When Lisa Bee first arrived to Saddleback Church, she was a new Christian working her way through college. To gain hands-on experience, she enrolled in Saddleback’s Internship Program. Little did she know the lasting impact it would have on her life.
To this day, she remembers it as one of the first places where people gave her an opportunity to learn, grow, and yes, even make mistakes in the process.
“They invested in my journey,” recalls Lisa.
Because of that model, Lisa has also invested in the journey of others by leading Saddleback’s Internship Ministry. As Program Director, she is passionate about developing leaders to go God has called them.
“When you look at the world today, we are in desperate need of godly, effective leaders,” she says. “It’s the church’s responsibility to be pouring into the next generation, which is really the heart behind our program.”
Gleaning from the Saddleback motto, Lisa is committed to “Bring them in, build them up, train them forward, and send them out.” This only comes through continual learning, for both the interns and the supervisors.
Admittedly, the Internship Ministry has greatly evolved over the years, going from a leadership academy at Saddleback’s retreat center, today’s interactive program across all 19 campuses. This level of development can only come through a willingness to try and fail.
“There’s value in knowing why things don’t work well,” explains Lisa. “These interns are in a season of discovery just as much as we are.”
Despite changes in the ministry, the team has always stayed true to their values as spelled out in the acrostic. I-N-T-E-R-N-S.
I — Intentional Training
As a teaching and training church, Saddleback offers leadership development workshops and community outreach opportunities for all interns.
As Lisa explains, “Interns are here to learn and lead, rather than do and file. God does not need us to do anything for him. He’d be more efficient without us. But in his kindness, he has invited us to be part of what he’s doing through the church.”
N — Networking
With such a large staff at Saddleback, the size can be overwhelming for those new to the program. That’s why community and connections are so critical. According to Lisa, relationship is the number one thing that graduates value the most from their experience.
T — Thoughtful Observation
The “T” goes both ways, says Lisa. As supervisors, they strive to thoughtfully observe how interns are growing through coaching and giving feedback to adjust along the way. The healthier expression of an internship comes through mutual engagement on how things can be better on both sides— with legitimate growth for both interns and supervisors.
“We’re observing interns, but they’re also observing us,” she explains. “They look at everything we do; so their impression of healthy ministry is shaped by their time with us and by the examples we set.
E — Experienced-based Learning
At the core of the Internship Program, experienced-based learning is about exposing interns to the ins-and-outs of the job. Some of the best internships are those that are a full expression of whomever they are shadowing.
R — Regular Coaching and Mentoring
“We value being personal over being professional,” says Lisa. “That’s why we have regular coaching and weekly meetings.”
During these one-on-one sessions, interns are asked about what God is teaching them, where they need prayer, and areas where they may be struggling.
“These aren’t profound questions,” she adds, “but they can really encourage some profound conversations.”
N — New and Modified Goals
The “N” is what distinguishes interns from volunteers — to have distinct learning objectives on the pathway where God is leading them next.
S — Significant Projects.
Since the Internship Ministry is generally working with millennials, supervisors recognize that they’re training a generation of world changers who want to make a difference.
“They want to be part of something big,” says Lisa. “And we want them to know that there’s a place for them in the church for their gifts to be used and for the dreams to be fulfilled. We want this to be their stepping stone to what God has for them.”
Operating under this posture of serving is a valuable experience that outweighs most paid internships. The focus of the position has to be on a transformational, growth experience for the intern as the primary beneficiary.
For any church considering launching an internship program, Lisa says, “Do it, and don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. As the church, we need to be actively investing in developing leaders.”
To learn more, email intern@Saddleback.com or visit Saddleback.com/interns.
To listen to Mingo’s interview with Lisa Bee, click HERE.