EXPLORE Internship Reflection: (May 19th – May 25th)
This summer, I am a summer ministry intern in an NC church from May 19th – July 27th.
To be a college summer intern in a church two hours from home that you have never been to is a strange thing. Aside from the assumed challenges of meeting/connecting with new people and learning names, you question every rule you have ever learned about social conduct and how you “should act” in a new setting. People expect you to be personable and attentive, even when you average meeting around 50 people an hour, retain less than one percent of their names, and then try to remember what they said about who is related to who in the church (and the church has been around for 100+ years, and everyone is related to everyone). It is draining, but energizing. You’re exhausted, but at the same time you try to give every person just as much energy as the last person, because like Nadia Bolz-Weber says in her book “Pastrix,” they are all “children of God.” I have never been in a place where so many people that I do not know have heard about me and want to meet me. It’s a strange feeling.
The situation becomes stranger when, in your first week, you’re missing more than half of the church staff. Our associate pastor is on a well-deserved vacation. On my first day, after my program orientation (Monday), the pastor’s daughter was rushed to the ER and diagnosed with type 1 juvenile diabetes. Needless to say, he has understandably been back and forth from the hospital to the church, and his wife, who is the children’s/youth director, has also not been around. That left me and the administrative assistants, my partners in crime, to hold down the fort. It has been strange trying to find things to do to keep busy when our ministry covenant isn’t really complete and I don’t really know the pastor very well.
However, there are many things, and people, that are not strange about this first week. I love the people. Even in the little annoying things I can already tell some of them will habitually do, I think they’re wonderful and actually quite humorous. I have met a few snarky, too-serious, and spacy people that remind me of dear friends from my home town and university, and I love every one of them. However, as I said before, the church is old and basically there are entire multi-generational families here. News of the pastor’s daughter spread fast, and I imagine the little ladies’ gossip spreads faster.
The church is very hospitable with plenty of southern charm. Before I even arrived, the church office had been allowing members to reserve me for any lunch/dinner during my stay. Haha There is literally a calendar in the office for people to call and “reserve” me. While skimming through the calendar, I noticed one guy reserved me for his family reunion. I am still unsure as to whether or not he has reserved me as his date or if the majority of his family goes to the church. Haha We shall see.
On Tuesday, I gave a pint of blood for the first time on my first official day in the office. Let me tell you, thank God I did not look at that needle going in, because I would have passed out when I saw that thing being plunged into my arm. Also, a pint of blood is a lot of blood. Going in, I was all “yeah, can I give a double?” and the man checking me in audibly laughed at me. I understand why not being tall enough or weighing enough is significant after almost passing out in the chair and shaking for hours after. I will still give again in 56 days. Also, the number of church people that I met made the finger prick worthwhile. I can certainly say I learned a lot about my own social skills that day as well. I once falsely assumed that a person coming in to register for the blood drive was a member of the church and tried to make small talk and introduce myself. After an “I don’t care” look and a polite “I don’t go to church here….” I licked my wounds and started asking the sweet ladies behind registration who were members of the church. I still talked to people, but I just didn’t introduce myself unless they were members of the church.
Wednesday was nice. I had dinner and got to hang out with my host family and go kayaking on the lake afterwards. I was also able to spend some time planning for a 7th grade middle school girl’s bible study designed to help the girl’s transition into middle school. HELLO, PINTEREST and reflection on what I wish someone would have told me before 7th grade.
Thursday, I was blessed to be able to speak with a youth minister that built his youth bible study from 6 to 130+ students in just a year’s time. I was blown away, and I can certainly tell you that I felt the Holy Spirit flowing through his program just in the 20 minute phone conversation we shared. We spoke of the challenge the cultural change in ministry brings where youth are getting more and more involved in boundless activities outside of church. I also was blessed to meet a sweet, little lady in the church that just happened to be the mother of the woman that was hosting me. She basically invited me to dinner and lunch and breakfast every day that I’m in town, and she is an amazing cook.
Friday, my Sabbath, I went in the church a bit to meet some sweet little ladies that fold bulletins weekly on Friday year-round. I hung around for a bit to see if I could do anything, but with everyone gone, I just went home to relax. My host family left around 5:30pm Friday for the beach for the Memorial Day weekend. It was nice to have the house to myself to breath and sleep.
Saturday, I slept in and dog-sat my host family’s son’s dog as he went out with some friends.
Sunday, the name game began. I quickly realized that everyone basically belonged to four families in the church. I also had the opportunity to attend their youth group time and play touch (*cough cough* tackle) football.