An important part of youth ministry can be Summer interns, but only if you are preparing now to develop, “WINTERNS.”
It may feel like Summer is months away, or right around the corner, but Summer can important season in your youth ministry, as well as that of your interns. Once you have found your intern or interns, begin praying for them and encourage them to pray for you, your students, parents and adventures over the time they are with you.
I also recommend beginning to including interns on communications that your program is sending out. Add them to your email list, social media, calendars and even when appropriate, Student Ministry Staff planning. If they aren’t from your congregation, where are they going to stay for the summer, how will they get around town, and what young adult opportunities are there for them on the few weekends and evenings they aren’t committed to the students, are all critical items to consider before they arrive.
Start marking off time in your schedule for the interns. On the day they arrive, make sure you take them around to all the rest of the church staff and introduce them, show them where the copier is, explain to them what a fax machine is, local church pitfalls to avoid, and “sacred cows” to be aware of during the summer.
You also need to set aside one-on-one time with them. Last year I had “Taco Tuesday” with one of my interns where we went to get tacos and talk, mostly not about work, and his usual response was, “Everything is awesome!”
You also need to ensure that they are being fed spiritually, because they are pouring into the students so much, it’s easy to find them in a wilderness at the end of the summer without proper care. Make sure that they have a true “Sabbath,” a chance to wash clothes and sleep in a real bed, even if that means that they are not at every single event or trip.
One of the more helpful events in creating winterns has been getting together with a couple of other veteran youth directors and their interns. It gives them a chance to hear perspectives from youth directors other than yourself or team, but also a chance to connect with others on the intern journey. We cover topics like Safe Sanctuary/Ministry Safe, some games & activities that the can easily use as ice breakers/get to know the students, relationships (sixth graders are different than seniors, parents versus volunteers), and hypothetical intern situations. These scenarios are ones that they may or may not encounter, but will help them think through things and be prepared to react appropriately.