Why consider a Ministry Internship? (Part 2): My Journey
In Part 1, we considered the need for people to consider a ministry internship and the goals a ministry internship seeks to achieve. In Part 2, I will share more of my own journey towards doing a ministry internship and the fruit it bore in my life.
1. Initial Seeds
Throughout my time in senior high school, I wrestled with the idea of whether or not I should consider being trained for pastoral ministry. I had the surprising desire to do so (I say surprising because growing up as a pastor’s kid and seeing the challenges, I vouched to never become a pastor). Increasingly, people around me were affirming my gifts and suggesting that I give it more consideration. So, when I finally realised that there would be no greater joy than to serve our great God, I mentally set out to complete my undergraduate degrees and enter theological college straight after that. With this long-term goal in mind, I engaged in ministry as much as I could throughout my university studies to get a better grasp of what pastoral ministry would look like. I knew that most pastors had to be a ‘jack of all trades’, therefore I wanted to get a diverse ministry experience. Consequently, I was involved in leading my church’s youth group and kids Sunday school. I started a young adults bible study group for university students, got involved with some parachurch organisations to experience working across denominations, and was part of overseas short-term mission teams.
I continued on this trajectory until my second year of university studies, during which I met the pastor (Peter Ko), who would later become my trainer. He saw that I didn’t have a mentor while being actively engaged in all these ministries and took me under his wing so that I would have consistent input and feedback. As time went on, he challenged my plans and suggested that I should consider some form of ministry internship. Even though I had expressed that it wasn’t something I was thinking about, he kept urging me and saying that I would really benefit from it, even if I couldn’t really see how just yet.
2. Tipping Point
For some time, I didn’t think that an apprenticeship was for me. Why? Chiefly because I felt like it wasn’t a wise use of two years. A lot can be done over two years. Why spend it on getting intense ministry training? Surely there are other ways to replicate this experience. To be sure, from an educational perspective, I believed in the power of close teacher to student relationships, especially in a one-to-one context. Teachers in these relationships have a profound influence and are vital in forming the students’ mind. We see this in the relationship between PhD students and their supervisors, martial art masters and students, and Aristotle and Alexander the Great. But ministry? Is it really the same? Well, I had at least one conclusion: if I ever did a ministry internship, it would be because of the pastor I would be learning from. In other words, I would only do a ministry internship with a pastor whom I trusted to be a good mentor and guide.
One thing really pushed me over the edge. My tipping point was an online journal published by 9-Marks Ministries. I don’t remember how I stumbled across it or how I came across this specific issue of the journal, but it changed my life. The issue was published in early 2009 and was titled ‘Raising up the Next Generation of Pastors’. Mark Dever and others emphasised the point that ‘raising up pastors is the churches’ work’. This was revolutionary to me because I had always thought that pastors were raised in seminaries. This notion was further emphasised when I listened to a panel discussion titled ‘Training the Next Generation of Pastors and Church Leaders’ where Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theology Seminary, emphasised that raising pastors is the church’s responsibility. From then on, my entire theology of ministry began to shift, eventually leading me to form the following convictions:
1) If pastors are to be raised in local churches, then I need to be part of a local church that is committed to doing that
2) If I want to be a pastor who raises future leaders, then I need to be trained by a pastor in order to know how to do that well.
3. The Internship
Soon after spending more time reading, thinking, and praying, I informed my Pastor that I would be delighted to serve as a ministry intern in order to see what upfront ministry was like in that specific context and to learn from him and the other pastors at our church.
I can confidently say that I have never regretted my decision to spend time in a ministry internship before entering seminary. I learnt so much about ministry, discipleship and myself through the process. The mentoring relationship between my Pastor and I was incredible. He helped me process ministry ideas, journeyed with me through challenges in life and affirmed me in my calling.
It’s really great having an ‘older brother’ figure who you know will pick up after your mess, prop you up on his shoulders so you can see further, and push you to limits that you didn’t know you could reach.
Have you seriously considered whether full-time ministry is for you? Perhaps doing a ministry internship is a good place to start.
In Part 3, we will consider next steps you may take as you consider the possibility of pursuing a ministry internship.
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Elliot is a pastor at GracePoint Presbyterian Church (Sydney, Australia) and an adjunct lecturer at Christ College. He is married to Sherilyn and they love the privilege of serving the Lord together.
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