• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Why I Could Use An Intern

If you are like me, it feels like there is always more work than I have time to do.  How many times have I thought or said, “I just don’t have time to do this or that with all there is on my plate right now.”  Granted, I may be exaggerating the situation somewhat as you always seem to ‘find time’ to do what becomes a priority in your life.  However, the reality that there is more work than I can accomplish is one solid reason why I could use an intern.

I could delegate to an intern those tasks that I want to do, but just don’t have the time to carry out.  Here’s where I (and perhaps you) can quickly fall into one of two traps.  First, there is my simple unwillingness to give up my control of a task to another person.  This is my “task” and I want my handprints to be on it.  Besides, what will I do if the intern chooses to carry out the task in another way than I had envisioned?  Second, there is the real possibility that the intern might mess up relationships that exist in my ministry web or network.

That’s why I need an intern.  Working with an intern can regularly (read: daily or hourly) remind me of how much my hands are in the ministry, rather than God’s; how much my ministry is founded on my efforts, rather than God’s intervention.  Did you see how many times ‘me’ and ‘my’ came up in these last statements?

I need an intern because an intern can help me to focus on what should be my priorities, by taking responsibility for a number of tasks that are important, but not primary.

There are several other good reasons why I need an intern, but more on that tomorrow.



8 Responses

  1. Seriously David, you do have an intern! I do too! I have to repent regularly for not using Him. I have to repent regularly for not believing Him. I have to repent regularly for not listening to Him. If I be honest, I just ignore Him because I am too caloused to remember and embrace and know His presence and desire Him to help me juggle all the things that “I” want to do and have “my” hand in. I am just too focused on “me” to benefit by such a great intern. Forgive me Father and Jesus for not being more in tune with your Spirit!

    • God is way more than an intern! My point was to highlight how my own selfish focus keeps me from asking others for help. The fact that I don’t ask others for help is a reflection of the fact that I don’t ask God for help, or that I act as if I don’t really need Him as you said so well.

  2. I remember when RBMU had its Project Timothy and sent out “summer workers” to the field. Most of us thought of this as a waste of money and time; but that changed for me when I realized that it was an opportunity for me to put something into their lives. We learned that quite a high percentage of them ended on a mission field somewhere, and we have actually kept in touch with some. So I think you have put your finger on the issue: when we are self-centered, interns are a nuisance and interruption; but when we are other-centered we see that we can become a blessing, and in so doing are blessed.

    • You summarized well what I was thinking: self-centeredness versus other-centeredness, and the impact that an other-centered attitude can have on our approach to interns or to those ‘beginning’ in ministry. I wonder if the same self centered attitude does not flow over into our discipling relationships.

    I agree strongly with all that David Riddell and John Wilson have written on the pro and cons of internships. In my experience several of those, both missionary and nationals, with whom I worked in an intern type relationship eventually surpassed me in knowledge, skills, leadership and ministry impact. I say “intern type relationships” since I treated new workers assigned to my leadership as interns initially. Most of the cons can be avoided by doing a good assessment of their character, walk with the Lord, knowledge, skills, styles of thinking, and leadership and ministry presuppositions. This assessment allows the leader to assign task and develop the intern wisely using the basis START approach together with Ken Blanchard’s insights moving from an a directive style to a facilitative style of mentoring as soon as prudent.

    There were two primary purposes in having an intern. The first is to get more work done by having the intern to do some of the routine but necessary task so as to give the leader the time to do the more important tasks, and the second is to develop the intern to move towards reaching that God given competency by His grace trusting God to complete that work He has begun unto the day of Jesus Christ.. The second purpose is the more important one in my thinking. Wise selection and management of interns multiplies the leadership pool for the future and enabled the leader to give more time to that which is most important.

    Early in the process, I found that even when a lot of direction was needed that it developed the intern more rapidly by using the facilitating technique of asking questions that forced the intern to think trough the issues involved in the assigned task for themselves without having to be told everything step by step. I took this basis approach with all most all those for whom I was responsible for their work and ministry. It is a joy to have to step aside to make room for others to develop to a higher level of competency. It is equally a sadness when there is a failure which usually was when I made a poor or inaccurate assessment.

    When I began as a new missionary internships in missions was not a concept. I regret that I made many mistakes and learned slowly by trial and error because I did not have the privilege of being an intern during my first year. Yet, I am thankful that Walter Wunch, the field director, did a number of right things that were helpful nevertheless.

    • Assessemnt is the key as you underlined in your comment. Training in how to assess others well would benefit many of those who take on interns. Assessment in many ways is learning to have a developmental mindset (or ‘bias’ as Bobby Clinton likes to say) towards others.

  4. This new post nails the issue. The primary purpose of internship is providing a context for supervised work experience or training. It is not about getting help, least of all, help to get unwanted or irksome jobs done. It is about intentionally investing time in training someone else; and that time is well-spent if both intern and supervisor are committed to the same goal. In the end, the intern may become part of the team, reducing the load carried by others or enabling expansion of the work. Or, he/she may even become a successor.

    • Thanks John for highlighting the importance of ‘context’. Internships is about a context where interns can be overseen, encouraged, challenged, pushed and utilized towards a goal of training them to grow in their spiritual walk and journey.

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