One of the joys of pastoral ministry at Grace Baptist Church is directing the 3-year Pastoral Internship Program our church established in 2016. We are now in the middle of our second round of interns, and the blessings of this initiative continue to prove its worth. I believe every local church should consider training future pastors through a structured internship for three reasons.
1. Biblically: Kind produces kind. In Genesis this basic law was established, and biblical theology proves its merit. Scripture demonstrates that God called men to ministry and often provided them with a godly mentor. Joshua had Moses, Elisha had Elijah, the Apostles had Jesus, Timothy and Titus had Paul, and we could go on. Learning from those with more experience and knowledge is rooted in the thread of biblical narratives.
Internships are also implied in Christ’s call to send laborers. Matthew 9:37-38 is followed by the training exercise of Matthew 10 (vs. 24-25). These training sessions would prove to be foundational for the Great Commission success in Acts. Churches who regularly send members into vocational ministry know how important it is to systematically identify the called and equip those who are sent. Internships help with both.
2. Philosophically: Pastors should reproduce themselves like future ministry depends on it, because it does. When traveling on mission trips as a Field Representative for the BBFI, I observed that the most sustainable ministries were led by missionaries who, as part of their weekly tasks, trained godly men to lead the church. The more personal the connection was between the missionary and national pastor, the greater the loyalty to the philosophy of ministry.
I’ve always been told that leaders reproduce themselves. We often tell teachers and workers in our church they should be training their replacements. Why not model that leadership principle at the highest level? Interns may not fill your pulpit after your best years are spent - but then again they might. Who better to step in and carry on the work than someone you personally trained?
3. Practically: Colleges can’t do it all. I appreciate a good Bible College education. But how many times have you heard or said, “They didn’t prepare me for that in Bible College?” Because of today’s complexities, young men would be well served to gain practical experience before stepping into the office of the pastor. We live in a world where specialization is expected, consumerism is common and burnout is rampant. Many are called, few seem to last.
Committing to a young man as an intern, rather than a staff member, also has practical benefits for the church. Knowing that they will be launched at a pre-established time creates a sense of mission and urgency within the body. The church celebrates their growth and benefits from their work. When ministry mistakes are made, the label provides cover (after all he is “just an intern”).
I believe churches train pastors best. I believe your church should consider this sorely needed and biblically modeled ministry as part of your Great Commission strategy.