Sometimes the gap between the classroom and the real world can be a daunting leap to take – and the world of ministry is no different. Jacksonville Baptist Association decided to create a bridge of sorts to help get new ministry leaders from one side to the other. Through a three-month internship, prospective ministry leaders are able to learn and put into practice knowledge from books by ministry experts and then combine that with the practicality of hands-on experiences for a unique training that will set young leaders on a path for success.
Tyler Waugh, a member of Chets Creek Church, was the first intern and self-described guinea pig. As Minister to Students at Chets Creek’s Southside campus, Tyler was eager to gain as much knowledge as he could to make his ministry more effective for his students. One of his goals from the outset was to develop his personal philosophy of ministry – a process he said was greatly helped by experiencing how three different churches do student ministry.
“There are things to learn from other people,” he said. “I want to compare it to what I know and find areas of improvement.”
During the internship, Tyler spent time at three area churches – Shindler Drive Baptist Church, Mandarin Baptist Church and Fruit Cove Baptist Church. Though the three churches are different sizes and serve different areas of town, Tyler said three common ministry themes stood out to him.
First, Tyler said each church made intentional discipleship a priority. Utilizing a D-group model, leaders in these churches had “life-on-life discipleship relationships” with students, enabling deeper bonds than can be achieved in a traditional small group setting. The second common theme Tyler observed was that each church made pouring into their adult leaders a priority. “Leaders benefit from receiving training so that when they are leading, they can lead better,” he said. At Shindler, this took the form of a twice monthly fellowship that incorporated bible study with leadership training. Tyler especially appreciated that Brandon Zortman, minister of youth and sports at Shindler, made a point of not mentioning students unless he was specifically doing student ministry leadership training. Tyler said he loved this idea because it let the adults know they were valuable as more than just student ministry leaders – “this was a time for a group of adults to just grow themselves and fill themselves back up.” The third theme Tyler saw was an intentional effort to integrate students into ministry in every part of the church – not just in areas impacting students. Doing this opens opportunities for intergenerational discipleship, making it easier for church leaders to partner with parents to teach and disciple students.
Cam Boothe, Student Ministry Associate at Mandarin Baptist Church, said he didn’t know what to expect from the JBA intern but he was eager for the opportunity to pour into a young leader just as others have poured into him throughout his ministry. Having served as an intern himself in various settings, Cam wanted to capitalize on his experiences now that he was on the other side of the equation.
“He was only with us for three weeks but I wanted to be able to love him, invest in him and give him opportunities that would be beneficial to him,” Cam said.
Cam and Tyler both agreed that the ability to experience how multiple churches live out their mission and structure their ministry is an invaluable opportunity for young men and women starting out in ministry.
JimBo Stewart, who oversees church revitalization and replanting for JBA, said the hope was that Tyler would be able to listen to and learn from people in the field doing ministry well.
“One of the ideas was to give him as many perspectives as possible to approach youth ministry so he could be informed as he developed his own philosophy,”JimBo explained.
And that idea can translate to many other areas of ministry.
Tyler said he is walking away from this experience understanding the importance of setting the tone and culture of his ministry, something he saw lived out in the churches he served.
“Leading by example is important,” he said. “It’s one thing to hear it and another thing to see it in action.”