This is a post that needs writing. So here we go: a primer on the best pastoral ministry internships that I am aware of. Please note that I don’t know every detail of these programs; I may get something wrong. Check the websites below for definitive information (and see a great resource by 9Marks on how churches can train pastors).
My personal suggestion for seminarians and pastors-in-training would be to couple your academic learning with an internship. These are some of the best you’ll find.
Without further ado, ministry internships for future pastors and leaders that I highly recommend:
The Capitol Hill Baptist Church internship. Washington, DC. In my eyes, with TBI (see below), this is the top of the line (full disclosure: I did it). The program is nothing less than rigorous, the curriculum is expertly plotted, and the staff with which you work is incredible, including Mark Dever, Michael Lawrence, and Matt Schmucker. This is a semester-long internship. They offer a generous stipend, housing, and lots of time with supervisors and church members. Ideal for single men. If you do the CHBC internship, you’ll come away exhausted, enlived, and educated. You will learn a ton about polity, ecclesiology, and preaching. If those things don’t sound important to you now, rest assured that after the internship, you’ll think rather differently.
The Bethelehem Institute. Minneapolis, MN. Bethlehem Baptist Church has been shaking this up of late, and truth be told, I’m not exactly sure what form TBI is now taking in light of the MDiv being offered at Bethlehem College & Seminary. TBI as it now stands is one year long and unaccredited. At any rate, I have gotten to know many TBI grads through Southern Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and they are without fail godly, smart, and well trained. How can you not be, when you’re training under John Piper and other highly faithful and gifted men at a great church?
The First Baptist Church of Durham internship. Durham, NC. At the church led by Andy Davis, a pastor worth attention and emulation, you can do a semester-long internship based on the CHBC program. This would be ideal for Southeastern Seminary students, though if you want great training, you could consider moving to Durham, working part-time at Starbucks, and doing this excellent program. Davis and Andy Winn, a great guy and faithful shepherd, have just started this internship up, and the opportunity is ripe for students/future pastors to go and get top-notch ministry training at a church I love.
The New England Center for Expository Preaching internship. Hampstead, NH. Led by Dave Ricard, a choice guy and a personal friend, this internship is ideal for men who want to commit to the hard labor of gospel work in New England. Semester-long, with lots of preaching opportunities (unlike many of the other internships listed). Dave has placed a number of his interns in New England churches, one of the most exciting developments in New England Christian circles that I know of. Small stipend, and again, tremendous opportunity to listen to and preach sermons in the region that started it all in America.
The NETS Center for Church Planting residency. Williston, VT. Another excellent ministry training program, this one more intensive. A two-year residency followed by training. NETS sends out its planters with funding for church planting, which is terrific. Grounded in great theology, an aggressive, Christ-centered approach, and led by Wes Pastor, one of the more dynamic guys you’ll meet. For those who have a few years to train and want to do an intensive program, this is a great option, one that is yielding rich fruit from the hard soil of New England.
Lakeview Baptist Church internship. Auburn, AL. Led by Al Jackson, a renowned pastor, this program has turned out a number of really solid guys I know. I can’t find a webpage on it (feel free to share it), but here’s a 9Marks profile of the program. Contact the church for more info. Great for SBC guys who want a staunchly biblical approach to pastoring. Holistic, involves a serious commitment, and allows you to do seminary while you intern, which is unique and much-needed.
Here are some other programs that you should know about that also offer excellent ministry training (I think most are unaccredited):
RE:Train through Mars Hill Church. Seattle, WA. Just started, with a great faculty (Piper, Ware, and Driscoll, among others).
Cornhill Training Course. London, UK. I know little about the specifics, but I have met a few grads and they are some of the sharpest minds I know when it comes to exegesis and preaching.
Simeon Trust. Chicago, IL. I don’t know a great deal about the rudiments of the course, but this is run by great leaders with international connections. Seems very nicely plotted out, and it’s in Chicago. Led in America by David Helm.
Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College. Gaithersburg, MD. I almost applied to the Pastor’s College some years ago because it seemed to combine an emphasis on head and heart so well. With instruction by CJ Mahaney, Josh Harris, and Jeff Purswell, this is a great program to consider. Nine months, I think.
As I said earlier, I’m sure I’ve missed some great internships–please share any you know of in the comments. Here’s info on a few more from 9Marks, particularly some international opportunities. You can go all over the world to train for pastoral ministry–maybe you should (particularly if you’re young and single).
And if you want to be a pastor, I think it is absolutely essential that you couple your formal training with a ministry internship in a program of the kind suggested here. Oftentimes, you’ll learn as much from a great internship as you will from seminary.