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Internships produce youth leaders

By Carolyn Purden

A youth ministry internship program started by the diocese in 2010 is a notable success, says one of its founders as it finishes its second year with a total of eight graduates.

The program offers nine months of formalized training to young people in their 20s who want to enter youth ministry. To date, five of the graduate interns are working in Anglican parishes or for the diocese, one is close to getting a job in an Anglican parish, one is working in a United Church parish because there was no opening in the local Anglican church, and one has moved out of the province.

Christian Harvey, a youth leader and the Trent-Durham area youth coordinator for social justice, is one of the founders of the program, along with Jenny Salisbury, youth ministry leader at St. Clement, Eglinton. “The program has been successful and we’ve learned some things along the way,” he says.

The program is intended to develop youth leadership in the diocese. Until now, parishes have had difficulty finding a youth ministry coordinator. There are few candidates, and they often have little experience and come from non-Anglican backgrounds.

The diocese has never directly provided formalized training for youth leaders—a gap that the internship program has addressed in a number of ways. The interns job-shadow a youth minister (Mr. Harvey or Ms. Salisbury) to understand working with teens in an Anglican context, and are mentored by the youth minister. The interns’ responsibilities include reading and discussing books on Christianity, youth ministry, ethics and modern culture and attending conferences for professional youth ministry training. They are also required to develop a youth ministry project based on their own interests and talents. Upon completion of the internship, the graduates receive a certificate in youth ministry from the diocese.

Reviewing the program, Mr. Harvey says that in many ways it has been tailored to the individuals, which is part of the reason for its success. “It’s relationship-based,” he says. “In a lot of ways, you form the program around the interns and where they need to grow. Some have felt they lack biblical knowledge, so we spend a lot of time on theology. Others want to focus on the techniques of youth ministry.”

One innovation this past year has been developing a partnership with St. Paul, Lindsay, to jointly hire and train an intern. Under the arrangement, the intern trained with the incumbent of St. Paul’s and met frequently with Mr. Harvey. Each paid the intern for 10 hours’ work a week, and at the end of the program, the parish agreed to pay the intern for 20 hours as a part-time youth ministry coordinator.

As it happens, Mr. Harvey adds, the intern will be working full-time for St. Paul’s this fall. “The parish went above and beyond because it worked out so well.”

Partnerships work well, he adds. “The rector sees himself or herself as a mentor as well, and I think that’s great for ongoing relationships. I’ll be done with them (the intern) in a year but the relationship with the rector will continue.”

He hopes that other partnerships will be formed In Trent-Durham in the future so that as they go through the program, his interns will be prepared for the position they will occupy upon graduation.

The graduates themselves have developed some innovative programs in their parish work. One started with a youth group of four and has built it up to 40 members by working with teens who have no place in the community to hang out. Another is exploring faith through dance and drumming while a third has started a poetry program that attracts teens who enjoy hip-hop and rap.

At the moment, funding has not been confirmed for the internship program in 2012-13, but Mr. Harvey is hopeful. “The evidence is pretty strong that it’s working,” he says.

For more information, visit the Youth webpage.