Missions Catalyst 5.8.13 – Practical Mobilization

In This Issue: Seminary/monastery/mission mash-up

  • Seminary/Monastery/Mission Mash-up: How to Get the Next 13,000 Ready for the World
  • Finding Internships

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

teamwork tug of war

Seminary/Monastery/Mission Mash-up: How to Get the Next 13,000 Ready for the World

By Shane Bennett

Around 13,000 young adults committed themselves to short and long-term missionary service at the close of the Urbana conference on New Year’s Eve 2012. You know what that means, don’t you? A ton of guilt-ridden young adults in the years to come. Because if history is any indicator, most of those goers will not actually go.

If you’re one of the pledged, but still at home (or you know someone who is), let me say this: There’s still time. It used to be you got too old to serve in other cultures, but no more. God seems pleased to use goers of all ages.

A Brilliant Trend

If you, like me, wonder how we can bump up the “keep the commitment” rate, I have an idea. Well, as usual, I didn’t “have” this idea. Other, smarter people did. I just want to notice it with you and see if we can’t encourage what seems to be a brilliant trend.

Years ago I read a suggestion from a well-known Christian leader (okay, okay, it was Brian McLaren!) He said:

“The seminary of the future should be one part seminary (focused on Scripture, theology, church history, leadership, etc.), one part monastery (focusing on spiritual formation, including emotional maturity and character development), and one part mission agency (deploying the student into experiences and internships among the poor, the sick, the mentally ill, the imprisoned, refugees, migrant workers, the elderly, children, and so on).”

I love that! And I love the way churches and organizations are building internships today that combine seminary, monastery, and mission agency in a way that will help committed believers honor their commitment to dive into different cultures for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Community-based internships provide an ancient but timely approach to preparing people for kingdom work. Among the many benefits, five stand out to me:

1. Modeling: Participants learn from experts who are also practitioners.

2. A short “learn-act” cycle: Content is presented and then promptly put into action.

3. Team building, team learning: This works against American “Lone Ranger” individuality.

4. Bi-vocational experience: Many internships involve full-time or part-time work in addition to internship commitments.

5. Very Jesus-y: Small cadres, bands of disciples, work out intense, focused teaching.

Interview on Internships

For the past ten years my friend Vince has headed up an internship program like that. Since a tough turn of events caused his church to kill the program, Vince actually had some time to chat with me about his internship and the idea in general.

Q: Your denomination has a strong record in higher education. Why a different form of education and training?

Actually it’s related to the fact that we so emphasize higher education. We wanted alternatives to requiring cross-cultural workers to be fitted with master’s degrees that often saddle them with $60-80,000 dollars in school debt! We had many students at our church attending local private Christian schools and facing the same situation. We wondered if we could honestly prepare people for Kingdom work without the excessive debt.

We also wanted to help pastors and cross-cultural workers see what it actually looks like to be engaged in ministry these days. Many pastors need to be bi-vocational and some see this as a best practice option. Cross-cultural workers too. We wondered if we could we could couple good biblical instruction with vocational and business training.

All that led to an apprenticeship model in which interns spend 12-16 hours a week in class and about 30 hours a week volunteering and working at the church and the related business.

Q: Your internship was based in the context of a local church. What are the pros and cons of that setting?

Interns who learn in the context of the local church deal right away with real-world ministry problems and opportunities. They’re bumping into situations that seminarians might not see until after they graduate. The flip side is that it can create greater strain on leaders as they engage with interns’ personal issues and problems. We couldn’t just flunk people out of the internship! They were part of our church, not just our class.

I also loved seeing how our church members connected with interns. For some, lifelong bonds have been formed. Of course, this came at the price of ongoing financial commitment from the church.

Interestingly, I found that the ongoing presence of the interns sort of enabled a laziness in the members of the church. Rather than a growing volunteer culture, I sensed an underlying desire to “let the interns do it.” If I could go back, I’d try to set those expectations better from the start.

Q: You mentioned an ongoing financial commitment from the church. How did the finances for the internship work?

Our driving value was that interns should finish the two-year program with no debt. We were given a house in which they could live together rent-free. They all worked in the church-associated business or did things like janitorial or maintenance work for which the church was accustomed to paying. This worked well: Interns left free from debt and ready to serve.

The church budgeted annual funds for the internship. That money went for food, utilities, and books. About half of the budget went to my salary. (Note: And that covered about half of Vince’s frugal family budget.)

Q: So if you could start over, what would you do differently?

Give more thought to how interns could be incorporated into the life of the church. For instance, recruiting church members to serve as mentors.

I’d also give more thought to the intern selection process and criteria. We sometimes struggled as a result of having younger, less mature people trying to keep pace (and live!) with older, more mature participants.

Q: So you’re a free man now. (That’s putting it nicely!) If someone gave you a US$100K a year for five years to launch another internship, what would you do?

I’m praying about that right now. I think the money is probably not the limiting factor. I’d think long and hard about location. I wouldn’t want to underestimate the proximity we enjoyed to several universities nearby from which to draw interns. I’d also work hard to establish a business or partnerships with nearby businesses that could provide both training and employment for interns.

(Thanks, Vince. May God lead you some Kingdom-rocking work.)

Finding Internships

In addition to church-based efforts like Vince’s and this one at City Church in Seattle, some internships are run by independent non-profits or combined efforts of various agencies. Four outstanding examples are TOAG, The Guild, Beautiful Feet Bootcamp, and The Ember Cast. You’ll have to move to L.A. to participate and learn from the master mentors with The Guild, Oklahoma City for BFB, and D.C. for Ember, but TOAG programs happen all over the U.S.

Several mission agencies have programs from nine months to two years that are designed especially for training as well. Check out Africa Inland Mission’s Training in Ministry Outreach (two years, in Africa) and Pioneers’ NYC Immerse year, in – you guessed it – New York City).

Know of other good examples of cross-cultural internships? Help us build an annotated list of such programs! Share your comments on our website.

Want to start something like this in your church or city? I’d be happy to help or send you along to people who can. Shoot me an email.

Shane Bennett writes and speaks for a great organization called Frontiers. Lately he’s wondering about how Muslim immigrants in Europe might fully experience God’s blessing.

He’s also working with some buds to leverage a $49 a month smart phone plan to raise a ton of money for cross-cultural workers. Email him for info on the plan or the vision.



34 thoughts on “Missions Catalyst 5.8.13 – Practical Mobilization”

  1. The World Christian Discipleship Program in Pittsburgh, PA, embodies some of these characteristics. It combines bi-vocational ministry experience with study of both theology and spiritual formation, and intentional discernment of one’s vocation. And it includes a short-term cross-cultural mission trip. http://wcdpittsburgh.com/about/

  2. CMF International provides a 2 month internship called REACH, a hands-on, summer missions experience where teams of interns work with CMF missionary teams. REACH includes an extensive pre-departure orientation as well as an intentional de-brief. University students also have the opportunity to fulfill their internship requirements through REVEAL, where juniors and above serve four to nine months gaining real life experience on the mission field while being guided, mentored, and counseled by missionaries and Christian nationals. http://cmfi.org/serve/howcaniserve

  3. hey there shane — thanks for mentioning ember. another great church based internship is the protege program at national comm church in dc. it’s not specifically a ‘missions’ internship, but definitely cross cultural in terms of the melting pot of dc.

  4. Hey Shane. Awesome post – incredible ideas. I hope that leaders take this and run with it.

    “Higher” education is changing fast. I’m curious to see what it will look like in ten years.

  5. Chris: Thanks for the great tip on The World Christian Discipleship Program in Pittsburgh. This is just what we’re looking for.

  6. Debbie: Thanks for the info on CMF efforts with Reach and Reveal. Any chance CMF might run an innovative, domestic internship in Indy? We could call it “Realize!”

  7. Paul: You are welcome. I appreciate you reading and thinking about what we write. I thoroughly agree that it will be fun to see where education goes!

  8. Another great program similar to AIM’s TIMO program is Journey Corps, a program/ministry of WorldVenture. I myself was part of the first Journey Corps team in West Africa, so yes, I’m biased. But the reason why is that in Journey Corps, like other similar 1-2 year programs, young adults are placed with national host families, while being taught and equipped for real life ministry by experienced missionaries. I believe it’s hard to find a better way to get ready for long-term ministry, either “here” or “over there”, than to be completely immersed in another culture. It’s truly life changing, and with no debt! I think that is a very good point made by Vince in his interview. “We wondered if we could honestly prepare people for Kingdom work without the excessive debt.” I think that it’s absolutely possible. Great article.

  9. Chazz: Thanks for the props and for the (biased!) review of Journey Corps. I agree, nothing affects someone like being immersed in another culture.

  10. Radius International embodies much of what Brian McLaren described as a good training facility. It uses a lot of NTM’s methods, but is also working to send people to urban locations. Really neat stuff going on there!


  11. Frontiers’ cross-cultural internship program seeks to be this kind of internship, with more on the practical and monastery ministry than the seminary. They have options from 2 months to 1 year serving alongside long-term teams and learning from them (probably as good an education coming from the long-term workers!).

  12. This blend of seminary, monastery, and mission is the exact heart behind YFC’s EMBARK Asia Pacific (http://embarkasiapacific.yfc.net). We are investing in young leaders from around the globe through training and sending in community as small bands of disciples. EMBARK is designed for 18-29 year olds and lasts for 10-months. I love seeing this trend in the church and in missions.

  13. Benji: Thanks for sharing the Fusion and 2+2 links. Anything in particular you’d like people to know about these efforts?

  14. Daniel: Thanks for the link to Radius International. You all definitely have the sharpest web site! Way to go. Looks like a wonderful thing unfolding there.

  15. Luke: Thanks for the mention of Frontiers’ internships. Can you post your preferred link to where people can learn more?

  16. Kristi: Thanks for the heads up on YFC’s EMBARK Asia Pacific effort. I love the emphasis on multi-national groups going through the training together.

  17. As my friend Chris Brown said, I direct a program out of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Called (WCD) World Christian Discipleship. It is A 9-month experience in spiritual and vocational formation; creating space for God to work.

    Our Life Together:
    • Live simply, in community, in the city of Pittsburgh
    • Serve a local church or ministry
    • Work (a job) among everyday people
    • Learn from scripture, the great interpreters of the faith and the global church
    • Pray and rest into practicing spiritual rhythms
    • Receive mentoring and discipleship
    • Discern calling and vocation

  18. shane!

    I enjoyed the article, and i was especially drawn towards that presentation of a seminary for the future.

    I work for World Horizons, a missions organization with a short statement on what we are about below. We equip people to go out through an internship process, and we were hoping that our program might be added to that annotated list:

    We are committed to the proclamation of the message of Jesus Christ among those who have had the least opportunity to hear His word. We are therefore committed to evangelism and church-planting. We do this in response to Christ’s great commission to take the gospel into all the world and to the glory of God


  19. BJ: Thanks for writing. Your World Christian Discipleship program sounds fascinating. Can you add a link that will take people to more info? Thanks.

  20. Allison: Thanks for reading and for bringing World Horizons to our attention. I love World Horizons! Some very dear friends of our have served with WH for a number of years. Can you post a link to your internship? Thank you.

  21. Global Frontier Missions (GFM) http://www.globalfrontiermissions.org, has a couple of bases in North America-Atlanta and Houston. GFM is a movement of Christ-centered communities dedicated to mobilizing, training, and multiplying disciples and churches to reach the physical and spiritual needs of the unreached people groups of the earth. Be sure to check out GFM’s Mission Training School.

  22. More along the lines of third world development and mission, internships are available with Samaritan’s Purse and Engineer Ministries International. Both at 6-month to one-year positions for those pursuing technical development-related degrees like community health, engineering, etc. I worked with both organizations in India and Uganda and learned a great deal about the cultures I lived in, their values (and value) and their physical and spiritual needs.

    Websites for both:

    Thanks for the article Shane

  23. Austin: Thanks for the solid info on Sam’s Purse and EMI. I appreciate you taking the time to pass those along and am thankful for the way God used them in your life.

  24. Café 1040 is a 3-month mentoring program inside the 10/40 Window. Through this intense program abroad, you will be deeply immersed into the culture, experiencing what day-to-day ministry overseas could look like for you. While living in a closed country, you will become a confident learner of language, culture, history, religion, and technology. More importantly, you will discover how YOUR skills, passions, talents, and abilities can play a part in reaching the 2.5 billion people who don’t have access to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

    We have been labeled; a missions incubator, a catalyst to long-term missions, a stepping-stone to long-term missions, etc.

    We seek to partner with sending agencies, who are aimed at working among unreached people groups. Examples are, Pioneers, Frontiers, OM, etc. See “Partners” page for extensive list.

  25. Hey Mike: Thanks for the heads up on Cafe 1040. I appreciate you reading Missions Catalyst and passing on your insights.

  26. Launch Global has active, obedience based training to prepare teams and workers to work among the unreached. Our 9 month training is based in 6 cities currently where future workers live out CPM habits and train in a community setting that fleshes out character, fosters teamwork and together seeks to start a cross cultural disciple making movement. http://www.launchglobal.org

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