Small church internships have a lot to offer both the intern and the church.
But they have to be done right. If not, they’re a nightmare.
For over a dozen years, our small church has operated a successful internship ministry. Here are ten essential lessons we’ve learned, which have given us a reputation as a church that former interns want to recommend to future interns.
(This is the third in a series about small church internships. For more info, check out 7 Reasons to Consider a Small Church Internship, and 10 Steps to Get an Internship Ministry Started In a Small Church.)
1. Be Ready to Invest More In the Interns than They Will Give You
Many churches want to start an internship ministry because they need help and want free labor.
But there’s no such thing as free labor. An internship will cost your church a great deal of time, energy, money and other resources. In fact, it is likely to cost you more than it will pay you back – at least in the short run.
There’s only one good reason for a church to start an internship ministry. Because you want to invest in the next generation of ministers.
If you want workers, train your own volunteers or pay someone a decent hourly rate.
Internship is more about what we give the interns than what they give the church.
2. Decide Who’s Paying Who – And How Much
There are two ways to do an internship. The one where the interns pay the church and the one where the church pays the interns.
In our church, they pay us.
Sounds great, right? And it is.
But it comes at a cost. Here’s why.
If you pay the intern, you’re essentially getting an employee. You’re off the hook for anything but their pay and a positive learning environment.
But if they pay you, you’re on the hook for everything. In our internship, their tuition payment covers every essential cost they will have while with us. Housing, food, transportation and education. Other than medical insurance and clothes, we’re responsible for their well-being.
Before any church starts an internship, you need to sit down, assess those costs and decide what will work best for you. Depending on how much time and energy you have to invest in them, sometimes it’s cheaper for the church to pay the interns than for the interns to pay the church.
Since the internship at our church is one where they pay us, the rest of these ingredients are offered with that kind of internship in mind.