Group of studentsThe “why” of internships in ministry preparation

Mentoring may be a “buzz-word” in the business world, but the practice of developing another person for specific purposes of skill or leadership development has been around since the beginning of civilization. It is evident throughout Scripture – especially in the ministries of Jesus and Paul. However, the integration of mentoring for ministry preparation within academic settings has built in problems. Here is one example:

[In] that much leadership training [in] Bible School and seminary education revolves around the content of Jesus' teaching, but ignores His potent methodology. Jesus' training methodology was not classroom-based but mentoring- based, combining both individual and supervised peer-group mentoring in the context of active ministry. (Crow, p.101)

In keeping with these values, Biola University seeks to partner with strategic ministries around the world to provide our Christian Ministries students the best preparation to enter into full-time Christian ministry. This immersive ministry training initiative seeks to blend spiritual formation and ministry competencies through a mentored apprenticeship. The goal of this Biola’s internship program is to equip college students to be the person of God as they do the work of God.

In order to accomplish this transformation, the Internship semester(s) seek to integrate traditional classroom learning with real-world applications. It is a partnership between the student, the faculty of Biola University, and ministry practitioners. To understand the relationship between traditional education in the classroom and the practical experience of an internship (i.e. field education), Ted Ward, then faculty member at Michigan State University in the 1970s, developed the split-rail fence analogy. “One rail the fence represents cognitive input (e.g., reading, lectures). The other rail represents practical experience (e.g., observation, case studies, role plays). The posts of the fence represent classroom interaction…”(Ward in Fetters, 2010, p. 186-187). Internships, or mentored apprenticeships, expand the role of practical experience, allowing for implementation of theory in a real-world environment. “Internship” is a business term that has emerged from the medieval practice of apprenticeships. The skills required to be a blacksmith, for example, were learned by attaching oneself to a professional blacksmith and working in menial tasks before earning the right to increase in responsibilities.

The goal of Biola’s Christian Ministry internship is to provide a “win-win-win” situation for all involved. This includes students, ministry practitioners, and the university. However a beneficial experience may appear different to participants. Some of these benefits to the student are: opportunities to enact theory into practice, grow personally (both spiritually and professionally), develop marketable skills, and network contacts to utilize for future job openings. Perhaps the greatest benefit for the student is developing realistic expectations about the ministry world, preparing oneself to solve the problems presented in real-life through feedback from a caring supervisor and faculty coordinator.

The benefits for the ministry practitioner are additional resources to impact both your ministry site now and development for the Kingdom of God. This mentored apprenticeship will allow practitioners with an equipping hearts to fulfill their calling to rise up the next generation of ministry leadership.

Finally, Biola University will benefit through greater collaboration with local ministries and a growing reputation as a strategic leader in Christian education. Biola’s mission states, “The mission of Biola University is biblically centered education, scholarship and service—equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Internship program is the practical implementation of this purpose.

It should be recognized equipping interns actually would cost your ministry in terms of time invested in teaching someone to do what you already pay someone to do. It is easier in the short run to do it by yourself rather than equip someone else to do the same task. So why have interns? The answer is simple; a ministry practitioner has the long-range vision of developing future ministers of the gospel. If a ministry site is looking for cheap labor to supplement the ministry staff, this internship program is not a suitable fit. While interns will infuse energy into a ministry, this will be short-lived and unsustainable. If you see equipping interns to do what you do in another ministry setting as worth the time and effort, then you already know why you want to participate in Biola University Christian Ministries internship program.

For more information about Biola University's Christian Ministries Internship program, please contact Professor David Keehn at


Crow, D. Michael. (2008). Multiplying Jesus mentors: designing a reproducible

mentoring system: a case study. Missiology: An international review, 36(1), 87-109.

Fetters, L.S. (2010). The PRIME experience: practical research and immersion in ministry

effectiveness. Christian Education Journal, 7(1), 186-198.