social media to achieve success. Colorado Springs is a big place and our church is over 5,000 large. The church I came from was 250 large and the community 1,000 people. The two CANNOT have the same standards and be deemed effective. Also, know what your students are using. Does anyone of them have Twitter? If not, then ignore it. If you want some help in this process, I’d love to sit down with you over Skype for 30 minutes and help.
  • Figure Out Who Is Running The Accounts Here is where the illusion breaks down. We have already talked about it in another post here, so I won’t jump into the details. The short version, church pastors have a lot on their plate, give it to a trust-worthy volunteer. Let them post, schedule, and respond to comments for others.
  • Let Pastors Write the Content Pastors are always reading the Bible (post a Scripture), leading a group (share about how you have ministry opportunities), praying for congregation members (give a 2 sentence prayer), write your sermon (give a challenge or thought of the day/week), and work with church leadership (pictures and more pictures!). They have so much content just being used once or twice. Repurpose it and go crazy!
  • Share Everything You Have/Do You might think that no one cares about your leadership meeting, but what if you took a picture and posted it on Instagram, asking people to pray for the leadership or showing them a link to sign up to volunteer themselves. No one cares about the prep work for church dinners, but people are foodies and you can ask people to invite friends and family to come. Take a vine while in your office of random thoughts and ask what others think. Don’t limit yourself.
  • Steal Ideas From Others I wrote a sweet $5 eBook with 40 ideas for youth workers to use to post to social media. Post once a week with an original idea here or there and NEVER duplicate it and you will have your whole year’s worth of posts done.

Share your ministry’s social media account below, we’d love to see how you are rocking it for your ministry