Yes, you can! In fact, we have done so for almost a decade without a dime in the budget going to it. It started off that way because I saw the need, we had young men desiring to be trained, but we had no funds to pour into it. We have continued to do our internship this way because…well there is still no money, but we also wanted to demonstrate for other pastors and churches money and resources are unnecessary for this. All it takes is a pastor willing to give his time and young men willing to give their time.
We seek in a four month period to try and take these interns through a crash course in pastoral ministry. Here are some of the details of our pastoral internship with hopes it will help you see you can design something similar:
1) The Pastor’s Time
The most important resource for a pastoral internship is simply the wisdom, insight, experience, and time of a pastor. Why is this? Because so much of ministry is learned doing it with someone who teaches as they do ministry. As I plan to go the hospital, I try to take an intern with me. When I do a funeral, I take an intern with me. When I go to visit an elderly widow, I take an intern with me. Then, in each of these opportunities, we talk on the way and as we return. I ask them questions leading up to the event, then ask them follow up questions after we leave. I also meet once a week for one to two hours with the interns and we talk about all kinds of different aspects of pastoral ministry, discuss books I ask them to read, and expose them to the trench work of the ministry in a way the classroom cannot. Pastors, you and your daily ministry are the only essential resources you need to train young men for ministry.
2) The Pastoral Intern’s Time
There cannot be a pastoral internship with pastoral interns. When there is no money to pay interns as is the case in our church, a young man must see the value of simply giving his time to it. We ask our interns to commit ten hours a week, but that is flexible depending upon their schedule and availability. Their time is spent in two ways: Time with me doing and discussing ministry, and time the intern does ministry on his own. After they go to the hospital with me, then I send them to the hospital. After they go with me to visit a widow or two, they go back to the same widow and visit on their own. They give time to read books on their own, then meet and discuss them with me. They give time to pray through the membership directory, attend pastor’s meetings, and attend Sunday evening service review, all required tasks.
3) The Church’s Time
If we desire to train young men for the ministry through doing ministry in our local church, then the members of the church must be willing to give their time also. Widows must be willing to allow these young men to visit them and be gracious as they stumble and learn. Sick people must be willing to allow young men to visit them in the hospital, even though the intern may be more nervous than the sick person being visited. The church must be willing to give their time to come Sunday evenings and hear these men preach if given the opportunity. This third piece is necessary for young men to learn how to care for God’s flock. Without real people involved willing to give their time, real ministry cannot be accomplished.
Pastors, it is nice to have money to pay interns and different resources to shower upon these training and learning about ministry in our church. But the only essential resource to do a pastoral internship is sharing your time, gifts, experience, and wisdom with them as you do ministry. Embrace your value in these areas. You have much to offer whether you have pastored fifty years or five months. Invest your time and encourage others to do the same, and start that internship or training program you know you need, but have waited for the funds and resources to be provided.