"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Interns

Working With Interns, Part II

Michael Holt

Insights From Those Who Supervise Interns

Many of the youth ministry professionals I contacted gave me not only their own stories about their internships, but stories of their interns and what they had developed in the way of philosophy and training. Here?s what we can learn from them:

Eric Ball of Titusville, Florida told me that his interns were his top priority.

"Internships, if done properly, will be apprenticeships in youth ministry with the flavor of 1 Thessalonians 2:8; ?We loved them so much that we imparted our very lives to them.? Ministry may have been what brought us together but it is not what keeps us together. We learned to love each other. This love between the youth leadership and our interns was so evident that students in our ministry actually began wanting to become interns because they saw firsthand the extraordinary growth and training that the intern staff experienced. They also saw the genuine love that abounded on the youth staff."

This was so good that I asked Eric for some principles that guided his ministry to Interns:

"Interns are to be invested in, not used as cheap labor. If I was not going to make discipling interns a top priority, giving time, energy and resources, then I should not have them. Interns are Gods? diamonds in the rough, future ministry leaders whom God is going to use mightily. I had the awesome privilege of investing a small part of life into them and influencing then for the glory of God. There is a tremendous stewardship responsibility that should not be taken lightly. If God is going to entrust me with the ministry training of interns? lives, I had better treat that trust as precious and not turn it into something selfish to meet my own ministry goals."

2. "They had to be willing to give me their hearts, to be in a relationship with me and the rest of the youth team. They had to be willing to be a part of that team, submitted to the leadership, both in receiving and giving input."

3. "They had to sense a call to youth ministry. We had different levels of interns; summer internships were more a place to see if you fit in youth ministry. It allowed the young person to see if this was the place they, God, and we wanted to work out."

Jim Spellman of Merritt Island, Florida sent me these guidelines:

"Get to know them. Help them discover their spiritual gifts, talents, and passion. Direct them towards the use of these things, and give them the freedom to exercise them."

2. "Let them do real ministry! Give them a ministry of their own and give them ownership. Expect a lot and inspect a lot. Guide and provide."

3. "Must have 100% visible and vocal support from the pastor of the youth pastor and his/her passion, the youth ministry, and the intern ministry."

4. "Teach the interns to guard their personal lives. Impress and model that character and that a personal life with God matters more than programs and abilities! Set aside time for them to study. Set aside time for one-on-one."

5. "Teach and model people skills. People will cut you slack for not being the best speaker, but if your people skills stink, your ministry won?t last long."

6. "Teach them how to think through everything and how to develop a written plan of action. Teach them the mechanics and methods of activities."

My friend Kevin Mangum shared these insights with me:

"I try to tailor make the internship around the gifts of the intern and the immediate needs of the group. This has really made all five of our internships enjoyable and successful."

2. "I like to hire from within. Students or young adults in my church that have a bent towards ministry have been very successful. Only one of five has been from outside our ministry. While that one worked very well, I felt that it was more risky. The application and hiring process was more intense to compensate for the lack of intimate relationship with intern applicants that I did not know."

3. "Always give a job description and agree on pay, days off, and purpose of the internship before hiring. Help interns develop their job description around their gifts and time availability. Free and empower interns to work freely and independently from your own personal ministry."

4. "I structure the internship so that it focuses the intern on relationships with kids and not on doing all the little projects that I do not want to do. That is a big temptation for me!"

5. "Make sure the pastor and powers that be approve the intern selection and process since you will have to go to bat for that person."

In almost thirty years of youth work, I think the best ministry I?ve done has been training others to do ministry to students. I usually have a young man with me that I?m training and it?s interesting to watch peoples? reactions to them. One of my summer interns that traveled with me told me that a college guy asked him; "What do you do, hanging out with Holt all the time?"

"What did you say?" I replied. "I said ?We pray, and we talk about God a lot and I can ask you anything and it?s ok.? ?I told them we read to each other when we drive and you talk a lot about your wife and your son and we make up funny stories about people in the airport.? ?I told him how you teach me to love God better and how I critique your talks and how my heart has been broken for teenagers since I started traveling with you."

"What did he say?" I asked. "He wanted to know if you needed somebody for next summer."

My Own Insights

I?m often asked by younger youth workers questions like; "How do I get an intern?" "What do you do with interns?" How can I get my pastor/church to buy into this? Eric and Jim and Kevin gave us some excellent wisdom on that. Here?s what I tell people who ask me these questions;

  • Pray that you would become a man or woman of such spiritual maturity, personal integrity and passionate concern that young people will be drawn to you and desire to become like you.

  • Pray that your ministry would be worthy of becoming a training ground for younger ministers.

  • Pray that God might give you such a vision for training that you could impart it to others without even trying. Ask for wisdom as to how and when you should approach your authorities about this.

  • Pray that God would entrust you with a younger man or woman that you treat with all the love and concern of your own child. Start with one and do it well!

  • Look for biblical, historical and practical models of discipling and mentoring and meditate on them until you own the truths you?ve learned. Read everything you can find on the subject. I recommend "Connecting" by Bobby Clinton and "As Iron Sharpens Iron" by Howard and William Hendricks.

  • Look for role models in mentoring and spend time with them, earning the right to ask hard questions. Ask them to teach you to do what they do.

  • Be loyal and caring to your interns. Never betray them. Always be honest with them. Love and serve them as they have never have been loved and served before. Never use them!

  • Ask them for their input, feedback, and critiques as to how you can speak better, minister better, and live better. Their fresh insights are so valuable to me that I even put this requirement in their job descriptions. It makes them rather nervous at first, but they eventually realize that I truly value their input. An added benefit is that by valuing their input, they feel more important, needed and a part of the ministry team. 

  • If you serve with multiple staff (or have qualified lay people who lead various ministries) ask these colleagues to spend some time with your intern(s), sharing about the ministry that they do and why it is valuable in a church/para-church setting. If possible, loan your intern to your senior pastor for hospital visits and/or to your children's minister to work at childrens' camp for a week. Involve them in staff meetings, even if only to sit on the sidelines and listen. They'll grow from the experience.

  • Take them with you whenever possible and appropriate, so they learn how to do ministry the right way. Never expect them to know what you haven?t taught them.

  • Pray with them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Bless them at every opportunity. Make sure they know you consider them a gift from God to you.

  • Expect to be disappointed. Count on having your heart broken. Some will fail, but many can finish well. Much of how it ends depends on us.


This article is owned by Michael Holt, copyright June, 2001. Used by permission.


Michael is a Youth Communicator/Youth Ministry Consultant with Reach Out Youth Solutions. He has worked with teens and their families for over 27 years and formerly taught in the youth ministry department of Columbia International University.

He can be reached by e-mail at
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