Working With Summer Interns: Theological Depth Through Biblical Teaching

At the end of a really long program year, the presence of interns can be a balm for the soul of the weary youth pastor. Interns often bring with them an amount of energy that seems to only accompany folks in their late teens and early twenties, an infusion of which can help revive a tired youth minister.

Interns also tend to offer incredibly humble attitudes, which is not only encouraging and edifying but also helpful. They free you, the youth pastor, to do things that only you can do by doing some things anyone can do. In addition to the more relational work of discipling students and teaching Gods Word, our interns often loaded up our reminder text message service with a years worth of Bible verses, or populated our Google Calendar with the coming years events. Those interns and their faithful labor in our ministry allowed us to spend more time with the flesh and blood students in our care, instead of in an office on a computer.

But interns arent with you only to give to the ministry. Its crucial to remember that the Lord has given them to us to steward their gifts for a season. Your investment in them should be just as meaningful as their work for the ministry the Lord has given you. One way to care for them is to set aside time during the summer (or wherever your intern season falls on the calendar) and to give them robust biblical and theological teaching.

Theological Depth

R.C. Sproul said, Theology must always end in doxology: the joyful praise of our Creator; otherwise we have not truly studied the things of God.” He got this idea from no less than the Apostle Paul, who broke into what seems like spontaneous, nearly speechless praise of the Lord after writing eleven chapters worth of weighty, serious theology: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways…To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33, 36b).

In addition to forming and shaping your students, your interns will themselves either be more or less conformed to the image of Christ for having spent time with you. The more you push them to behold Christ in his Word and in the life of their minds, the more like him theyll look (2 Cor. 3:18). A good internship program will give your interns the tools to do this even after they head back to school in the fall, and the more theyll shape your students into the image of Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit during their time with you. Doxological theology has a trickle down effect–if your interns behold the beauty of Christ, they wont be able to stop showing that beauty to your students.

With all this in mind, its important to prioritize sitting down with your interns regularly—maybe once a week or so—and walking with them through some of the prominent theological themes of the Scriptures. You can do this by outlining conversations based on the classic systematic-theological themes like Theology Proper, Christology, Pneumatology, Anthropology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, and the like. You might also consider reading through a basic but broad theology book like Sprouls Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, Hortons Pilgrim Theology, or Brays God is Love together.

Another option is to bend the ears of other mature Christians in your church or on your churchs staff as you begin thinking about what this theological journey will look like for your interns. What are the foundational theological truths that undergird a life of joy in Christ? A number of different perspectives can help you answer that question, so you might enlist others on the team to take turns leading these discussions. As long as long as the foundation of your conversations is biblically based and has stood the test of time, what you read together and talk about is probably a bit less important than the fact that you are reading and talking about the deep things of God.

Through Bible Teaching

Theology which does not have the Bible as its source is hardly worthy of the name. Its wise, then, to walk with your interns through a book of the Bible like the Gospel of John or Romans. By doing this, youll be teaching them how to read the Bible as you move through your study. Whats more, by reading through books like these together, youll come across theological themes with which you will have to wrestle, such as human responsibility in the light of Gods sovereignty and the Trinity, among others. As you gather around Gods Word together and you teach your interns how words relate to sentences and how sentences relate to arguments and how each of these things reveal something about God and things in relation to God, theyll be all the more prepared to do the same with your students.

One of the implicit goals in teaching interns deep theological truths is that theyll soak up a Christian method for thinking theologically, not just when theyre pondering the hypostatic union or divine impassibility but also when theyre pastoring themselves or their family or their friends through struggle and strife. Youre teaching them, even now, to take every thought captive to Christ and his Word, whether that thought is about why God became man or why bad things happen to good people.

Thinking Theologically

R.C. Sproul famously said that everyone is a theologian. That is, every one of us thinks thoughts about God. Those thoughts are only true to the extent that they conform to Gods revealing of himself in the Bible.

The goal of engaging your interns with theological depth through biblical teaching isnt to get them ready to pass a systematic theology exam (though its obviously not a bad thing if they can!). The goal, rather, is to help our interns draw nearer to the God of grace through his Son by the power of his Holy Spirit. The best way to do this is to go straight to the source. Instilling in your interns that true theological depth comes solely from biblical teaching– from drinking deeply at the well of Christ and his Word–will teach them that the Bible is the primary ( and only infallible) source of our theological reflection both for the esoteric and the everyday. Devoting time to the study of God’s Word will also kindle their affections for Christ–who he is and what he has done for them.

Tucker Fleming was raised in the Atlanta area and attended both Mississippi State University and Beeson Divinity School. He's lived and worked throughout the country in schools and non-profit organizations, and has worked with students for a decade, with over half of that time being in the local church.

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