“Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men” – Colossians 3:23
In September 2017 I officially started my role as a multimedia intern for a church I got planted into since the first year of university. I had no idea what to expect, my expectations weren’t too high and weren’t too low either. I was excited and I felt very ready but also nervous and kinda petrified. I was coming out of a place where my two best friends had moved away, all the students were just starting to return, I was still going through heartbreak from a broken down relationship, I was far from my family but I knew I needed to be here so there I was.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed. I was ready for whatever the year was going to throw at me.
Some experiences of people I knew who had interned for churches didn’t always sell it as the American Dream but I was sort of preparing for that. I had never gone fully behind the scenes and witnessed the sheer amount of work it took to run a church, I mean sure, I had served in different areas but had no idea the time and effort that went into running a church. So first of all KUDOS to you incredible pastors and staff team that make it happen for us. Two hours on a sunday was like the cherry on top of a sundae that was prepared by over 30 people.
I was set to intern for at least 19 hours per week including ya typical Sunday morning at church and I was also enrolled in a local Bible School. Rent was a good rate and food and bills were included. I was transferred over to a job as a front of house waitress half an hour away from where I lived. It was all very ideal looking back on it now but at the time – what it really was was a time of confusion, excitement, frustration and a ton of “where are you Jesus” kinda moments.
Now although I haven’t actually technically finished my year out, I realised that around this time last year was when I was applying for this internship myself. So if you’re thinking of interning and want to see how I handled this year – read on, my little duckling, read on.
1. It’s hard
Interning is hard. In different ways. Challenges and mistakes are inevitable, you just kinda have to accept that and that’s okay. If everything in life came easy, what’s the point in having faith and trust in the fact that the Lord’s gonna pull through for you? I look back and I remember multiple times where I pooped up and never thought I would recover from it but I did. And this was largely due to my line manager telling me over and over again that perfection isn’t what we’re here to obtain and it’s okay if things appear a little rough around the edges. When you make mistakes, learn from them and then move on. Hopefully, that particular mistake won’t happen again but if it does rinse and repeat that ish. Just work hard at what you do, give it your best and ask God to do the rest.
2. Time manage? (ew what is that?)
To prevent burn out, try and assess what you can and can’t do. For me, this was a particularly hard one to nail down (and still is) because there were weeks where I would be struggling to find something to do and other week’s where everyone and their mother’s dog would need something. For those times I would wish that I had octopus tentacles just to keep up with everything. If you master this from the get-go, send a sista your magical ways because I’m still learning this one. What this all boils down to is organisation. A skill I wish I possessed. Google calendar and to-do lists were just the tip of the organisational iceberg that I touched upon. My advice for those that are just going into an internship – is try your best to learn how to organise effectively. Remember and star your important emails, keep tabs on what you do and what you’ve done. Be mindful of time, look ahead at your schedule and make up the hours if you haven’t yet met them.
3. Speak truth over your situation.
It is important to remind yourself of a) the impact you’re making and b) who you’re doing this for. Because if you’re JUST doing this for people, you will very easily get disappointed and you will disappoint people. When you remind yourself that you’re doing this for God to get the glory rather than yourself or even your church – it changes that inward perspective to an eternal perspective. When you give God your everything He does so much with that. What you have, the skills you possess and what you bring to the table will then be for God as an offering to him.
4. Find joy!
Joy in the mundane was just something I had to pray over myself a lot. While laminating “joy in the mundane” while printing envelopes “joy in the mundane” and I don’t even think it was because I didn’t enjoy it as much as creating social media graphics or posting on social media because laminating and printing envelopes can actually carry therapeutic qualities along with it (dare I say it). In the trivial tasks you learn who you’re truly doing this for. It’s the small things that build your character, if God can trust you with the small things He’ll trust you with the big things and the same goes for those who you are under the authority of. Joy in the mundane became my prayer when I felt like the joy of the internship had been sapped out of me. I had to keep on reminding myself “Ros, this is what you prayed to be able to do a year ago – suck it up, buttercup.” 😀
This doesn’t even necessarily mean sleep, this just means remember the things that you loved doing and do them. Prioritise your time, sure but also love the times where you’re doing something for you and not for someone else. Be all there, be present and enjoy it. For me, I really cherished the days where I could clean my room, put a candle on, sit on my bed, spend time with Jesus, watch a movie, eat an unhealthy snack, go out for coffee with a friend or sit in a coffee shop on your own and write a blog post like this.
Take care of yourself, when you feel stressed – pray about it, create a plan on how to tackle it and do it. If you find that you’re stressed out often about the same thing, think of ways that you can prevent it. For me, I found that I was uploading our church news the day after my intern day because I would always run out of time so I decided to start it a day earlier and weigh out the time between it all.
Remember to spend time with Jesus as well, this should be the main point of the whole blog post. When you’re in right allignment with Him and doing life in His strength – it really helps rather than you running on your own energy and giving out of an empty well.
6. Be willing to be wrong, to learn and to submit.
When I first started I thought of all the amazing plans and ideas that I had to bring to the table. This longing would increase over the year as I would look at the way other churches did their social media which would soon lead me into the comparison trap (don’t do it girl, don’t do it). When I would go in all guns blazing “let’s do this, let’s do that” I actually ended up giving myself more work to do than I needed to. In the beginning, I was a team of one. If I was to set out and do all of these amazing things, I would need to have a team behind me because without a team, it was unrealistic. So my struggle meant that at times I would get it wrong. Which is okay, I had to learn a lot and every day I’m doing the same. Listen to those in authority over you. There will be times when you disagree and there will be times when you’re on the same page, ultimately to submit to the authority set before you, pleases God. Which leads me to the final thought splatter.
7. Build relationships.
Church life can be messy, people can hurt, get the wrong end of the stick and assume. The enemy loves a good old divide and conquer tactic. But know that even though church life is messy, we serve a God who is constant and consistent. Whose love is unconditional and died to not only forgive OUR sins but also that of the person who hurt you. Be slow to anger, quick to forgive and always, always love. Treat each other with respect, enjoy their company, laugh with each other, cry with each other, pray for each other and be kind to one another.
Relationships aren’t built in a day so remember to show up. Community takes a whole load of people showing up.
Communicate. People aren’t mind-readers, take it to the Lord and communicate your point effectively. I really struggle with this sometimes – the whole being real part and addressing things but at the end of the day even if it frightens you, do it, be real rather than suffering in silence and building up bitterness and thinking “why don’t they understand me?” Sometimes you’re going to get it wrong and that’s okay. You’re human, girl.
Now, I would hardly call these nuggets of wisdom but it’s where I’m at right now. There’s way more that I have to learn about life and I’m definitely not suggesting that I’ve got it all sussed. Just plodding along trying to string words together that hopefully make sense to you.
If you relate to any of this holla at your gurl. To work for the church is an insanely cool thing to do. It requires something of you. For you to take what you’re passionate about and do it, not for a paycheck, but because you love it and you know it’s what God’s called you to do.