SAN ANTONIO—This summer, Baptist Temple in San Antonio found a way both to strengthen its community ministries and provide hands-on experience for a Baptist University of the Américas student.
Miguel Garcia, a BUA student, served as an intern at Baptist Temple through Student.Church, a program coordinated by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Garcia was one of 46 undergraduate and graduate students who explored ministry opportunities at churches across the country through Student.Church.
Pastor Jorge Zayasbazan noted Baptist Temple already had bought a house and refurbished it for student missionaries who will live there while they serve in the congregation’s varied community ministries.
Baptist Temple’s hope to expand its involvement in the community and Garcia’s search to gain ministry experience came together through Student.Church, said Wanda Kidd, director of the program and collegiate ministries specialist at CBF.
Offer guidance and support
Student.Church internships, which begin at the end of May and conclude in early August, differ from many other church internships in the exposure and guidance students receive, Kidd noted.
“It’s not unusual for churches to have interns,” she said. “What is unusual is for church interns to know they are not insular in their experience.”
Student.Church supports interns by connecting them with mentors outside the church and bringing the students together so they can share experiences with each other, Kidd said.
Connections between students grow even more during debriefing at the end of the summer, when CBF assembles 40 to 50 student interns who bond as they relate their common experiences, Kidd said.
“People are always fascinated by how close these students are when they only have known each other for one week,” said Kidd. “There is a sense of community and shared experience.”
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Student.Church internships offer a wide range of ministry experiences, including hospital visitation, business and church administration meetings, as well as sermon preparation and children’s lessons, she said.
A clear picture of congregational ministry
The experience gained at Baptist Temple gave Garcia a clearer picture of what ministry in the church can be like, he said.
Garcia, who hopes to serve as a worship leader in a church, noted he is on track to graduate from BUA next year. As an intern, he learned worship ministers can help other Christians be more active in the church, Garcia added.
“We’re meant to grow in our faith and plant other seeds,” he said.
Garcia’s experience and the lessons he learned while he served at Baptist Temple exemplify the reason CBF created Student.Church, Kidd noted. When the program started, she noted, more than 60 percent of students entering seminary reported they never wanted to serve in a local church.
“Since our organization is based in local congregation ministry, we said, ‘Maybe if we placed them in congregations and help them see the purpose and value of church, it might change that,’” she said.
Hands-on internship experiences in congregations tend to confirm a sense of calling, Kidd noted. Since Student.Church began, CBF has worked with 400 churches and somewhere between 400 and 500 students.
Every summer, one or two students decide they are not meant for ministry in a local church, she acknowledged.
However, many others—including some who accepted an internship because they could not find a summer job or because someone recommended the program to them—fall in love with ministry in a local church setting, and their lives are shaped by the experience, Kidd said.
“I would have not done this for 10 years if I did not think this had intrinsic and lifelong value,” she said.