By Andy Sahl
“Andy, I don’t think I want to be an intern anymore.”
I really couldn’t believe my ears. For years our few spots for high school interns (high school students that help with our middle school program) was a coveted role. For the last two years we’ve added the number of inters and only allowed them to serve for a semester instead of the whole year. There is honor and status in being an intern.
The young man asking to be relieved of his intern duties had been up early, at school before it started for tennis practice and as of 8:00 PM had not yet been home. He had a long day, and not being an intern meant he went the high school Bible study.
More and more I’m seeing young people come to our youth programs not just for belonging or learning, but for a break. You see, church offers something that is available in few other places in their lives. A place where they are not expected to produce, and they are not evaluated based on what they produce. Furthermore, a youth program that embraces and lives out a spirit of grace makes for a very unique experience for our young people.
I was a bit frustrated that he didn’t want to be an intern. He is one of our most outgoing and mature kids, but I know the high school group is meting a need that “producing” as an intern cannot.
There is a time and place to ask kids to produce. Whether that is on mission trips, as worship leaders, or peer ministers. There are likely young people that have the cognitive and emotional space for producing. But our young people truly value a break from constant competition, evaluation, and production.
It’s easy to criticize the “system” that leads to over-scheduled kids, but a recent study finds that young people who were involved in more “intense” activities eneded up doing better on a number of measures. So, perhaps our job is to push back on this system, create a Sabbath from the craziness, and also to help young people develop the skills necessary to function in a culture that celebrates and rewards the highly scheduled.
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Andy Sahl is the Director of Youth Ministry at Saint Michael and All Angles Episcopal Church in Dallas Texas and has been serving in youth ministry for 15 years. Andy is passionate about developing authentic community and families through the ministries he helps lead. You can often find Andy out for a run with his dog Charles, sharing a cup of coffee with a friend at a local café, or at a favorite restaurant with his family. You can follow him on Twitter @andysahl
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