I recently received an email from a very gifted co-worker who asked the following:
I would love to glean some wisdom from how you run your internship. Would you mind answering a few of my questions?
What are the top three goals you have with interns?
What are the three most valuable things you do with your interns monthly?
Let’s first talk about the top three goals I have for interns. Besides some of the basic goals like faith, love, and Christian commitment, here are the three I prioritize:
They become hope-filled and resilient – This can only happen by having good beliefs. Believing truth always leads to hope, while believing lies creates a lack of hope (Romans 15:13). I am more concerned with what my interns believe than what they do. If they are trying to do the right things but are believing lies about themselves, others, and circumstances, they will perform out of fear, not faith, and will live in restriction, not freedom (John 8:32). As they believe more truth, they will also become resilient and increase their ability to recover quickly from adversity and disappointment. Learning to identify and shift mindsets is a substantial priority for our team.
They demonstrate the ability to do relationships well – When Jesus chose His twelve disciples, He not only chose them to be with Him but to be with each other. The disciples did not understand at first how important their relationships with each other would become. Despite periods of relational conflict, they continually chose one another in unity, and revival then broke out among them (Acts 2). Covenant relationships push us to grow up and to overcome limiting mindsets and habits. In order to see our dreams fulfilled, we need the strength and trust that come from a bonded community. I Corinthians 13 tells us we can do seemingly great things, but if we don’t have love, it profits us nothing. A heart for people and a commitment to developing relational skills are crucial traits for any leader of substance. When my interns have the fire of God in their lives and also treat people well, then I know they are on the right track for powerful influence.
They grow significantly in confidence as a leader and influencer – We are all leaders and influencers of someone. People’s lack of confidence as a leader is usually a bigger problem than any leadership weakness. Certainly, integrity and wisdom gained from experience are crucial to longevity and impact, but I most desire my interns to learn to overcome the insecurities and lies holding their leadership back. I want them to walk in humble confidence in who they are and how they relate to other leaders. As Bill Johnson says, “My goal is not to build a big church but to build big people.”
What are the three most valuable things I do with interns monthly?
Have numerous personal heart connections with them – These connections range from my genuine excitement when I see them to really listening to them in a one-on-one meeting. The key here is for the intern to be seen, known, valued, and understood. I want to constantly send the message through personal interactions, texts, emails, etc. that they are a special part of the team. I also empower my team to particulate in these positive connections and to create a culture of radical encouragement.
Have group training and discussion times – Whatever end result we want to see in our interns must be intentionally modeled and taught. Everything done in an intern program should have a purpose. We cannot assume the “why” of each aspect of the program is understood, but we explain it so the intern can participate with faith and vision, not from duty or obligation. The group training and discussion times reinforce the why behind what they are asked to do and also give an opportunity for me to answer their questions. Some of the main areas of training are: understanding the power of words, how to attach faith in large and small decisions, goal setting, and time management.
Give them significant assignments and opportunities – Empowerment and trust create win-wins on intern teams. When I choose interns, I am not looking for mere slaves or servants to accomplish my goals. I want dreamers and co-laborers—those who can make us better. When an intern feels they can influence me and what we are doing, they have much greater buy-in to their internship, our ministry, and to me. As they are stretched through my believing in them more than they believe in themselves, they experience personal and ministry victories, which create momentum and a desire for more. These assignments and opportunities can include participating in ministry travel with me, having a few minutes to speak in team meetings, collaborating on projects, or sharing online prophetic encouragement to leaders around the world.
When I was the senior pastor in Nevada during the ’90s, the town I was in had a gold mine. They moved hundreds of tons of dirt a day but no one talked about dirt. They only talked about gold. People won’t mind you moving their dirt as long as they know you are looking for gold in them. Yes, mentoring people means giving feedback and requiring upgrades from interns in attitudes and behaviors, but great leaders continually remember that they’re in the gold business. These often hard-won tools have been transformative for my teams over the years. We bless you as you empower and raise up the next generation of leaders—you’re destined to succeed!
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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.