How To Start An Internship Program At Your Church


"The most I can say is that I was willing to take chances, and I was in no mood to give up. And I've been the beneficiary of good deeds by good people all my life." 

-News Anchor Brian Williams, on his internship with the administration of President Carter

The opportunities presented by establishing an internship program should not be overlooked. At the very least, there is the potential for a mutually-beneficial relationship between an employer and an independent agent.  This relationship could lead to useful work experience for the latter while providing the former with an extra set of hands, resulting in what some may call a 'win-win' scenario.'s 10 Benefits of Starting an Intern Program highlights some of these 'wins' for the employer, such as: increasing productivity, enhancing perspective, giving back to the community, and ultimately, finding future employees.

Further, in the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) 2009 Experiential Education Survey, it is found that '67.7% of 2007-08 interns were offered full-time positions' while '83.6% of these offers were accepted'. This shows undoubtedly that there are largely trending employment opportunities through this new avenue of recruitment, to add on to the already-convincing pull of an internship program.

So where does the church fall into this equation? Here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we fully recognize the distinctive mission of the church among other non-ministry based organizations. While there is a measurable difference in purpose, this should not exclude the church (or the agent, for that matter) from the undeniable advantages of an internship program in this specific type of work.

Some concerns regarding a church internship could develop from a sensitivity to the nature of the work being done. It is perfectly understandable to be cautious about turning something as sacred as a church community into a mere employment opportunity, or "resume-builder" for some. These things considered, rest assured there is a way it can be done correctly and for the absolute betterment of the ministry. Taking in these key postures, you can have confidence in the process of placing interns into your growing fellowship.     

1. Be clear with your intentions of the internship.

Before starting the process of training interns, it might be a good idea to ask how your mission stands to gain from their service. For example, will it be from the tangible assistance in the needs of the church, or from the introduction of a potential staff member into the community? Regardless, these are questions that should be asked throughout the span of the program, as a system of checks and balances. From this, the internship can remain intentional, making a way for responsibilities to grow and facilitate. Check out our related blog post How To Keep Your Church Staff Happy.

2. Hire from the heart, not just from the body.

It is a fairly common misconception that the only applicants considered should be current and frequent attendees of the church, or a part of "the body". While there are many training-related benefits to hiring someone already aligned with the heartbeat of your ministry, avoid becoming blind to the potential a newcomer could bring to your congregation. A new face could provide fresh perspective and a humble spirit who is grateful for the opportunity to be openly welcomed into your church. Ultimately, if the applicant has a heart for your ministry and is willing to learn and grow from their experience (as any intern should be), the experience will be advantageous.

3. Do good work because it's good.

Another concern regarding any type of ministry-based service is that it could be done in order to further the church's image. While this seems like it could be beneficial, it could also be dangerous. It can beharmful to your growing community to feed the idea that service is competitive and self-fulfilling. Help your interns understand that the measure of their work is not determined by any title placed onto it, but instead by its quality.

Sometimes the best service we can do is monotonous and typically unnoticed, done to the best of our ability. Instilling these truths early on will encourage your interns to serve with a generous spirit, without expectation of recognition or glamor.

4. Encourage passion and creativity.

Whichever way you may have come across your team of interns, chances are they are just as eager and excited to come on-board as you are about having them around. This is truly the beauty of a well-designed internship. Don't deny your church the ability to learn from this relationship by potentially limiting their individuality. Every new person in your community only leads to a broader perspective of the world around us, so you can only gain from giving your interns a platform to share their ideas and most importantly, see them through!  

Above all else, trust that your interns have been purposefully aligned with your church and be open to learn and change as their time moves along. An internship should be intentional, valuable and most importantly, fun!

What steps does your church need to take specifically to introduce an intern into your community? 

If you liked this, then you'll also like: How To Prepare For Your Ministry's Summer Internship