Where did you pursue your internship (location/church)?
Westside Reformed Church (URCNA) in Cincinnati, OH.
What were your primary responsibilities (preaching, teaching, counseling, etc.)?
Preaching, teaching, leading services, and serving two potential church planting efforts in Indianapolis, IN and in Madison, IN weekly.
How has your WSC education prepared you for the internship?
I had many opportunities to teach God’s Word each week. Although studying is never easy, my WSC education has definitely equipped me to handle the Word reverently and responsibly. The reverence comes from WSC faculty constantly driving home to us that Scripture is God’s living Word to us, humbling hearers by the law and making them alive by the gospel. The responsibility comes from being taught the languages, exegetical method, genre sensitivity, clear sermon structure, and so on. I’m still a novice, but this internship proved that WSC has given me an excellent foundation.
My professors have also demonstrated enthusiasm and conviction about the topics they teach that has helped me to realize that communicating truth to God’s people should probably be uninhibited, if that’s the right word. Put another way, it seems like everyone benefits when a pastor or teacher communicates with feeling. Some of the high points of my time at seminary have been when a professor loses himself in the topic at hand. Those instances instructed me well for the teaching I had the opportunity to do this summer.
What did you learn from this internship that seminary couldn’t teach you?
Weekly I was preparing one sermon and one doctrinal lesson and contributing to the liturgy of one of the two Sunday services, and just those things felt like a pretty intense grind. That experience can be talked about but not really in a way that conveys what it’s actually like. (It increased my respect for faithful pastors doing this every week too!)
Since every pastor and every church is different, it also doesn’t seem possible to teach seminarians how to schedule and prioritize a normal week in ministry. I was able to observe Rev. Zac Wyse bring structure to the church’s weekly events (services, studies, meetings, etc) but also be open to changes of time/venue and sudden needs of parishioners, and also relying on the Council members to meet these needs as well. The big lesson for me here was that this kind of engagement with a congregation takes time, forbearance, and forgiveness from all the people involved.
What would you say to future seminarians participating in internships?
If the specifics of post-seminary calling are not clear yet (filling a pulpit, planting a church, more education, etc.), then be open to a variety of internships in terms of location, responsibilities, and “church culture” instead of having a pre-set expectation.
If post-seminary hopes are a little clearer, do whatever possible to have a relationship with the church before committing to the internship so that you and the church are on the same page about their needs and your goals. Consistent communication ahead of time or coming to lead services a couple of times beforehand go a long way. This was my experience this summer. I exhorted at Westside a year ago and had been in contact with Rev. Wyse for a couple of years, and these experiences help my family and me fold right in when we arrived.
Whatever the case, if you’re married or have kids, be brutally realistic about what you all can handle because internships can be very demanding. Try to plan ways to continue family worship and meaningful time together before arriving at the internship, and if possible let the overseeing pastor know your needs on this front too.