3 Tips For Being A Good Church Intern

While I’m on vacation, I asked a few Sojourn ministry leaders to keep the conversation going here at DanielSojourn.com. These are men and women who are leading us forward. Some of their work is behind the scenes, but it is all appreciated by me, by all the Sojourn pastors and by the many lives they have touched.

This week you’ll enjoy the perspectives of Jonah Sage. Jonah has served diligently as my research assistant and with many other assignments, such as helping to get Sojourn New Albany off the ground last fall. God has big plans for Jonah, which we enthusiastically support. Currently, Jonah has just become our full time Connect Director.

Today he writes about what he learned as an intern. If a Sojourn internship interests you, learn about it and download the application packet here.


3 Tips for Being a Good Church Intern

Shortly after joining Sojourn, I began volunteering on the Sermon Research team. This turned into an internship focused on researching with Pastor Daniel. After a year, I was offered entrance into Sojourn’s Pastor Residency Program, I began receiving preaching opportunities, and recently accepted a full time position on Sojourn’s staff. Over the last year, I’ve had dozens of young men ask me what the secret to being a good intern is and what they should do to make the most of an internship. Below are three simple suggestions that will aid your development, sober your expectations, and help you truly bless your church.

1.  Make sure an internship is the right decision for you.

Not everyone who desires to be in vocational ministry should be an intern at a local church. Internships often require more time than you expect, are harder than you expect, and are more ambiguous than you expect. This means that an internship isn’t the best place to figure out what you want to do. This also means that an internship isn’t the best way to fill up the extra ten hours you have free in your week.

There are financial considerations involved in your decision, too. If you are planning on raising support during your internship, think about the pool of people you will be asking for money. Consider, for example, how raising support for an internship could impact a church planter. Will the people who supported your internship also be willing/able to support you as a church planter? If you are not raising support, does your life circumstance (family, school, debt etc) afford you the time to work alongside your internship?

In short, an internship is not the golden ticket into vocational ministry so don’t force it. When it’s a good fit, an internship is beautiful. When it’s not, it’s not. Get advice from people you trust and ask for their honest feedback. It may not be the best decision for you right now, and that’s OK.

2. Commit to being a blessing to your church.

The goal of your internship should be to bless your church through sacrificial service. Put another way, your goal should be to make your boss’s life easier. The best way to ruin your internship is by creating more work for the man or woman you are under. See an internship as an opportunity to bring something to the table, not simply to take something from it.

Often times, people will view an internship as an opportunity to spend time with a pastor or church leader who will mentor and develop them. This is certainly part of an internship, but not in the way most think it is (see point 3 below). Philippians 2:3-4 was my inner mantra as an intern:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

If your desire as a church intern is to be noticed, if you view your internship as a stepping stone to further your career, or if you view your internship as ultimately being about your development, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Commit to being a blessing to your church and consider the desires of others more important than your own. Here are a few practical tips:

  • always show up early (at least 10 minutes)
  • learn how your boss takes their coffee
  • so long as it doesn’t require you to sin, do what’s asked of you without complaining
  • every so often, ask how you are doing and what you could do to be a blessing

When you’re a blessing to those you work for, they will be sad to see you go. When you create more work for them and arrogantly believe certain types of work are beneath you, they will be glad when your time is up. Be faithful with whatever tasks you are given, keep your head down and serve. Your internship isn’t about you, it’s about being a blessing to your church.

3.  Pay attention. More is caught than taught.

Some see an internship as an opportunity to work alongside their favorite pastor and the expectation is that they will have a year of close, focused instruction. Most pastors, though, have a 50 hour+ job and a family at home. If you are expecting your internship to be about your own development, led by your pastor of choice, you may be disappointed. If you go in with your eyes open, though, you will be stunned how much you can learn. During your internship, every conversation, every meeting, every assignment is an opportunity to learn.

With Daniel, I asked him after meetings if he had five minutes to talk. When he had time, I would ask him questions about the meeting. I would ask him why he set the agenda the way he did, what his thought process behind a certain line of questioning was, what he was trying to communicate to the team and so on. I kept a running list of questions I had and when there was time (in a car ride or during lunch, for instance) I would ask one or two.

In every situation, ask yourself what you can learn. If there are multiple interns, try to meet with one of them regularly to process what you’re learning together. Every moment of your day is an opportunity to learn. The lessons may not be handed to you in a neat, formal package, but it’s all right there in front of you. You will catch more in a one year internship by paying attention and asking questions than you could ever be taught in that time.

Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said that the one who is faithful with a little will be faithful with a lot. An internship is a great opportunity to learn how to be faithful. I am grateful for my internship experience—it literally changed my life. My prayer is that the above suggestions could play a small part in helping your internship do the same for you.


-What were the best and worst parts about being a church intern for you?

-What are you looking for out of an intern?

-Who do you think should pursue a church internship?

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One Response to “3 Tips For Being A Good Church Intern”

  1. Andrew Wise July 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Great tips – duly noted by an intern who’s just beginning the year. I’m excited!

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