Hiring the right people for our staff is critical to the health of our congregation. As a member of our Personnel Committee for the last several years, I have been a part of the hiring process for several of our ministerial and other staff members.

During the hiring process, the candidates usually tell the search committee or others that they talk with why they want to be in Christian ministry. Most of these men and women will tell us that someone along the way took an interest in them, and helped them understand their call to ministry—encouraged them, trained them, and made them really think about how they wanted to use their talents and gifts to serve God. Many times this happened in a formal internship. It happened this way for our pastor.

In an internship, young people get to experience what it is like to serve in churches. They get to see Christian ministry modeled by those that are more mature in their service and their careers. This is a great learning experience, and can help people make the right decision—either to move ahead in their chosen career path, or to make a course correction.

River Road has a long tradition of hiring interns to help support the next generation of church leaders. We have hosted a number of interns from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) and other schools, and our congregation has benefited from this. The Endowment Board gave a multi-year gift several years ago to support the internship program at BTSR. Additionally, this year, we have two of our youth that have expressed an interest in Christian ministry working as summer interns to explore what this might mean to them in the longer term.

Our congregation believes that we know how to “do church.” We have highly developed programs of worship, mission, and music. We are blessed by them. Sharing these programs with the leaders of tomorrow can help not only those that work with us as interns, but their future congregations and their schools. Internships help us “give back” to the greater church community. And we benefit as well from the interns by hearing their stories, by being blessed by their ministry, and by receiving new and innovative ideas from interns about their experiences in other faith communities. Moreover, having talented young people in our midst for a time who then tell more people in the broader community about River Road and how we think about church.

That is why we continue to fund internships through our personnel budget, and we are grateful to the staff and you as members of the congregation for the support and nurturing of the church leaders of tomorrow. We have two interns this summer – children of our church – and will have another BTSR intern this coming fall. Get to know them, support them, and remember that we are participating in the important task of building the next generation of church leaders.