Several of my classmates doing their congregational internships this summer are being asked to do them at churches that are vacant – that is, churches that do not currently have a regular pastor. This can be a a great experience for both the student and the church. The student gets a good sense of pastoring a church on a day-to-day basis is really like – preaching, administration, pastoral care, funerals, meetings, the whole enchilada. It’s also great for the churches they get a ten-week respite from having to find pulpit supply (especially during those always challenging summer months), the elderly get a visit or two, the sick are prayed over. It is, indeed, a good set-up.
However, I can’t help but think there might must be something missing in the scenario. What happens when that student has a question about a certain aspect of ministry? How can one really learn about being a pastor to people who are strangers to you when you arrive in June and you both know that in ten weeks you’ll be gone again. It takes longer than that to learn names not to mention develop a relationship in which true pastoral care can take place.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is a bad way to learn, nor is it a bad way to serve the needs of the church – after all, it is the denomination’s seminary – and it is there to serve the church. But I just want to go on record as saying that I’m very pleased to be doing my internship at Seymour – a church that is neither vacant nor unfamiliar.
First, during these past several weeks, I have – on several occasions—gone into the office of one of the pastors here and asked (what I think) is a good question. Perhaps it’s about a sermon I’m working on, perhaps it’s about a particular aspect of ministry, perhaps it’s about whether or not pastors take the 4th of July off =). Regardless, I’m very thankful that I have the opportunity to knock on a door and ask some questions and get some great advice. That is a chance that many of my fellow interns won’t get this summer.
Second, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to serve among people that I already know and who already know me. It’s tough enough to preach the Word as a beginning preacher to people who know me(and for the most part, I think) like me. I think I would find it even harder to preach to pews (or chairs) full of strangers who know you’re there for just a few more weeks. Plus, since we are members here our relationships will continue, Lord willing, long after the time of my official internship comes to an end.
It seems to me that those classmates of mine serving this summer in vacant churches have a lot tougher task before them than I do, not because they’ve got more work to do but that their situation makes their work more challenging. I’m growing in my internship in that I’m finding out what life as a pastor is like and I’m learning in my internship because I can ask questions of people who’ve ‘been there and done that.’
It’s been a great 4 weeks so far…and I’m looking forward to growing and learning even more during the remaining six weeks and beyond.
On another note…it’s hot here. I hope you’re all staying cool!