Over a decade ago I had the pleasure and privilege of being on internship. Internship proved to be a pivotal time in which I figured out – with God’s help and the help of my supervising pastor – what pastoral ministry was about. You learn much in seminary about the ministry but there’s nothing like having boots on the ground. To borrow an image C.S Lewis used about theology in Mere Christianity, seminary provides us a map of the ministry. Internship has us visit that map with someone, often times but not always, taking a vicar/intern pastor by the hand, as Virgil did for Dante in Inferno or as Beatrice does for Dante in Paradiso. It is always our hope and prayer, of course, that for a vicar/intern pastor, their time spent on internship is more of a paradiso than an inferno!
As I reflect back on my time on internship, there are two big lessons learned that proved beneficial for the last 11 ½ years or so of my ordained ministry. No doubt, other seasoned pastors could add more. For the sake of brevity I’ll keep it to two.
1) The importance of having a place to learn and grow knowing the Lord’s gracious people would bear that burden joyfully. I can only imagine what my first sermons were like. God bless that congregation in St. Paul that endured my meager offerings of the Word. It also is a blessing, perhaps, knowing vicars/intern pastors move on after they have “cut their teeth”! Regardless, when others know you’re a “rookie” in the ministry they cut you a bit of slack. Parish ministry will be the same, at least for the first few years of a call!
2) The importance of having a mentor walk through various ministry challenges: How do I lead a Bible study? What do I say at the funeral home? How do I respond to a confirmation student who says they don’t believe in Jesus? Why does this congregation worship the way it does? Do I approach someone who needs pastoral counsel or do I let them come to me? Questions like this, “casuistry” as the old Lutherans would call it, are essential to ask. It’s a good thing to have other faithful shepherds after ordination as well. The questions never go away.
I write this to point out the obvious: Internship is crucial for pastoral growth. Though there is no “one size, fits all” model of internship, internship itself is very valuable. At Lutheran CORE we seek to connect congregations in many ways – one of our goals as a NETWORK. At Lutheran CORE, we also are invested in the next generation of pastors for Christ’s Church. So, if you are a pastor, would you be willing to be an internship supervisor? Perhaps we can connect you to someone. If you are a congregational leader, would you consider your congregation a safe place to learn and grow for a fledgling pastor? If so, perhaps we can connect you to a gifted candidate. If you are interested in the ministry, have had some seminary training, and are looking for what the next step is but aren’t sure where to go, perhaps Lutheran CORE can help too.
We recognize that various church bodies already have existing structures to meet this need so this might only apply to LCMC pastors, churches and students. But even if we can only help LCMC brothers and sisters in Christ, for the sake of the harvest of souls, let us know!