Draft is being made continually upon the young man power of the ministry of this movement for overseas mission service, for ours is preeminently a world commission. Death, disablement, and retirement call for constant replacement, and expansion involves the continuous addition of qualified recruits. Maintenance and extension therefore necessitate a constant inflow of new recruits at the home bases.
Through the years of the past these new workers were drafted without any uniform provision on the part of the conferences for their trial period. Such plans were sufficient for that hour, but our advancing work logically reached the place in its organization where this feature became the inevitable object of study, and the Ministerial Interneship plan resulted. It was a distinct advance over the variable methods of the past, which were more or less independent both as regards the prerequisite qualifications of the candidates, and as to any uniform plan of regulation during the period of trial employment, as well as to the feature of absorption as regular workers into the organization.
The Interneship provision has now been operative a sufficient length of time to warrant another report on its value to the cause, and a summarization of features that should be of interest to all. Here are figures that are eloquent. Since launching the arrangement, 112 of our college-trained youth have been beneficiaries under the plan, —eighty-one young men for the ministry, and thirty-one young women for the Bible work. Forty-three have already been taken on in the regular evangelical work of the movement. Eleven have been called to foreign mission service. Four have returned to college for additional training, three of whom expect to re-enter conference employ. Some have dropped out for financial and other reasons, or because of manifest unfitness. Thirty-eight are at present operating in North America under the plan, not having completed the allotted year. And a new group will doubtless be taken on at the close of the school year next spring. The same figures tabulated by unions read thus: (See PDF)
Recent inquiry has elicited from the field twenty-three responses from conference presidents and upwards of fifty letters from internes. These make very interesting and profitable reading. There is much to encourage, though there are certain problems that call for study and adjustment at the proper time, and the plan still has certain imperfections. But it is manifestly a gratifying move in the right direction. This is the general testimony of all concerned.
Of the intrinsic value of the plan, hear these estimates of conference presidents in East and West:
"I believe the Ministerial Internship plan is the best plan we have ever inaugurated in behalf of filling up our ministerial force. I am very much in favor of the plan, and trust that nothing will come in to disturb it."—Louis K. Dickson, Pres. Gr. New York.
"My personal testimony regarding this plan is that I think it is one of the finest things that the denomination has ever started. . . . I do not know what more I could say. I think these testimonials are enough to show that the plan has been of great benefit to our field, and I am certainly in favor of continuing it."—I. J. Woodman, Pres. Oregon.
As to reactions from the internes themselves, these three are typical:
"This experience was worth more than several years of school. This plan offers a training in public speaking, in giving Bible readings, in meeting the people, and in economy, which is most essential for the minister."—Jacob J. Dollinger, Gr. New York.
"It protects the conference and individual alike, from embarrassment. If for any reason the young person feels that he would rather follow some other line of work, it gives him an opportune time to step out. It is also an opportune time for the conference to speak a few words of advice. I appreciated the opportunity of going through an effort with an experienced man."—M. H. Jensen, Kansas.
"It was the busiest, and yet the most interesting year I have ever passed. I do believe the interne plan is very successful indeed."—Miss Ferne S. Boyd, Manitoba.
Additional excerpts stressing the gratifying soul-winning results appeared in a report in the Review of February 12, and will not, because of space limitations, be duplicated here. But again and again, in the responses from the executives, occur such expressions as, "earnest and faithful," "strong and progressive," "successful and productive," indicative of the satisfactory caliber of the majority of the
internes. Sympathetic contact is of course maintained with general leadership through the Secretarial Department of the General Conference and through the Ministerial Association.
There is a basic principle involved in one president's response that calls for special stress. It comes from Eider H. J. Detwiler, of New Jersey:
"It has been our policy from the first not to utilize these young men in pastoring small churches. We have held them in virgin territory continuously from the day they began their interne-ship in our field. This was not because there was no need in our smaller churches, or because we were overmanned, but because we felt that these young men could not develop into strong evangelists unless they were held in virgin territory where their talents could be improved and developed in actual evangelistic work."
The other side of the picture is disclosed in two brief excerpts from internes in different unions. The names of both the conferences and the internes are withheld, that the question may be viewed wholly in the light of its merits, and solely in relation to the principle involved.
One interne writes:
"I was placed over a large district in __, in which were six churches under my care, ranging from twenty to forty members each. This district had been rather neglected, and I had problems of administration of the work in the churches which required much of my time. This, added to my task of getting the churches 'over the top' in the three annual church campaigns, rather hindered my success in carrying on active evangelistic work to give proof of my calling. Endeavoring to shoulder the administrative end of six churches, I found to be a real handicap in carrying on a strong effort within the year which an interne has."
"My field was changed on the first of September to the — District, where I took up the burden of the Harvest Ingathering. This deprived me of the privilege of binding off the effort. The combined Harvest Ingathering goals of — and — amounted to over $6,000 last year, which we collected before the end of November. While carrying this work, I also supervised the — District during the absence of the pastor."
At the time of the North American Presidents' Council immediately preceding the longer Autumn Council, this tendency on the part of a few conferences to divert internes to district leadership, church pastorates, or to continuous campaign promotion work, was earnestly discussed and severely frowned upon by the general leaders, and by strong local and union leaders. There was general agreement that internes should be held to direct field evangelism. A typical expression was made by Elder W. H. Branson, and appears on pages 11 and 12 of the January Ministry.
Our youthful candidates for the ministry and Bible work want neither flattery nor ease. They but seek an opportunity. They desire a chance for development and demonstration of call and fitness for this high privilege.
They need and desire frank and friendly counsel from their older associates. They crave and merit our confidence and encouragement. Pray that God may signally bless them and make them fruitful laborers, as junior associates of real strength and godliness.
L. E. F.