The young seminarian was ready to forget entering the ministry. “I had built-in defenses that would make it impossible for me to fit into the status quo situation in the church,” he says. “I was becoming frustrated, critical, and very discouraged about churches in general.”
Then he spent a summer at the Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California, as part of its intern program.
“Now I realize that I had been totally ignorant of the nature and purpose of the Church. The internship program gave me the opportunity to see that it can really work and that it is possible to fulfill the radical purpose to which the Church has been called.” A vitally needed minister was saved for the cause of Jesus Christ, and the church benefited immensely in the process!
The summer internship program is not new. For years it has been common for a church to add a seminary student to its staff with the intention of teaching him some of the practical aspects of pastoring while he pinch-hits for vacationing church staff members.
The Peninsula Bible Church has added a dynamic dimension to the summer internship program. Its program is primarily aimed at ministering to the intern. Pastor Ray C. Stedman and his staff make every effort to train young men in the spiritual grace of becoming qualified ministers of the New Covenant. This excitingly unselfish program costs the church extra money and the staff increased work. Yet the church feels it has received more than it has given.
More than once a disillusioned seminary student has discovered a fresh focus through the internship program and has stepped into a new understanding of the vital place and work of the local church. One of last summer’s interns writes, “I personally was so discouraged about the pastorate from what I saw of it that before coming to P.B.C. I was seriously doubting whether I would ever go into the ministry. Since P.B.C. my whole outlook on the pastorate and local church has changed, and I look to the ministry as a uniquely challenging and rewarding life.”
Another states, “In the area of making the Christian life work, the internship program has done more for me than my first two years in seminary. As a result I am confident my last year in seminary will be much more meaningful.”
Another intern expresses his delight: “This summer I have learned to a greater degree to ‘walk in the Spirit’ and to live in ‘the Body.’ ”
In the past six years, more than a dozen interns who were ready to quit the ministry before they came to Peninsula Bible Church were awakened to new life and ministry. Spiritual revitalization has taken place in so many interns’ lives that staff members unanimously agree they have been more than repaid for their extra hours of work.
The approach of the internship program is to impart some of the basic principles of a pastoral ministry through seminars and real-life training. The interns are given opportunities to see God in action in a vital New Testament church.
Last summer’s Tuesday-morning seminar, which considered Galatians 3–6, was held from 7:30 to 9:30. One of the pastors led the study, and all the interns participated in open discussion. The Thursday-morning seminar considered such relevant subjects as “The Ministry of Jesus” (John 6), “The Ministry of the Saints” (Eph. 4), and “Spiritual Warfare” (Eph. 6). Commenting on these seminars, an intern says, “Here is where it all began—in the Bible. The morning seminars gave me a new appreciation for the Bible that had been sadly lacking in my life. Now I am able to read it with real confidence.”
Each intern is involved in a personal assignment such as college, high school, junior high school, Sunday school, or rural outreach. Their meetings are held out where the unreached people are—on the streets, in homes, in dorms, and so on. The intern’s wife is urged to enter into a personal ministry as well as to work alongside her husband and attend seminars.
The intern receives a well-rounded view of the ministry as he attends the church board meetings and observes and participates in visitation, the communion service, funerals, marriages, preaching, counseling, and other general pastoral work.
Bob Smith, the church’s associate pastor, admits there are problems and difficulties in carrying out the internship program. A pastor must weigh the problems against the blessings and decide whether he and his church are willing to pay the price.
The church members may tend to “let the intern do it” if staff and interns alike don’t guard against this attitude by involving the church membership.
Also, the program costs money, and at the wrong time of the year—during the summer slump. In the financial arrangements made by the Peninsula Bible Church, each married couple is paid $300 a month plus a $25 car allowance. The single intern receives $250. A small transportation allowance for the trip to Palo Alto is also given. While the church does what it can to help the intern find housing, he is responsible for the rent and utilities. Given the California cost of living, no intern gets rich on the amount allowed him; but on the other hand, with several interns the added financial load on the church is considerable. At P.B.C. the cost of the internship ministry is not included in the regular budget but is provided through privately raised funds. This makes it important that the intern recognize the sacrifice the church is making and be willing to match sacrifice with sacrifice.
Another problem is the workload thrust upon the staff. Summer is usually considered a time for relaxing of responsibilities, but the opening of the internship program brings increased responsibility to the staff. Finding time both to train interns and to administer a church is admittedly difficult.
What do the staff and congregation think about internship? One layman writes, “The internship program has put ‘pow’ into our summer outreach. Vitality and life are very contagious.” Another says, “Certainly it means extra work and money, but we haven’t gone in debt or had a ‘summer slump’ since we began the program.”
A staff member tallies up the benefits: “Youth and young adults have been reached who would never have been touched. The accelerated summer program involving our own high school and college young people has helped them mature spiritually. New ideas have been introduced into our youth departments, and young men have been salvaged from abandoning the ministry. It is now part of our church life and worth much more than it costs.”
These results suggest that this exciting program could and should be started in many more churches.—DICK HILLIS, general director, Overseas Crusades, Palo Alto, California.
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