We’ve all heard it, that famous Lutheran question that follows our statements of faith in the catechism:

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

“What does this mean?”

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

“What does this mean?”

“Internship a positive learning experience which will enable you to become more familiar with, gain insights about, and acquire actual experience in doing ministry of a Director of Christian Education in a Lutheran parish.”

“What does this mean?”

Internship: You’ve heard about it, talked about it, worried about it, and looked forward to it. A mix of emotions about putting into practice everything you have learned these last few years of college. In recent weeks, perhaps your feelings have turned to angst about where you will spend the next year of your life and how you will survive without your family and friends.

The day has arrived when you will find out you internship placement. The moment occurs and you are in shock, or just relieved to know what you are doing for the next year of your life. Perhaps you are disappointed that the location is not an ideal climate for you, or you are now at least a plane ride away from your family, but location does not define your internship. Nor does it matter if you are in an urban or rural setting. Even the size of the church is insignificant at this point. God has called you into DCE ministry, and that call is to be His servant, WHEREVER He may lead you.

Now you know where you are going…what’s the next step?

It’s not been long since I finished my internship, yet so much has happened since I transitioned into full-time ministry as a called Director of Christian Education. I looked back at my internship manual to see if there were any grand insights that I could share here that were helpful to me at the time. Instead of trying to gather helpful information, I felt overwhelmed all over again.

My purpose is not to scare you (your professors already have done that by telling you all their ministry horror stories). Or to make you feel overwhelmed or anxious (you’ve probably already taken care of that yourself). But as I look back, I am reminded that this experience was filled with many joys and rewards, and many struggles and changes–all that encompassed this 12-month span called “internship.”

I am certain you are expecting to receive a road map or step-by-step plan on how to be successful on internship from this article. “A Guide to Internship” should have all the answers, or at least a few to get started, right?  But, no such game plan really, truly exists. If there was one way to get through internship, it would be boring and uneventful, but there’s more to it than that.

Let’s start with a passage from the one resource that is going to help you the most:  the Bible. Matthew 28:19 20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We have been given the command to “make disciples,” and “teach.” Ultimately we are to share God’s love through Jesus Christ in all that we say and do. This is your purpose above all others; this is God’s purpose for your life, whatever job you may hold.  We as DCEs just happen to be able to concentrate on this command in many aspects of our ministry!

Though there isn’t an exact plan on making it through internship, I will share a few tips that I was given, or wish I had been given as the start of internship:

Enlist a support system: family, friends, fellow interns, experienced church workers, your church staff, etc…. Internship is exciting and an adventure, but it also means living in a new place, being independent, and holding responsibility as an adult (gasp!). Therefore, you need the support of the people that love you and care about you.

  • Don’t be afraid to call mom/sibling/best friend every day the first week you are there. They know you best and are going to help you cope in this new situation.
  • Email back and forth with fellow interns, if anyone knows what you are going through, they certainly do. Share stories, bounce ideas off one another, freak out! You spent 3-4 years getting to know them, I am sure they will understand and have a few stories to share with you too!
  • Join a group of DCEs/youth workers/pastors in the area that meet on a regular basis, they may give you a hard time for being the youngest person around (1 Timothy 4:12 may become your favorite reference), but you will gain valuable insight from them.
  • Make sure you have the full support from your supervising pastor, staff & congregation. These are the people you work with on a daily basis, and they will be present when you run into a snag or sticky situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Make your personal spiritual growth a priority.
  • Find a personal Bible study/small group to joinYou can’t teach others if you aren’t being spiritually fed yourself.
  • Keep a journal/list of your weekly prayers and commit time to praying for those you work with and care about.
  • Find someone to keep you accountable for your continued spiritual growth.
Be open to making new friends.
  • FYI: The real world is not like the fantasy land called “college.” You will no longer be surrounded by hundreds of people your age and in your situation. Therefore, be willing to befriend moms, dads, senior citizens, etc. It may be strange at first, but these people care about you too!
  • There may not be many people your age at your church/camp, so explore the community and take advantage of opportunities to meet new people. Take a class at a local college, or join a group that enjoys a hobby you are interested in.
Learn to say “No” and set boundaries. Although internship is a time to try out many new experiences and work in many different areas, you still have to set limits for yourself.
  • Establish a day off where you don’t come to the office at all. Make sure this day works with your supervisor and that everyone understands what this means for you.
  • If you find yourself in the office until 9pm or taking naps in the middle of the work day, you are probably spending too much time in the office. Establish blocks of time (morning, afternoon, evening) to work and make sure you arent working more than 2 blocks a day. Working in the church is not a 9-5 job, and it may take some time for you and your church members to adjust to the idea.
  • Set objectives and stick to them, if you stretch yourself too thin, you will find stress and burn out becoming regular occurrences!
Challenge yourself.
  • Internship is a learning experience, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  • Set high expectations sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you will fail, but either way you will learn from it and grow as a person and a professional.
  • No matter what the circumstance or how long you will be there, commit to making your internship experience work and understand that there will be a lot of learning and growth along the way!

Though it is internship, you are still in the position to educate believers (and non-believers), equip evangelists and serve God don’t be afraid for you have been prepared well! (Those college professors really do know what they are talking about!)

Midway through internship, I returned to school with my fellow interns to reflect and re-energize for the second half of the year. During our time together, one of our professors shared these words with us: “I trust you.”  Next to the word “love,” “trust” is something I take very seriously. It’s a word that means I have earned the respect of another person that has built a relationship with me and knows who I am and what I am capable of. In that moment, I knew God had led me in the right direction and given me purpose as his servant. My teachers, classes, and experiences had given me the tools to serve God and His people. My calling (and yours) is bigger than just DCE ministry–for God has put us here for a reason, to glorify and serve Him, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go.

We must first trust the one who created us, the one who prepared us, and the one who gave us faith in our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5 6

My prayer for you as you begin internship is that you will enjoy the adventure, complete the tasks and trust God wholeheartedly through it all. God sees the big picture: the glimpses He shares with us give us the desire to share His love with others. He gives us hope that seeds are being planted as we continue to “Go and make disciples” by the power of the Holy Spirit.