Discover why professional development for ministry leaders is crucial for growth, productivity, and a healthy organizational culture.
Why Your Parish Needs Interns
It was difficult to accept that we would soon lose one of our most valuable employees, as high school graduation was just around the corner. Our IT intern had been part of our team for the past year through a high school internship program. We had invested a great deal in him, but the value we received in return was truly priceless.
In the past, I used to believe that internships were a luxury only afforded by larger organizations with the financial means to provide stipends or pay individuals to do more than just volunteer. However, the truth is that internships can be affordable, as people are often eager to gain experience.
In recent years, our parish has made a deliberate effort to invest in a few high school and college students annually. Through this experience, we have discovered that while we invest significantly in these individuals, the long-term returns should not be overlooked. If you've never considered an internship for your parish or diocese, then you are missing out because internships are:
AN INVITATION TO OWN A PIECE OF THE CHURCH'S MISSION
When you invite someone to intern at the parish, you ask them to do more than volunteer. You ask them to be a part of the team, to collaborate, and make an impact that goes beyond once a week. An intern serves at a leadership level and gets to sit at the table to hear and learn how things work.
AN INVESTMENT INTO FUTURE LEADERS BOTH IN AND OUTSIDE THE PARISH
Not only are you showing interns how the parish functions, but you are also allowing them to witness office and organizational dynamics that will shape their future. Even if they are not called to work in the local church, you could be equipping them to be Catholic leaders in a different industry.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPAND YOUR CREATIVITY
Interns will come in with a fresh perspective with new ideas. Some of those ideas will be challenging but worth considering. Allowing interns to share their thoughts and insights will push you beyond your comfort zone and expand your creativity.
A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO TEACH AND LEAD BETTER
We become better leaders when we learn how to teach and share what we learn. Managing interns does take some additional investment from us, but it does strengthen our ability to communicate the vision and manage others.
The hardest part of an internship is getting it off the ground. This is especially difficult for leaders who do not currently manage others, but that's okay. There are several ways to get internships started; you could even look at the local high schools and colleges to see if they offer one (That'll help with certain logistics). But if you want to go out on your own and develop something personalized to the parish, consider the following:
You'll want to start out with two. Remember, the more interns you have, the more work you'll do with managing and meeting. Also, pick a finite amount of time. If you have summer interns, don't feel you have to use the whole time. We usually start two weeks after school is over and one week before it begins. Over time you can build up the programming.
SETTING A FIRM SCHEDULE
I originally made the mistake of telling interns to come in when I was present. The problem is that it did not give me the margin to prepare, nor did I have time to complete certain tasks. Set a schedule where interns come in after you and leave before you do. Pick two or three days a week where you aren't swamped, but there is enough interaction from coworkers, volunteers, and parishioners so they don't get bored.
SHOWING THEM THE BASICS
Interns are like a new staff; even if they've been involved as volunteers, it doesn't mean they know everything about the parish. Spend the first two weeks or so onboarding the interns. Have them interview and meet other coworkers. Show them how to do everything from running the copier to managing the phones. Set them up for success, and they'll cruise the rest of the summer.
GIVING THEM SOMETHING TO LEARN
In addition to doing this, interns should be learning. Take them through a leadership or ministry book. Spend time meeting with them regularly (I recommend weekly), where you break down the content. Ask them questions and discover what they are learning.
PROVIDING A FINAL PROJECT
While it's good for them to learn the day-to-day, give them something big to work on. The project might be developing a new program, writing content, or launching a new outreach partnership. The final product could be something that helps your parish, but it doesn't have to be. The idea is to take them through balancing daily activities while focusing on the big picture.
Internships are a valuable opportunity for parishes to invest in future leaders, expand creativity, and enhance teaching and leadership skills. They allow individuals to contribute to the church's mission, gain experience, and bring fresh perspectives. Starting small, setting a schedule, providing learning opportunities, and meaningful projects are crucial for a successful internship program that shapes future leaders.
If you are interested in developing internships within your parish or diocese and need assistance or want to pick our brains. Reach out to us by setting up an appointment HERE.
What creative ideas or projects could interns bring to your parish that might enhance its mission and outreach?