Set Your Internship Up for Success

Set Your Internship Up for Success

Summer months aren’t too far away and college students everywhere are already searching for that perfect internship to help build their resume. Besides the college credit, though, internships help develop and grow the next generation of ministry leaders. So how do you set them up for success? Let’s explore a few frequently asked questions and best practices around internships!

What is the difference between an internship and a residency?

Internships and residencies don’t really carry any legal or technical differences in the ministry world. The implication is usually that an internship is short-term employment: a few months, often in the summer while the term “residency” is used when employment is longer term (think a year or more) and the end goal is preparation for full-time work in that field. Legally you can call your employee an intern, resident, fellow, or a variety of other terms.

Why create an internship program?

Besides offering educational credit, internships give individuals interested in ministry the opportunity to really dig in and experience ministry firsthand. It also gives these usually younger employees an opportunity to get engaged in your mission while offering fresh perspective and enthusiasm to your organization. Internships and residencies both rejuvenate ministry organizations while creating a pipeline for those who will continue the ministry.

How is an intern compensated?

An internship can be paid or unpaid–be sure to determine this upfront. A church is an employer so if you compensate your intern in any way (yes, even “love offerings”), they are considered employees. A non-exempt, hourly employee eligible for overtime and subject to all the tax laws, to be specific, so make sure you understand all those tax laws before diving in. Also note, we STRONGLY advise against stipends, as they are often not compliant with tax laws.

What are some other best practices around internships?

Before you commit to an internship or residency program in your organization, clarify your expectations: What are you hoping to achieve? What do you want them to walk away with? Don’t assume an intern is just cheap labor. The end goal should be what your intern gains from you, not what your organization gains from them.

Don’t cut corners on any part of the process: interviews, background checks, reference checks, harassment training (especially if they are working with youth or kids!), onboarding (click to read more about how to onboard right). This may be their first experience working for a ministry organization or church. Make sure you make the right impression and help them set the right expectations so they know what a healthy ministry looks like.

Remember that this summer’s interns will eventually be the generation carrying the torch for the ministry. This is your chance to start the handoff well.

Original content by HR Ministry Solutions. This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.