Everyone Benefits from Internships

When asked by a Board Member how the local church would benefit from an internship, I responded that there would be few tangible benefits.  Our job was to prepare a young pastor to take on ministry at another Free Methodist Church where other believers and seeking communities would benefit from the experience; kingdom investment.  The idea was well received.

Let me share a few anecdotes from my experiences with three of the interns I have guided through the internship program in the past 11 years.

Tyler McAlister
The children’s & youth ministry at North Grenville Community Church was in need of a makeover.  Questions like what are we doing well and how can we do it better needed to be asked and answered objectively.  I brought a proposal to the board to hire a university summer student, enrolled in an education program with plans to become a teacher.  The criteria was quite tight.  There was much skepticism that I would ever find someone of that calibre willing to work for a summer dissecting the ministry for a just above minimum wage.  God had another plan.  At Brock University there was a young Free Methodist man by the name of Tyler McAlister who was entering his 2nd year as a concurrent education student with the plan to become a teacher.

You may be asking, isn’t the internship for people preparing for pastoral ministry?  The internship program in the Free Methodist Church in Canada is designed to empower and equip the laity to be good leaders in the church as well as equipping those preparing for pastoral ministry.  Tyler spent the summer with us focusing on his job description but he became interested in hands-on ministry experiences.  He returned to Brock University that fall and later transferred to Tyndale University College & Seminary where he is a student in the Health and Human Services Program.  Tyler is studying toward a degree in Social Work while taking basic ministry courses.  His overall plan is to be a youth pastor.

Tyler writes, “This internship impacted and changed my plans by allowing me to see how much fun I was having working with and re-developing the Children’s Ministry, as well as being able to establish and lay foundations for a future youth group. Not only that but it changed my plans from wanting to be a teacher to wanting to work in ministry to build youth groups and be able to impact the lives of youth within and outside of the church.”

Karen Vogelzang
Karen’s story is unique because she had a call but didn’t really know what to do with it.  As a mature student, Karen graduated from Master’s College and Seminary with a Bachelor of Religious Education Degree and not knowing the full direction of her call, she began to track as a lay minister.  For several years she floundered as she prepared for her ministerial candidacy interview with MEGaP.

Why not try an internship as part of the discerning process?  Karen began a 6 month internship and upon completion of the internship, using the pseudo cabinet and three pastors we put together a pseudo MEGaP to prepare her for an interview.  Following the same procedures as MEGaP, Karen and the team affirmed that Karen’s call was to children in the local church and community.  As a Lay Minister and an Early Childhood Educator she needed no further credentialing or additional courses, or MEGaP interviews.  God had given her everything she needed to have a full meaningful ministry at the local church.  Today Karen serves as a Lay Minister at Pine Grove Community Church in Children’s Ministry.

Karen says, “I was in my early teens when I sensed a call to the ministry.  My desire was to work with children but I wasn’t sure what God wanted.  I did an internship in the PAOC and it was then that I knew I wasn’t called to be a Lead Pastor but I still sensed a call.  I began to track with the FMCiC toward becoming a Children’s Pastor.  During my 6 month internship in 2016 at Pine Grove my eyes were opened and the call became clear.  I grew a lot personally and spiritually during that time.  Together my cabinet and I struggled through many issues and each one of them was ‘there for me’ and continue to be.  I did a mock MEGaP interview with three laity and three clergy.  This was when the discerning process really took shape.  Afterwards Pastor Dan and Donna Running unpacked the results of the interview.  My journey tracking with the denomination came to a close but my ministry began.  I am a licensed lay minister of Children’s Ministry in my local church at Pine Grove.  I am living out God’s call empowered to do kingdom work.   My internship didn’t turn out the way that I thought it would; it turned out better.”

Jacob Shiner
The final story I will share is about my recent intern, Jacob Shiner.  Jacob was a 2nd career pastor preparing for ministerial candidacy and possible appointment to his local church in Cloyne.  He is a gifted orator and passionate about evangelism.  While substituting for a MEGaP interview I encountered Jacob where we all confirmed his calling. We also discerned that there were skills and pastoral disciplines that needed to be introduced into his ministry skill sets.  The only place to acquire these skills and disciplines is through experience.  Having been granted an internship scholarship earlier that year that I hadn’t used, MEGaP suggested that perhaps an internship would benefit Jacob.  A three month intensive internship was soon underway.  Today Jacob serves as the lead Pastor at Pineview Free Methodist Church in Cloyne and has received his Ministerial Candidate credentials.

Jacob reflects on his internship, “As I look back at the internship period and think about it, I am reminded that when I first committed to the process I was doing it simply as a hurdle to be overcome on the road to full-time ministry.  WOW did I look at it wrong.  Within a couple of days I realized that this time was going to be foundationally important to my ministry.  The Spirit showed me that he was going to equip me during this period.

As I think about many things too numerous to state here in only a few lines, I am aware that one of the most important things was learning to accept the authority that has been entrusted to me.  I would never have learned this in a text book.  This was something that I could only have learned from watching a veteran Pastor and being affirmed by him in my new found position.

I simply cannot express how important this time has been.  Yes, it was brutally difficult at times with all the driving and juggling going on — work, ministry, life, family and such.  However I feel MEGaP fundamentally set me up to succeed in ministry by putting me under the leadership of Pastor Dan Massey at Pine Grove Community Church.  I also came out with a friend and mentor that I can call at any time which in itself is priceless.

What is the value of an internship if the church doesn’t benefit in this kingdom investment?  Steve Alcock, Board Chair at Pineview in Cloyne, Ontario has these comments on Jacob’s internship:

The process of Pastoral Internship was a total success for Jacob as well as our church.

In the past we have had pastors without much training. It was refreshing to see this internship with Jacob implemented at this time.   His first step was in bi-vocational lay leadership under Pastor Thomas Eng preparing him for an eventual call into full-time ministry.

This internship was just what Jacob needed, and will continue to need to grow into a man who reaches the needs of the people in our community.  This internship has given him a perfect opportunity to experience ministry through the eyes of a seasoned pastor.  Pastor Dan has taught him compassion, empathy, seeing beyond “black & white” and most of all, humility.  I would recommend this program (internship)  for all new pastors.  It is one of the best ways to learn — hands on experience, and brutal but loving honesty in guidance.  This internship worked marvelously for us and for Jacob.”

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I was blessed to have had the benefit of a 6 year internship at North Grenville while I served bi-vocationally under Lead Pastor, Rev Dale Vinkle.  I am blessed to have a spiritual mentor in Rev. Angel Valentin who has walked with me in a journey extending over 35 years.  I was blessed to have had a MEGaP mentor in Rev. Lloyd Eyre who got me on an educational track toward my undergraduate degree. Each of these three men retired at General Conference 2017.  In a single moment God asked me, “who will take up the banner of mentorship for the next generation of pastors?” Immediately I said, “Lord, count me in.”

My son, a contractor, was an apprentice carpenter working under licensed carpenters.  As an apprentice, in addition to his education, there was a checklist of tasks that he had to accomplish and skills to attain before receiving his Red Seal designation.  He had to frame houses, build stairs, apply trim, do roofing, siding, build concrete foundations, correctly calculate and order material required for projects, and the list goes on.  It was not until the hands-on work was successful and the education complete that he received his Red Seal in Carpentry making him a licensed carpenter across Canada.

Ministry Internships include a similar manual provided by the Ministry Centre.  The manual outlines the tasks required to complete a successful internship.  Yes, it was a lot of work for the intern and for me as the pastor but the testimonies of these three successful internship experiences confirm that intentional and intensive internships merit consideration in the formation of next generation pastors and laity in ministry.

The three internships that I have highlighted were brief and a great deal of experiences and training were compacted into a short period of time.  What would the impact be of longer term internships working side by side with a pastor for a year or eighteen months?  A longer period of time would create more real life experiences and give greater insight into the life and work of a pastor.  I benefited from a 6 year internship and even then I was not fully prepared for what would face me as lead pastor.   Internships was the model used by Jesus to disciple a small group of men who carried Jesus’ gospel message around the then known world. Following Jesus example, the investment of the local church and the local pastor into the lives of our future leaders is a precious tool that must not be left in the tool box but taken out and used to make the paths straight for a movement of God.

Rev. Dan Massey
Lead Pastor, Pine Grove Community Church