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The Benefits of a Pastoral Internship

“Why do you need an internship—didn’t you go to seminary?” This was one of the many questions posed to me after graduation. While I always assumed my friends meant well by their questions, it made me wonder—why do I desire an internship? Though I was provided with numerous tools during seminary, did I receive everything I needed for ministry?

After graduation, the temptation is to believe you have all the answers for ministry. But though some may be able to enter right away, there are others who require more preparation to lead well. What about the spontaneous moments of ministry? What about items not covered in the seminary curriculum? For these, and other important practical questions, I am convinced that a pastoral internship/apprenticeship can provide some excellent tools in addition to seminary. In the following article, I want to list what I see are three specific benefits of an internship: doctrine, discussion, and discipleship.

Doctrine

What is the Church and how should it function? Although this subject was probably covered in seminary, to see the church living out its mission speaks volumes. It’s one thing to know doctrine about the church, but it is another to see it applied concretely to discipleship (Matt 28:19-20).

One specific issue I have been confronted with on a number of occasions are questions regarding the governing of the church. What about membership and church discipline? Are these really of importance? If so, what are some examples of such things from scripture?  It’s one thing to believe these items in principle, but can we defend them? How do these play out within the context of a local church?

A good pastoral internship will provide the opportunity to discuss the practical implications of these and other doctrinal subjects in scripture.

Discussion

How do you handle a situation where a godly brother differs from you? One of the great benefits of an internship has been being able to be around brothers to discuss different views on topics in scripture. These brothers brought different backgrounds and experiences, and have helped me think through significant issues through a different contextual lens. These times have helped me to think outside of my box, and sharpened my thinking. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  

Through these discussions, I am able to glean from brothers and, even when I disagree, attempt to represent them honestly. As I’ve learned that I am not always right about everything, this has provided me with the opportunity to consider others better than myself (Phil 2:3). I have learned more about listening to my brothers even more so when they disagree with my views (Jas 1:19).

Discipleship

Week after week I find myself watching my pastor. I watch his interactions with people and how he handles disagreement. I watch how he treats his wife and loves his kids. I watch how he prays. I wonder if Timothy did the same thing with Paul? Did Timothy watch Paul? It’s easy to say, “we need to make disciples” but how many pastors allow their Timothys to spend time with them? Throughout my internship, I have been able to see my pastor live out the gospel. I see him reading, preaching, praying, singing, discussing, and living the word.  

My pastor is not Jesus, but I’ve seen the Lord working clearly in his life to give him strength. He has provided me with thoughts and insights which have not only corrected me but also helped me to become more Christlike. I have benefitted greatly from my internship. Though seminary has its place, there is nothing like the training one receives from the local church. If you are a pastor, please consider developing an internship program for the men in your church. Even after the internship, I still won’t know it all. But one thing is for sure—I am never above learning and sitting under the leadership of godly men.

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