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RETHINKing Internships

By: Lisa Birle

What do you think of when you hear the word “internship”? 

It can be easy to adopt a stereotypical view when we consider the role of interns. But the beautiful thing about the Church is that we have so much more to offer college students who are looking to invest their time and energy into a season of learning. Not only is it important to rethink the roles of interns, but we must rethink our own roles as their spiritual mentors as well. I’d like you to consider the idea that interns aren’t here to serve us—but that we’re here to serve them.

The reality is, there are billions of people headed toward an eternity separated from God. More than ever, the world is desperate for godly, effective leadership. That’s why we need to care about developing the next generation of leaders, wherever God is calling them—the church, the business world, the medical field, education, arts and media, and so on. This is why we have an internship program—we believe in equipping the next generation of leaders. When Jesus gave us the Great Commission, it was (and remains to this day) a call to evangelism. As such, it is also a call to develop leaders. The natural outcome of discipleship is leadership. It’s a responsibility that Jesus has given all of us, no matter our role in the Church. How are you preparing the next generation to lead?

When we consider this question, we understand the value of interns and our relationship with them. We want to serve them with more than a few vocational skills. We want them to grow relationally, grow in their love for the Church, grow spiritually, and develop into the leaders God has created them to be. 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV) says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Being a follower of Christ means being a leader of people. What are you doing to develop leaders at your church? Good leadership begets more leaders – as you invest in creating not just interns, but leaders, there is a multiplier effect as they begin to pour into those around them as well.

College students are my favorite people to serve with and learn from. Why, you ask? I’ve found that they are curious, capable, competent, high capacity, and energetic young leaders. They want to make a difference in the world, and they want to start today. They know things you may not know, and they possess skills that your church staff may not. Interns will bring fresh perspectives to your strategies and processes, ask great questions, and help make you a sharper, stronger leader. As leaders in ministry, we have important work to do! It’s time to invite the next generation to be part of something significant—something that will help them become the leaders God created them to be.

Are internships an investment? Yes. Do they take a lot of time? Yep. Are they sometimes messy? Of course, just like any ministry! Are they worth it? Without a doubt. Think about it—we have the privilege of empowering, encouraging, and equipping people for lifelong ministry! 

The bottom line? Your church needs an internship program, and we want to help. Visit our training portal to learn more about how you can start an internship program today.

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About the Author
Lisa Birle
Lisa Birle oversees Saddleback Church’s Internship Program, which has trained over one thousand leaders since its launch in the mid-1990s. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art History from the University of California, Irvine and went on to get a Master of Theological Studies from Gateway Seminary. Lisa feels privileged to be able to play a part in college students’ lives as they cultivate their passions and discover their calling through internships. She also loves partnering with churches all over the world to develop the next generation of leaders. Find Lisa on Instagram @misslisabeee or e-mail her at
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