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Weigh In: Volume 21 – Paid Internships?

Geoff Stewart —  June 11, 2012 — 6 Comments

From time to time we get a question that perhaps we don’t know the answer to or like this one, where there could be dozens of answers to and we put it out you , the More Than Dodgeball Community.

Nathan Crabtree from Northminster Presbyterian Church in Hickory, N.C. wants to know:

Do you do paid internships? If so how much is a good amount to pay an intern? 

So please weigh-in and give us a brief description about how your Church does internships.

Are yours paid or unpaid?

Do people pay your church to intern? 

Do you offer college credit?

-Geoff (Twitter)

Geoff Stewart

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6 responses to Weigh In: Volume 21 – Paid Internships?

  1. I worked for years at a church which met on the campus of a Bible college. The thing I took about internships from that experience is a lot of students miss what an internship is all about. For a lot of college students, training for ministry, the internship is more about summer income than meaningful experience. I believe that this is an unfortunate scenario.

    That being said, it is the situation that we’re in and it is something we have to think through. I do pay my interns. But I make it very clear during our interviews and through the season they’re with us that the pay is low ($100 per week) and that the real benefit is their being more prepared to hit the ground running for the kingdom.

    Something I’ve thought about, and maybe this is a good panel for discussion, is having our interns go through an interview with our elders for compensation at the end of the internship. I don’t know how exactly the pay would work out, but I think that giving interns experience and critique for an interview is valuable experience. Maybe they’d be paid a small amount each week through the summer ($50-75) and the interview would be for a bonus ($1000-1500). That way the interview wouldn’t be just a mock interview, but would have actual bearing on the interns approach and focus coming into it. The questions asked could be about the experience had and the application for future ministries. I don’t know…what do you think?

  2. I am commenting on this from the perspective of someone who did an internship in the children’s department of my church a few years ago. Pay was a frustrating component of my experience that summer, not because I wasn’t paid much (because I was willing to do the job for free), but because their was so much ambiguity around it. I didn’t know how much I would be getting, when I would receive it, how I would be paid etc. So first and foremost whatever pay structure you decide upon make sure it is communicated clearly right from the start of the hiring process, and then stuck to.

    In response to Chris’ comment, I really like the idea of a small amount throughout the weeks, with the chance of a larger amount at the end of the internship, as determined by performance. The small amount throughout the weeks communicates that you value the work they do and are not using them as free labour, but it also separates the candidates who are passionate about the work regardless of the pay from the candidates who see it as a fun summer job. As a pastor, you just need to be respectful of the hours expected from the intern and that they still have the time to take on a part time job elsewhere if needed.

    At the end of the placement, as part of the debrief and reflection process, the intern could communicate to the elders in an interview setting, the impact he/she feels she has had on the ministry, the things he/she has learned, and how he/she will be applying this experience to future ministry. The elders can then provide feedback and decide an appropriate amount for a ‘thank you bonus’ as a way of recognizing the work the intern has put in. The hard part would be ensuring that the end money is not the motivation for working hard, but rather the motivation comes from a passion and heart for the ministry.

    At the end of the day, no one enters church ministry for money. They enter it because they feel that is what God is calling them to do. By paying little or nothing, you may lose a star candidate to another church that offers pay, but you will be left with an intern that loves your ministry, loves your students and is there for the right reasons. And most of the time appreciation, praise, encouragement, responsibility and a few perks are forms of compensation that are far more valuable than money.

  3. We pay our interns the same methods as our regular staff (W2′s, payroll taxes, etc). They’re paid the same in our church regardless of department ($12/hr). You get what you pay for with staff, and paying our interns has enabled to make demands (yes, you do have to be at this event) that you can’t always with volunteer staff. Our church is mid-sized (450 people on Sundays) so we don’t have the appeal of people being willing to work for free (for long, at least) that other more prestigious churches might.

  4. We’re re-starting our Internship program next year. Our interns are going to pay just over 3 thousand dollars for the year. The internship involves class time with our pastors, community service, serving in at least 3 weekend services and also a missions trip (which they will raise funds for – not covered by tuition).

    We chose to have them pay for a few reasons. I think the main benefit is helping them understand the value and cost of full time ministry. We wanted to attract those who had a heart to serve and were willing to invest in their future spiritually. We also found that having interns cost us more than just pay-cheques if they were paid – they’re on a journey of learning and the investment from our staff was quite huge.

    The criticism is that interns are paying the Church and then working like slaves. To be honest, there is an added bonus of them helping A LOT with many of our Church operations; however, what we’ve noticed is that Interns who pay end up serving in a far greater capacity than interns that receive a pay-cheque. There seems to be less entitlement and more of a decision that, “We’re all in this year” when the interns have paid for the program.

    However, We’ve also found that there’s a benefit when you pay the RIGHT intern. One you can really invest in and keep around! Bonus.

  5. I normally have 2 to 5 Summer interns who work on a volunteer basis. However our winter interns we hire on a part time staff. This summer I have two and we are actually paying these guys because of a personal trailer that I sold and donated the money to the “Intern budget” These two are very qualified and and a HUGE blessing to the Youth Min. They do get college credit. It’s only a part time position with full time work ;)

  6. We just recently restructured our internship program. We now have an interns serving for 15 months (who starts in the summer and overlaps with the previous 15 month intern for that first summer) AND 2 summer interns. The two positions are paid slightly differently.

    Before restructuring the internship program, I did as much research as possible in how much other churches were paying their interns. I’d be happy to share what I found. Just e-mail me at daniel@clpc.org.

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