Student ministry internships are great things. For starters, you have an extra staff member that can get stuff done without draining your budget. Also, you get the opportunity to invest in the next generation of church leaders. I know we’d all agree that if we have a student ministry internship program, we want it to be as effective as possible, and we want people to be excited to come work for us!

There are all sorts of great ideas out there about what makes an internship effective. But have you ever stopped and wondered, What do the interns want? What do those of us that are actually in the position really think?

Here are five important things I have learned in my time(s) as an intern that I believe would make an internship program extremely worthwhile. 

  1. Lead The Way: Typically, the expectations for interns are that they will grow spiritually and grow as leaders. I’m convinced that this is nearly impossible to do without influence from the people around us. Want us to be great leaders someday? Show us what being a great leader looks like. Want us to set clear boundaries? Show us how you set clear boundaries. We’re looking at you, so lead the way.
  1. Give Us Ownership: Please, whatever you do, don’t just give us busy work. Show us that we have value in the organization by giving us projects that are worthwhile. Don’t just make us buy game supplies; let us host and lead the games. Don’t just tell us how to be great communicators; give us opportunities to speak. Let us run point on important projects. Allow us to be champions of the work that we are doing. 
  1. Set the Bar High: I truly believe that because we serve an excellent God, we must do excellent work in ministry. Don’t be afraid to challenge us, and don’t be afraid to help us make things better. Show us what it takes to do incredible work in student ministry.
  2. Don’t Shelter Us: The temptation for pastors is to shield young people from the difficult things that people in ministry deal with. The problem with this is that one day, your interns will likely have their own jobs in the church, and they won’t have the first clue how to pastor people through the difficulties of life. If we’re sheltered from the messiness of life, we will be absolutely useless as pastors someday. Bring your interns into those difficult conversations. You don’t have to let them be a part of private meetings, but you can still give them teachable moments. Debrief them about the situation. Ask your interns what they might have done differently or how they would respond.
  1. Encourage Collaboration: One of the best things that I have done in my internships was to spend time with other environments in our church. Encourage your interns to learn more about the other people that are a part of your church. Have them spend time with your lead pastor, your children’s pastor, or the people who have influence within your church’s leadership and culture. The healthiest organizations are typically ones whose environments work in sync with each other. Teach us to collaborate early on.

Mitch Blankenship is currently the High School Ministry Intern at Buckhead Church in Atlanta, GA.