Give the Young Intern a Chance

The raw material from which a minister is made is likely to be unprepossessing, so he must be allowed to develop and grow.

By Albert B. Pohlman,  Intern, Middleboro, Massachusetts

The raw material from which a minister is made is likely to be unprepossessing. As a college freshman he is awkward and perhaps extremely shy or clumsy of speech and actions. His voice may be high-pitched and nervous. The only way in which he differs from other freshmen is in his hopes for the future. He has faith that the college will work that miraculous transformation which will put him at ease in public, make him confident before audiences, and able and mighty in Scripture and doctrine—just like his home pastor or his ideal minister.

The manufacturing process begins. Godly teachers instruct him in methods of study, in the preparation and delivery of sermons, in voice con­trol and expression. He learns that the ministry is the highest calling of all and that a minister holds the office as a sacred trust, colaboring with God. He forms a deep respect for those engaged in this work. He may study, as a textbook, Johnson's Ideal Ministry and faithfully read the Ministry each month. He likewise observes the methods of the most successful evangelists. In seminar he hears the answers to questions which he will have to meet. He gains confidence in himself—perhaps he will make it after all.

The senior year is one of suspense. Whenever he sees a conference president on the campus, a clammy perspiration fills the palm of his hand. He tries to act as intelligent as possible and to assume a modest dignity. Is he being sized up? Every move is important now. He enters the sec­ond semester, but has difficulty in concentrating. The union conference committee meets, and the suspense is terrible. He hears that Jim got a call from the New York Conference, and hastens around to congratulate him. When the mail is being distributed he hovers close by. He has about resigned himself to take postgraduate work in education when one day he receives a letter with a conference return address on the envelope. Trembling with excitement he rips it open. He's hired!

The next two years are important ones for the young intern. He knows that he must prove his worth. He prays that he will be placed under a sympathetic minister and given a chance. That minister can either make or break him. His whole future is at stake.

Every minister would like to have a new intern sent to his district. Why? Is it because he longs to help him get started and succeed? If so, the intern will be exceptionally fortunate. Some ministers seem to feel that it is not good for an in­tern to have confidence in himself. They evidently have a burden to prove to him that the things he studied in school are all wrong, and the methods impractical. They even try to embarrass him be­fore certain lay members.

I knew an intern who hustled around and found some people to study with, prepared them for bap­tism, and turned them over to his ordained su­perior. The minister baptized them, but did not mention the intern in his report, and then went to the new converts and told them that the intern would never make a minister.

There are ministers who seem to think that the intern is sent to help them keep down their gaso­line bill and the wear and tear on their tires. I knew of one who would make up his advertising without ever calling in the intern to show him how it was done, but as soon as it was completed he would step to the phone, call up the intern, and ask him to drive over, pick up the copy, and take it down to the printer. That minister had almost twice as much travel allowance as the intern, but if they made a call together, it was almost in­variably made in the intern's car. That same minister complained that if it were not for hauling his children to church school, he would have trouble getting in his mileage.

Older Man to Build Confidence and Trust

The preacher in whose care has been placed the training of a young minister has a very solemn re­sponsibility before God. He should regard it as a rare privilege. By holding high the ideals of his sacred office, he can build a foundation of confi­dence and trust that will stabilize the younger man all through the years of his ministry. On the other hand, by a few ill-chosen words he can rudely shatter the ideals carefully implanted by the college, and destroy the young man's vision.

An ordained minister once told me that he al­ways advised a young man not to take too much from his conference president. On another oc­casion he assured me that Noah ,ate pork after the flood, and quoted Genesis 9:3: "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you." I opened Patriarchs and Prophets and read to him that Noah ate only clean meats, and he said, "Well, I have never made much of a study of the Spirit of prophecy."

The great need in our work today is not more pastors but more soul winners. There is a dearth of ministers who are burning with a zeal for sav­ing people. But a thirst for souls can be culti­vated. An older minister can lay such a burden for saving souls on a young intern that it will never be lost. This is not accomplished by preach­ing at him. He must show him how to reach people. In Gospel Workers we are told, "Those who are older must educate the youth, by precept and example, to discharge the claims that society and their Maker have upon them."—Page 68.

Some ministers evidently feel that they have reached a time when they need no longer hold Bible studies or cottage meetings. But their work might be more fruitful if they would engage in this work again. The intern is told he ought to hold some cottage meetings. Well and good, but how does he go about it? Why not take him out and get him started? Often the minister will have a handful of unpromising names which he turns over to the intern to visit. But why not take him along to call on some good prospects first? Show him how to meet people, win their confidence, pray with them, and organize them into study groups. Teach him by example how to make an earnest appeal. The intern can be taught to love people, and there is no other way to win them. A minis­ter has no right to regard the intern as a mere accessory to ease his own work. He ought to give him responsibility, and then work all the harder to help him carry it successfully.

The two-year intern plan is really a postgradu­ate course in the field. It is not enough to tell the young minister what he is expected to do ; he is entitled to be shown how to do it. Reading again from Gospel Workers:

"In gaining a preparation for the ininistry, young men should be associated with older min­isters. Those who have gained an experience in active service are to take young, inexperienced workers with them into the harvest field, teaching them how to labor successfully f or the conversion of souls. Kindly and affectionately these older workers are to help the younger ones to prepare for the work to which the Lord may call them. . . .

"Paul made it a part of his work to educate young men for the gospel ministry. He took them with him on his missionary journeys, and thus they gained an experience that later enabled them to fill positions of responsibility. When separated from them, he still kept in touch with their work, and his letters to Timothy and Titus are an evi­dence of how deep was his desire for their success. 'The things that thou hast heard,' he wrote, 'com­mit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.' "—Pages I01, 102.

"Oh, let them learn the hard way," some say. "Turn 'ern loose and let 'em produce. That's the way I learned." Some of the ministers who boast the loudest of being self-made might be doing more for the cause today if someone better quali­fied had had a hand in their construction. Often they are the kind who tell jokes to their congrega­tion, or scream bitter denunciations of the gov­ernment, or loudly challenge the other ministers in town to explain certain texts. On page 78 of Gospel Workers we read:

"Very much has been lost to the cause by the defective labors of men who possess ability, but who have not had proper training. They have engaged in a work which they knew not how to manage, and as the result have accomplished but little. They have not done a tithe of what they could have done had they received the right dis­cipline at the start."

One reason some of our efforts fail is that we do not organize our church properly to support the program. I feel this weakness in my own minis­try. Must every minister experiment blindly until he works out by trial and error (being a trial to the church particularly) some haphazard method of organization? No army would turn over a group of soldiers to an inexperienced officer and tell him to train them his own way and take them into battle. He is first taught how to train them and organize them into a fighting unit. Someday I hope someone with experience and ability will take me in hand before I am too old to learn, and teach me how to organize my churches properly, and I believe there are other ministers who would profit by a similar training.

Occasionally an intern is sent to a church where the only other conference worker is an old and ex­perienced Bible instructor. She naturally con­cludes that he has been placed there to intern under her, and proceeds to mold him into her idea of what a minister should be, perhaps in the pat­tern of some minister with whom she has at some time labored, and who made an impression on her. No doubt she is sincere in her desire to help him, but it is an injustice to him, and is likely to de­stroy his confidence in himself quicker than any other thing.

Paul charged Timothy to "preach the Word." Some interns never get a chance. They are per­mitted to run errands, prepare the church bulletin, and perhaps read the obituary at a funeral, but never to preach. It is a wonderful opportunity to sit in the audience and listen to the experienced preacher, but we never learn how to preach that way. We learn to preach by preaching. The older, ordained preacher could give the intern some valuable help if he would condescend to sit in the audience occasionally and listen, then per­haps offer some friendly counsel and suggestions privately as to how he might improve.

I do not believe that an older minister will lower himself in the estimation of a young fledg­ling by inviting his opinion occasionally. Let him feel that he may be able to think clearly on some­thing. Then he will feel that perhaps he is not an absolute "dud" after all. Surely it will create better relations between them. It is barely possible that he may have gleaned some little stray thought from his schooling that could contribute to the welfare of the program. If his contribution is not practical or feasible, at least do him the honor of considering his idea, and he will do his best to contribute something worthwhile later. Also, let him know what is going on. Take him into your confidence and help him to feel that he is a part of the program.

If older ministers have nothing of value to pass on to the young and inexperienced, may 'I be par­doned for asking, "Why not ?- We need your ex­perience to round out and vitalize our own ministry. It is our rightful heritage from you. Elisha inherited the cloak of Elijah when Elijah was translated. Said R. A. Anderson, "He had a secondhand mantle, but he needed a firsthand ex­perience in the things of God. And as we prepare our young people for leadership, we must help them to realize that while they have a secondhand message, they need a firsthand experience with God if they would be leaders in His cause."—Report of Evangelistic Council, p. 170.

Let me remind you that Elijah did not turn his mantle over to Elisha until he had demonstrated how it could be used. May God grant that as we carry the message forward it will be with a power that will reach hearts and lead them to the Saviour.


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By Albert B. Pohlman,  Intern, Middleboro, Massachusetts

August 1944

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