Patricia E. Clawson
Do you ever wonder if your church should have a pastoral intern? Consider the blessings to four Orthodox Presbyterian churches that had their first intern last year.
Covenant OPC in Kennewick, Washington, always wanted an intern, but lacked the resources. Interns from sister churches filled their pulpit, and Pastor Mark Collingridge often met with seminarian Adam Phillips to discuss theology and pastoral issues. When the session decided to have their first summer intern, Phillips was the natural choice.
“Our session knows and values the part the local church plays in mentoring the next generation of ministers,” said Collingridge. “The congregation was eager to support the opportunity. They were amazed to see the development of a young man from the beginning of the internship to the end of it.”
As the mentoring pastor, Collingridge benefited from the internship. “It was encouraging for me to mentor another man and help in preparing him for the gospel ministry,” he said. “Pastoral ministry is largely about giving of oneself in service to the congregation. Sometimes giving can drain a man. Giving to an intern was a different kind of drain—a good one.”
The internship displayed God’s faithfulness in raising up future pastors. “It takes patience to allow a man to grow and develop in the context of public worship and to go through that process for the sake of those congregations Adam will eventually serve,” Collingridge said. “It’s good for churches to see what the Lord is doing beyond and outside our mostly small congregations. It is a financial commitment, but a worthy one. It is a time commitment, but a necessary one.”
A memorial fund helped Reformation Fellowship in Roseville, California, finance their first summer intern, Joseph Johnson, a seminarian and member of their congregation. Pastor Kevin Van Der Linden was uncertain about mentoring Johnson, but overcame his hesitancy because he wanted to see Johnson develop. “Trying to be of help to him and help him think through preaching and other questions, proved helpful and refining for me in my own work,” said Van Der Linden. “I think that, next to the intern, the supervising pastor learns the most. For example, I had to think about how I craft a sermon with greater clarity when it came time to convey praise, critique, and concrete ideas about how to pastorally shape and present the material.”
His congregation supported their intern. “They were glad to receive the Word from him,” said Van Der Linden. “Our youth especially appreciated having Joe teach and spend time with them. Joe was a blessing to all of us.”
Van Der Linden learned the cost and blessings of mentoring an intern. “Having an intern is an act of giving. Do not have an intern if you’re thinking it will provide a break for the pastor or provide ‘cheap help,’” he said. “The main benefit is the joy of serving the intern and praying that you are investing in the next generation of men whom Jesus is raising up to serve his church in the ministry of the Word.”
Two years after becoming an organized congregation, Redemption OPC in Gainesville, Florida, was at a point where they could afford to finance a summer intern with help from their presbytery, funds from the Committee on Christian Education, and an anonymous gift that paid for housing. The session had desired to train young men for the ministry so when Pastor Joel Fick learned that seminarian Jordan Rossi had been approved by the Christian Education Committee for an internship, they offered it to him.
“The congregation was very good about being supportive of [the intern’s] growth in terms of giving him good feedback and trying to be an encouragement to him,” said Fick. Jordan and his wife “had meals for a week upon arriving, were showered with love, and generally welcomed with open arms.”
Fick recommends the same welcoming spirit for any
intern’s wife: “Make sure to invest not only in the intern himself, but also in his wife. It’s really a package deal, and will be for whatever church they end up serving in the future.”
Mentoring pastors should give their congregation the big picture about internships, said Fick: “Seek to inculcate in your church a sense that we are part of God’s work in developing and helping these men meet their potential and have their calling tested.”
When local seminarian Micah Shinn providentially dropped into the lap of Cedar Presbyterian Church in Hudsonville, Michigan, the congregation jumped on it, said Pastor Stephen Igo. First Shinn served as a volunteer intern. The church soon realized that he would benefit from a yearlong internship. To fund this first paid internship, the session received the OPC’s matching funds for interns and asked the congregation to give three months of “love gifts,” and then asked for $6,000 in additional gifts. The congregation gave $9,000. “The OPC stimulated our generosity,” said Igo.
Igo and the congregation befriended the intern. Although the pastor preaches less with an intern, he spends that time helping the intern learn the duties of the ministry, said Igo. The internship “is a great way to learn and return. We as ministers learn so much. That’ll die with us or we pass it on to the next generation,” said Igo. The intern “learned from us, but his zeal and youthful energy are infectious and spread to the congregation. The morale is so high.”
Igo encourages other congregations to have an intern. “Be open to the idea, and when the opportunity opens itself, do it!” he said. Who knows? Perhaps more interns will be like Micah Shinn, who not only grew in his gifts for ministry, but also met his future wife as well.
If your church would like to have an intern, or if you are a seminarian seeking an internship, please apply by February 28, 2014. The Committee on Christian Education anticipates offering churches with summer interns $1,000 to $1,100 a month in matching funds, while those with yearlong interns may receive $1,250 to $1,300 a month. Churches are required at least to match that amount.
Next March, the CCE’s Subcommittee on Ministerial Training will review the applications and recommend approval for funding to the churches and for men to serve as interns. Churches that haven’t requested a particular man will receive a packet of approved intern applications, from which they can interview and select an intern.
For more information and application forms, go to the OPC website, www.OPC.org, and then click on “Christian Education,” “Ministerial Training,” and “Internship Program.” If you have any questions, please contact Danny Olinger, the internship director, at email@example.com or 215-830-0900, ext. *828.