What a privilege! You have a Campus Missionary Intern! On the one hand, it is a great opportunity for them to serve alongside and learn from you, but on the other hand, you should approach this with fear and trembling! You are a steward of someone’s first “real job” experience and their first taste of full-time ministry. How many people have you met who have been burned by their supervisor or by a toxic staff environment? I want to help you be the best supervisor possible. I not only want to see your CMI grow and thrive personally but be a gospel force to be reckoned with in your ministry and on your campus. If you want to foster a good CMI culture on your campus, you will do well to follow the 10 CMI Commandments:
MEET REGULARLY WITH THEM
If you are a smaller staff, then you need to meet with them weekly for coaching, pastoral care, and discipleship. If you have a larger staff then rotate them through on a bi-weekly basis. The point is: meet with them! Be a regular in their life! Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your CMIs by assuming they are good. Take care of your teammates. Just because you are both at the same event and see each other means you are investing in them.
GIVE THEM OWNERSHIP
Give them a section of the ministry and let them run it. Give them control of the vision, the implementation, and the follow through. They are the boss and they have the final say! Coach them in private about it, but serve them in public for it. Let them try some things. If it doesn’t go well, then talk about it. Be reasonable. Don’t give them a $2,000 budget and have them try interpretive dance at your first large group meeting, but give them space to test drive some things and try new things out.
LISTEN TO THEM
True, they are young and sometimes have more zeal than knowledge, but let’s face it, they have a better idea about what is in style than you do. They know what students are looking for better than you. I’m convinced that the best ideas for reaching this generation will come from this generation, not the previous one. If they don’t have a voice at the table, then why do you have them there? They will also see your blindspots in ministry. Push off your insecurities. If it always has to be your way you will never reach students who think and act differently than you. Your ideas aren’t always the best ideas. Don’t believe me? Ask your spouse or a close friend.
You are a facilitator and partner in ministry, not the only one who does ministry. Being the Director does NOT mean you are the best at everything. We are not expecting you to be the best evangelist, teacher, disciplemaker, or to carry the ministry all by yourself. True, you’re the leader and you set the direction and pace, but if you have a CMI there is no reason you should be leading everything, taking all the “important” jobs, or answering all the questions. We aren’t asking you to BE the body of Christ, but to mobilize the body of Christ and all her giftings. Let your CMIs lead.
LET THEM FAIL
They are going to fail. They will forget a meeting. They will mess something up. You will give them a chance to lead and it won’t go well. If you do not have grace with them then they will never feel like they can take a risk. If there is not space for them to try and fail, then they will stop inventing and trying to reach campus except by your “prescribed channels.” They won’t want to lead out if every time they finish you have a list of things they did wrong. Does your staff see you smiling or frowning at them more often? You are going to wrestle some with letting them do something because it might not be up to your standard. Is it better in the long run to get a “B” on the quality of the event and a “A” in leadership development or constantly doing everything top quality but getting an “C” in developing leaders and staff?
GIVE THEM STRUCTURE TO GROW ON.
We’ve talked about giving them space to dream and freedom to fail, but don’t swing to the far extreme that you don’t provide any structure and direction for them. Remember, for the first time in their life they don’t have a class schedule or a syllabus. They are going to have to be more self-directed than ever before. That is a new discipline for many of them. Picture your CMI as a vine. You need to provide the trellis for them to grow on. They will need help learning to structure their time and how to set appropriate boundaries. It would be useful to help your CMI(s) see things they need to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Sometimes it will be useful to help them define the “win” for their ministry in the different seasons of ministry.
DON’T TREAT THEM LIKE AN INTERN
Interns are supposed to get the cruddy jobs aren’t they? The new guy always gets the dirty job. The new girl always has to stay late. It’s a right of passage! We all went through it, right? What does the Kingdom of God say about that? If the Kingdom of God looked like common business culture then Jesus would have had his disciples wash his feet and then had them crucified for His Kingdom! Let’s not confuse earthly common culture for Kingdom principles. The Kingdom says the higher up the supervisory ladder you climb the lower you stoop to wash feet. Their job description is to help lead the gospel advancement on their campus through evangelism and discipleship – NOT do the stuff you don’t want to do like stay up late or clean out the shed. Your job is to provide vision and leadership and give them what they need to succeed in ministry. If you treat them like second hand staff, you will get second hand staff.
DON’T TREAT THEM LIKE A MINISTRY ASSISTANT
You have recent college graduates who have more energy than you, they blend in on campus, they can go to places you can’t, and connect with people you wouldn’t. Please, for campus’ sake, don’t stick them in your office making copies and doing clerical work. Seriously, make your own coffee, hire a ministry assistant to answer the phone and a janitor to clean the building! You should have to go out on campus to find your interns! Spend their time and their energy on campus doing discipleship and evangelism. Ask your interns to lead an outreach weekly on their campus, spend the majority of their time on campus, and disicple as many students as they can handle weekly. Have them spend their semester investing in students instead of propping up your programs.
DON’T TREAT THEM LIKE A STUDENT
The transition from being a student to being on staff can be very difficult. One semester they are a peer and the next they carry the weight and authority of staff. It always helps when you can give them authority in front of your students. Just because you may be the “Director” doesn’t mean you should always be in charge. There are parts of your ministry where you should be on the team serving under your CMI. They may ask you questions in private on what they should do, but in public you direct everything to them. Once your students see you deflecting questions to the interns and trusting their leadership, they will follow suit.
INVITE THEM TO GIVE A LIFETIME
Not every CMI is called to college ministry. I get that. But how’d you get into college ministry? Chances are you “stumbled” into it. Chances are someone asked you to pray about it or they saw it in you and called it out. No one comes to college “called” to college ministry. Most of us didn’t know college ministry was a thing until we landed on campus! But if you see your CMI thriving and you see them making an impact, ask them to stay on longer! Tell them you see them thriving and you see how their giftings and talents make them a great fit for college ministry. The ministries who have and send the most CMIs are the ministries who invite the most students and staff to give a year to college ministry and pray about giving a lifetime. They ask them to give up their small dreams and spend their lives on the most strategic mission field on earth.
Don’t make the mistake of expecting them to know everything, but don’t make the mistake and think that they don’t know anything! Each CMI is different and their gifts and experiences will bless your students, ministry, and campus. But in order to know what those are, you have to be involved in their lives! You have to give them space to lead, try, fail, dream, struggle, and succeed. You can set them up to soar in ministry or you can be the one holding them. It’s your call. I’m rooting for you!
This is a resource written for Texas BSM staff who work with our recent college grads in our Campus Missionary intern program. For more information on that you can go to www.txbsmcmi.weebly.com