Church Marketing Interns: Get Some Help

Church Marketing Interns: Get Some Help

July 1, 2015 by

Some brilliant church communicators have equally brilliant ideas for expanding missions but are feeling overworked or understaffed. You have great people in the church, but sometimes they have the nerve to have lives of their own and can’t give enough hours to do it all. Other churches just don’t have a clear picture of what to do next. When you realize your church fits one of these patterns, consider entering into the wonderful world of interns.

Just like churches, interns come in all sizes, or rather, with all kinds of different specialties. If your church (and pastor) has the collective wisdom and a heart to mentor, look at a seminary. If you’re looking for ideas, try a local university that has majors in a field that would apply. These are two very different approaches, but either way can help your church and give back to the intern too.

The Seminary Route

So your church has great ideas for a new ministry with youth, the elderly, starting a soup kitchen, etc., or perhaps one of its programs is lagging. For a great boost to your community, you could become a contextual education site for a local seminary. This does require work on your end—it’s not meant to give you free labor. However, if your church (and pastor) is capable of mentoring a seminarian and can pay the required amount, you can get an energetic person with training in both leadership and biblical scholarship. (This financial cost varies widely, depending on the seminary and your location.)

The benefit you give allows the seminarian to work in an active church, without having to be completely in charge from the start. This does require time from the pastor to mentor the student in the nuts and bolts of a real church. But maybe you don’t have a local seminary, or your senior leadership is already overwhelmed with more work than can they manage (e.g. visibly cringing when you mention mentoring a student). In that case, look to your local universities instead.

College Interns

So you want to take your church out of the dark ages and get active on social media, but your leadership isn’t exactly sure what social media to use or what kind of approach would fit your congregation’s lifestyle. If the local school has majors in marketing, public relations or journalism, any of those programs would have students who are very savvy with social media. (Honestly, most students in any major these days are, but you want interns who have some idea how to apply it to business for your church). Call the appropriate department at the school, and ask if there are any students who might be interested in an internship.

Most schools have plans in place for this kind of relationship, similar to an apprenticeship, where students can get experience in the working world before graduating. Others are just open to passing along opportunities to students to help them build skills for the future. Be prepared to pitch the idea if your local school doesn’t already have such a plan.

Some schools may do this on a volunteer (at no cost to your church) basis, especially if the school’s program will give students some form of credit for their work. Others will require payment, but you won’t pay nearly as much per week as a regular full- or part-time employee. You gain someone with expertise in a field you need, and the student gains credits and/or experience working with your church. Supervision will be needed, but the amount will depend on your particular situation, so be clear what you have time for and tailor the internship to fit that plan.

If your internship does end up being unpaid, go out of your way to take care of your intern. Pay for their drink when you meet in a coffee shop and take them out to lunch.

Why Internships Work

My church, Christ on Capitol Hill in St. Paul, Minn., has a long history of internships and takes great joy in mentoring seminarians from the local Luther Seminary. The students develop a great bond with our church, and the members have also learned over the years how to help seminarians get comfortable with leading in worship as well as other events and ministries. It really helps if both your church and your interns see how much they give to each other as well as how much they receive in return.

We also just had a rewarding experience with a local intern from Hamline University. We requested a marketing student to help us with planning our social media strategy. Richelle met with us for an hour each week for three months to talk with a few of our leaders about social media. She’d bring information, we’d share our current process and ask questions, and she would research and bring more information the next week. We gained loads of current trend information and insightful suggestions, and she got a chance to see how the information she shared could help a business form marketing strategies.

Just Do It

Whichever route you decide, just get your planning done for what you’d like to accomplish, and start calling. You can build some great new relationships not only with the interns, but also with the seminary or universities in your area. It also builds a certain amount of pride (but not too much) in your church, as the members see themselves as mentors to the next generation of leaders.


If you’re an intern looking to go into church communication, check out Getting Started in Church Communication: Landing a Job.

Post By:

Angie Shoaf

Angie Shoaf wears a few hats around Christ on Capitol Hill, from office staff to communications strategist. She loves getting to know the local Merriam Park community in Saint Paul, Minn, where she recently moved with her college-bound daughter, Jean.
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