A Teaching Church

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
– Ephesians 4:11-13

Today I’m in St. Paul for the second time this week.  I’m on the campus of Luther Seminary, where I am participating in interviews for interns for the 2017-2018 school year.

There are a total of 9 (soon to be 8, two of them that are geographically close to each other are getting ready to merge) seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  While they are all really good schools, they are all undergoing tremendous change, as graduate education in general, and theological education in particular is changing quickly.

Our current intern, Alex, is a student at Luther and will graduate in May.  Pastor Dean and I both graduated from Luther.  Pastor Amanda graduated from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

This interview process is really interesting.  Over two days, I’ll spend an hour each with seven different people.  In many ways, it resembles a job interview:

  • “Tell me about yourself?”
  • “What are your strengths?”
  • “What are your weaknesses?”
  • “How do you work on a team?”

But in many other ways, it’s a conversation about life, faith, hopes and dreams:

  • “Tell me about significant moments in your faith life?”
  • “What are your theological ‘hot-button’ issues?”
  • “How do you understand ‘call,’ and ‘vocation?'”
  • “What do you hope to experience in an internship?”

Our goal is to find a fit.  Trinity isn’t for everybody (no congregation is) and not everyone is a good fit for us.

  • We look for interns who will fit into our culture and be good members of our team.
  • We look for interns who have good interpersonal caring skills and are “smart” socially.
  • We look for interns who have passion for ministry and are eager to jump in and do ministry.
  • We look for interns who are humble, and who have a servant’s heart.

We look for interns who are excited to learn and can be coached.  At the same time, we’re interested in people who can help “nudge” us along in our community’s faith journey.

These days of interviewing are fun days.  Interns are excited and eager.  For many of them, internship is their first opportunity to “do” ministry full-time and professionally.  They have hopes and dreams, and they are trying to discern God’s call for them.

At Trinity, we are blessed to be a part of their process.  We have benefitted from strong interns in the past, and we will hopefully continue to benefit this way in the future.  It will continue to be a challenge:  The number of students available for traditional internships is shrinking as more and more are doing distance and online learning, and their internships are done in congregations they are already a part of.  I think it’s entirely possible in just a few years that we might only be assigned an intern even one out of three years.

But we will continue to work to maintain our internship program.  It provides great value to Trinity, and a good learning experience for our interns.  The interview I’m doing this week are for Trinity’s 58th intern.  We are a teaching church.  We are a place where students beginning their pastoral ministry come to gain experience and to learn.

Please pray for Trinity in this process as we go through the interviews.  Please pray for all of the internship candidates, that they are connected to sites that help them grow in their pastoral identity.  And please pray for the church, that leaders can continue to be lifted up to serve God and God’s mission in the world!

God bless!
Pastor Todd

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