The intentional growth and development of pastoral interns is an essential springboard of staying power in pastoral ministry. The lack of intentionality has often left pastoral interns to either sink or swim on their own. This approach leaves young pastors vulnerable and open to disillusionment and possible burnout. “Interns need hands-on experience, and yes, they need to learn to think critically, but most importantly they need someone to be purposeful about pouring into them and developing them.”
The early years of ministry require more intentional time spent alongside interns, than latter years spent with seasoned pastors, because internship is a period of learning, discovery, and growth. Helping interns navigate through the complexity of ministry in the twenty-first century is essential to their resilience. It is during internship pastors learn the best ministerial practices, such as how to apply theology, understand emotional and cultural intelligence, and develop leadership qualities.
Walking with someone who is present and available in front of you is much better than classroom only scenarios or case studies. Many things can be taught in a classroom, but how do you teach a pastor in the classroom how to live a balanced life with family and ministry? This kind of praxis learning is best modeled and discovered during the experiential ministry and purposeful proximity with a mentor. Ministry today is quite different than even a decade ago. Rapid technology development, social media saturation, and the commuter drive-in church has changed old assumptions about ministry and brought different challenges even to people relationships. These growing changes require our aging ministerial workforce to be most intentional about developing younger pastors.
Great mentors and coaches help pastoral interns build a reservoir of experiences of what to do, or what not to do in ministry. This example is certainly seen in the Bible through the relationships of Jesus and the disciples, the Apostle Paul and Timothy, and Moses and Joshua. These practical experiences with a mentor work, and they also help to multiply future positive mentor mentee relationships. Interns today need more intentionality directed their way more than ever before. While growing thyself is always an important part of personal professional development during the internship period, it should not be to the neglect of intentional mentorship and/or coaching.
Internship is an insulator to the statistics that reveal 1-4 pastors may doubt their faith. It also helps to guide pastors through the murky waters of isolation and loneliness. An intentional internship development program says, someone cares. It also answers the essential question, how am I doing?