This summer I had the blessings to be able to intern with CCMC as their youth intern for two months. I'm not too sure where to begin, so I guess I'll start with what I did. For the most part, I helped out with the junior high FNF ministry. I ended up leading a small group of guys for a number of weeks (most of the time 6th graders, but one week 8th), and I ended up speaking a few times before the youth on Psalms 130 and 144. One week I also helped them organize a skit night. I also helped xxxxxxx a little bit with summer camp, putting together the morning devotionals for the youth. I ended being a camp counselor over a group of junior high boys. I helped xxxxxx put together his presentation for his parents and and teens workshop as well as his Sunday School. He was the brains, I just acted as an additional two hands for him. I also spoke a few times on Sunday before the youth. Three times at Lincoln and once at Willowbrook. Through all of this, I had the opportunity to meet on a regular/semi-regular basis with both xxxxxx and xxxxxxxx to work with them on their projects or just to chat and pray. Unofficially, being the “youth intern” also seemed to make me more available to the youth, so I've had the opportunity to meet with a number of the youth on an unofficial basis, just to read the Word together, chat, hang-out, or whatever. The Bible study/sleepovers where we studied through the whole book of Galatians was a huge blessing.
Reflecting on it, this summer has been a source of tremendous blessing. It was a blessing in so many different ways, but I'll try to list some of the main ones off.
1. Working closely with the parents that are volunteering their time for FNF. Sometimes as a student/kid, it's easy to take all the sacrifice that the small group leaders and youth directors and everything make for granted. I had the blessing to be able to talk with and work with the parents who made such sacrifices and it convicted me and encouraged me to no end. Each week the kids would be ...kids. And each week the parents came in, sacrificed their time, sacrificed their work, that these kids may know God and treasure Him to the fullest. That was just awe-inspiring. It was generally a thankless job for them, yet they would do it. The kids would be loved, love back a little, but then move on. And there would be another group of 6th graders who bounced off walls to train up. Well, the parents may never see the fruit themselves, but their treasures are definitely in heaven.
2. Working closely with xxxxxxxx in particular. I was glad that he asked for help with his workshop and Sunday school program, mostly because I quickly realized how much I had to learn from such a man. I am doubly amazed that you paid me to help him and work with him. That truly was a delight and a joy to do. Money for it felt like I was stealing. (But being the cheap college student I was, I accepted it)
3. Speaking before the youth has definitely challenged me and blessed me in so many different ways. Too often I have come to the text with an assumption that I wanted to say this or that, and too often the text has said, “but I'm saying this.” Praise God for His living and active Word! The practice of preparing a sermon is often time consuming and challenging, and I have discovered a newfound appreciation for my pastors, whom sometimes I was just far too critical of in the past. May God grant me humility! I don't know how xxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxx, and the rest of the people who speak regularly do it, but I have been challenged to pray for them on a more frequent basis. They're doing the work of Jacob and wrestling with God in His Word, begging for Him to bless them so that they may faithfully shepherd the flock. Truly, even being up there every week to speak is a victory in itself.
4. Finally, one of the greatest blessings has been working with the kids. From random conversations after church, to Saturday afternoon Bible studies to questions emailed to me, it has been awe-inspiring to see what God has been doing here at CCMC in the youth. I see the truth of Paul's statement, “I planted, Apollos watered, it was God who gave the increase.” Each one of the parent volunteers contributed a piece, the other leaders contributed, the youth director contributed, I guess I contributed in a sense, but ultimately it was God working in us and through us to transform others. And being used as an instrument of God (however crooked I am), was a delight and a joy.
Some suggestions for the future of this internship program. I am of the understanding that the internship program is to provide an opportunity for those who are considering full time ministry to explore that possibility in a church setting, to get a “taste.” To that end, I think it worked marvelously for me, but there are some things I might suggest for the future.
1. An encouragement for personal spiritual growth. Maybe asking the youth intern to read a book on church and give a written review/report of their thoughts on it. Or maybe just giving them a “homework” essay or something to challenge their thinking and encourage the faithful inspection of Scripture. After all, ministry isn't ministry if it isn't grounded in the Word.
2. An explicit encouragement for the rest of the staff to take advantage of the youth intern. This may already be happening, but if it's not, I would encourage it. I was greatly blessed by the opportunity to work with xxxxxxxx, and I consider that one of the biggest blessings of the summer. I think it would greatly benefit future interns if they had an experience like that. There's no need to demand them do something “spiritual,” even just helping type up notes, or something that they can do while working for/with an older believer would be of benefit.
3. The explicit order to work with one of the staff in preparing a sermon. It was great getting to speak a few times, but looking back at it, I feel like I was mostly just ...groping for a sermon. I think this is mostly my fault because of my pride and lack of foresight, but in hindsight, it would have been nice to work with xxxxxxxx or xxxxxxxx or xxxxxxxxin preparing at least my first message, so that I could pick at their brains and how they prepare a sermon, what they look for in the text and so on. It may be beneficial for all parties involved for something like that to be more explicit.
4. An explicit statement regarding the church that the intern can read over and discuss with the youth director. Getting to sit in on meetings was great, but I didn't understand how the meetings fit in to the larger picture of how the church was run. If there was a paper that detailed “oh we have these people in this committee, they do that. This is why we have Friday night fellowship for the junior high” and so on, it would be an excellent resource for the intern to help understand how a church is organized and run, and why. He could (and probably should be encouraged to) further discuss it with the youth director to deepen that knowledge and help him form personal (and Scriptural) convictions about church.
5. May I also suggest that if it is at all possible, the pay for this internship be increased? The only reason I suggest this is that I know there is always a lot of pressure from parents and peers to be “building a resume” or “start a career” over the summer, and while I don't think someone should be interning with a church for money, it would certainly alleviate parental and personal concerns of being an “unproductive member of the household” if the pay were a little higher. Just a thought.
All in all, I have to confess that if it wasn't for this internship, I probably would not even consider coming back to CCMC after my senior year of college. As is clear to all, the church is a place filled with sinners, and CCMC is no different. There is always the lingering sense that people are about to fight over something and the church will split for once and for all. There hasn't been a regular pastor (though xxxxxxxx has been very faithful and stable as an acting pastor, I have the impression that there have always been questions about that). The leaders of the youth group all seem very tired at times, the English ministry was tiny and sometimes felt cliquish. I could go on, but I mention those things only to contrast what I was thinking before this internship to after.
Now, I've enjoyed my time and have been so tremendously encouraged and blessed by all these faithful parents and the way God has been growing the youth that I am seriously considering the possibility of coming back to CCMC after my senior year of college. I am not sure what I would be qualified for (if anything), but if the opportunity arose, I certainly would strongly consider it. I mentioned that I was considering full-time ministry, and this internship has done nothing to dissuade me from that path, so over the course of this next year I am going to be exploring different possibilities for how I may continue to pursue that track. Maybe that means seminary, maybe it means an internship with another church, where they can teach me at a seminary level while I serve them, maybe it means an internship with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) where they'd drop me off on a college campus to assist the pastor there and learn from him. I now would add to that list, maybe it means coming back to CCMC and serving in whatever capacity you would have me while possibly taking classes at Trinity or via the internet.
The one negative, and this is mentioned for the sake of completeness, is the taste of church politics. I was quite surprised at what happened in the fallout with the “hazing” issue, and some of that is my fault, but I can't help but be bewildered at the actions of the members of the Bride of Christ. I sense that though issues arose out of one incident, there is a lot of baggage that we've brought to the table that need to be brought under the Lordship of Christ and the light of His Gospel. How true Christ's statement that He came into the world to save sinners! We're not righteous, not by a long shot. But glory to God, He has saved us, redeemed us, and now equips us with His Spirit for the building of His body, sanctifying us both individually and corporately.
I do hope and pray that you would continue the internship program. It has been a great blessing for me and I pray that it has been a blessing for others as well.
For His Glory and By His Grace,