When I was a junior in college, I sent out on a journey. It was a noble journey to an unknown place, with unknown people, with an unknown mission. We call this an internship. It is a time to learn from a seasoned ministry leader and jump into ministry at a level that has yet to be experienced.
My internship was in a small town in northern Wisconsin. It was a place I had never been and I had only met the pastor one time. My role was to learn, grow and be a part of the church family. My goal was to help them develop a youth ministry in the future, as they had only younger children at that time. As I think about that experience, I realize that I had no idea what I was doing. The sermons I preached were weak and short. My ideas were short-sighted and untested, but my enthusiasm was there.
What made the experience even more exhausting for me was the fact that I was getting married at the end of that summer. I did have a cell phone, but I did not get service where I was located. I would drive 10 miles out-of-town and park near the cell tower to talk to my fiance. It was a time filled with excitement, nervousness, loneliness and God’s shaping of my philosophy of ministry. I am grateful for the opportunity.
Fast forward nine years and I have now been the mentor of a student for six months. In fact, today is the final day of his internship. It was hard for me to fully understand what my role was in this internship at first. I set out to just give him all the experience that I could. I learned something in the process, so I am going to ask the question: “Do interns come with a return policy?”
Return on Investment
When people invest, they like to see what percentage they will get in return. That is impossible to measure in the life of a ministry intern. However, I know that we get far more than we put in. I know that the amount of potential in a young ministry leader who loves Jesus, is as unlimited as God is. These last 6 months, while an adjustment for everyone, will pay dividends into eternity. These we may never fully understand until we see Jesus.
Return to Serve
The amount of time spent building relationships with students now comes abruptly to an end. That is the unfortunate consequence of an internship where the students really like the intern. They are grieving having to say goodbye to him because he fit in so well. I know that many people have made the comments about him staying. So, while the church is asking if there is a return policy that states he will come back again, the reality is that it is his time to follow God to wherever He would lead. This is a positive thing, not a negative.
Return to Visit
This one is more likely to happen. What is so beautiful about the church is the connections that are made are often not just Sunday morning connections, but life long connections. The relationships I had on my internship still remain to this day, as will the church’s connection to our intern. It will be fun to hear about where he is and how God has used Him. It will be a joy to have him return and share his story with us. In Christ we are united!
Return to Health
This is more a joke in my mind and actually what I had in mind when I started this post. A few weeks ago while playing a game, our intern severely sprained his ankle. This limited his final weeks with us and added visits to the doctor in the process. I joked that we would have to ask for a replacement, or at least a refund. We want to see recovery and health. I also hope that this is not a common trend, since a lot of youth ministry involves running around.
The health of a ministry leader needs to not be overlooked. Too many get hurt, albeit emotionally, from the different people that they serve. It is certainly our hope that our intern would land at a place of health in all senses and remain there. There are sure to be challenges, but in those are where faith is increased.
I look back at my internship as one of the biggest times of growth in my life. I certainly hope I have been able to do my part in the life of another. I know that God’s return policy involves blessing and I look forward to all that He has in store.