by Jason Sansbury
For most youth ministries, summer means a great deal more activities and programming. Additionally, most youth ministries suffer some level of loss of their regular volunteers to vacations and normal summer plans. One solution to the increased activity and the shortage of hands is to seek out and hire a summer intern. Starting that process from scratch can be daunting if your church has never had a summer intern. Here are some of the steps that you need to do to create an internship and hire a great intern to support your youth ministries in the summer.

1. Work out your logistics.

Hiring a summer intern means there are some pieces you need to get figured out BEFORE you start the process. Some key questions include:

  • What will the salary be for the position (if any) and the duration of the position? How will that salary be distributed to the intern?
  • How will the intern be housed? Do you need to budget for that? Are there families in your church who may be willing to house the intern? Do you need to budget some compensation to them?
  • What funds do you need to budget to cover the costs of the intern on trips and events? Can funds be budgeted to cover the intern’s expenses when they are doing relational ministry with students? (i.e. coffee, lunch, etc.)
  • Does your church feel a need to put a priority on seeking out interns of one gender in particular or are you casting a wider net?
  • Who will lead the hiring process? Some churches put the hiring decision firmly in the hands of the lead youth worker and some churches desire for their staff committee and/or pastor to be in charge of the hiring process. Talk about and know how that will work.
  • What are the key characteristics that you are looking for in an intern? Having an idea of the areas in which the intern will need to provide leadership can dramatically help you later in your hiring decision.

All of these details need to be worked out before you start seeking people to fill the position.

2. Start seeking your candidates

Once you have made the decision to hire a summer intern, you need to start your search for reasonable candidates. This portion of the process can be really difficult or easy depending on where you look and the connections you have.
Here are some of the places you can mine for great candidates for your youth ministry.

  • Your own church community. You may have someone in your congregation whom you trust and who would be a great intern. Just be mindful that in general, college students need several years away from the youth group before they can be effective as an intern or leader in the youth ministry in which they grew up.
  • Denominational ministries at colleges near you. Most of us find our call into ministry as college students and your denominational campus ministry may be full of potential candidates to serve in your ministry for the summer.
  • Place an ad in appropriate locations. For example, your denomination’s publication with classified ads is a great place. Youth Specialties has a job bank. This is a very wide and broad approach and may mean many more people see your opening. But be prepared because it can also mean you will be flooded with applicants. Figure out a way to rapidly sort real candidates from all the rest or you can regret listing the position.

3. Schedule interviews.

If at all possible, schedule in-person interviews. You will gain some insight and knowledge from phone interviews but in person conversations (or if not possible, in-person Skype conversations) can tell you much more.
Talk financial information early. Candidates need to know what they are getting into and what the logistics of the position are. For some students, they may need to earn more than you can offer and it is better to know that sooner rather than later.
Have a standard list of questions. Ask questions that will give you some sense of who the person is and whether or not he or she is a fit for your ministry. Some of mine are:

  1. What was your youth group experience like? What did you love? What did you hate?
  2. If you could teach only one lesson to the youth group this summer what would it be?
  3. What is the last good book you read? Movie you saw?
  4. What are your hopes and expectations for the internship if you get it?
  5. What terrifies you about being in youth ministry?
  6. What are your core statements of belief and faith?
  7. Who do you admire in ministry?
  8. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Allow them to ask questions of you. If they have no questions, it is a bit of a red flag. I want people who are really considering ministry to serve as interns. People who are just looking for a job tend to not have questions; students who want to learn about ministry tend to have tons of legitimate and great questions.
Take your time. Don’t rush this decision. Long “hellos” in ministry make sense because it allows you to get to know someone over time. A bad hire will cost you much more than just funds and time. Be deliberate and take your time.

4. Finalize the process.

Set some reasonable timelines and communicate that to all the candidates. Take the time to write some pros and cons for each person you interview. Evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in relation to your ministry and know what you need to prioritize for that summer. Spend time in prayer. Then be prepared to offer the job to your best candidate. Hopefully they will accept the job and then you can start to think on how to create the best summer experience possible for your youth ministry and for your intern.
Finally, communicate well with all the candidates throughout the whole process but especially at the end. One of the worst things I have seen is watching someone who has been seeking a position at a church be interviewed, go deep into the process, and then find out via an announcement on a church website that someone else had been hired. No one ever communicated with them personally that the position had been filled. Be better than that. It is worth the extra time to call the rejected candidates in person, affirm the gifts you do see in them, and encourage them in ministry. They may be the wrong person for your ministry this summer but the right person the next summer. You want to do this part of the process as well as possible!
Click here to read Part 2: Now That You’ve Hired Your Summer Intern.
Jason Sansbury is the youth minister at Belle Meade United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn.  Previously, Jason has served churches in Franklin, Tenn. and Georgia and has been on staff with YoungLife.  Additionally, Jason was one of the founding partners of Crossed-Up Ministries, a ministry specializing in putting together large worship events for youth groups.  He has a heart for helping young people find their call into ministry and succeeding early in their ministry and careers. For fun, Jason loves movies, music, and television. He is a fount of useless pop culture trivia and dreams of being a winner on the TV show Jeopardy.