Samantha Angeles, a senior Honors student double majoring in communication and theology, talks about her “Summer in Ministry” internship at La Sierra University Church:
Tell us about your internship:
For 10 weeks this summer, I have the privilege of interning at the La Sierra University Church in the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SECC) under Pastor Chris Oberg’s supervision. My role is essentially to learn the ins and outs of how she pastors the 2700-member church – and trust me, there are an infinite number of facets. There are the expected Bible and baptismal studies; sermon and service preparation; staff, board and conference committee meetings; home and hospital visitations; and other things one would expect a pastor to do. But in a church this size, the planning and preparation necessary for all these elements is on a scale requiring a mind-blowing level of precision and forethought. It’s incredible to witness. The programs include children’s, young adult and youth ministries, the community services program which assists 150 to 200 families per week, campus vespers, and myriad other areas!
How did you hear about it?
PUC highly recommends a “Summer in Ministry” internship for theology majors before their senior year. I knew from my freshman year that my number one choice would be to work with Pastor Chris because she has a reputation of being a powerful preacher, a very effective leader, and a genuine Christ-follower. I had zero connections at La Sierra University Church—and many churches won’t hire an intern they don’t know. But when I did my junior interviews with the SECC, they encouraged me to contact her. After a couple phone interviews and some thorough reference checking, Pastor Chris brought my name to the church board, where they approved me “sight-unseen,” in their words. In my eyes, God opened the doors to make this internship possible, and if what I’ve learned so far is any indication, it was truly for a purpose.
What does an average day at your internship consist of?
An average day is anywhere from eight to 18 hours long somewhere in the huge church campus, the SECC conference building, a members’ home, or off-site. It can involve anything from grungy work clothes to casual office attire, to skirt suits. At various times, one can see the church staff, diverse teams of church members, or over 350 screaming children and 200 volunteers for a Vacation Bible School. There’s the intentional and precise sermon preparation reading that the pastors share with me each week, Bible studies, visitations, and—until this week—crazy VBS all-nighters. I’m learning to run in heels and lean on God more than ever before. I’m not sure how to add this all up to find the average, but it has truly been an incredible experience!
What makes this internship fun or interesting?
When I walked into the church office the first day, I received my @lsuchurch.org e-mail address, business cards with “assistant pastor” next to my name, and became “Pastor Samantha.” And what’s made this internship fun, interesting, and rewarding is that they’ve taken that title seriously. They’ve made me a volunteer coordinator for the 200-member volunteer staff for Vacation Bible School, involved me in literally everything they could think of, and given me leadership roles, responsibility, mentoring and support. It has been so fun to work with this phenomenal pastoral team, learn many realities of ministry, and do what I am passionate about in a high-quality environment.
What's the most challenging part of this internship?
I think the most challenging part of this internship is the reality that in order to be able to truly lead and function as a pastor, interpersonal trust is vital – yet as a new intern, I don’t have the necessary background with the congregation to have developed that trust. Thus, my challenge for the summer is to build trust and relationships with the people I work with and encounter every day. And it’s funny how it comes about: things like washing communion cups in the back room, making a real effort to remember names and names and names, and pulling all-nighters at the church to prepare for VBS. Then there are those God-appointments, when you happen to ask someone how they are right when they need to talk. These are a few of the small ways that that trust is beginning to develop. And the same thing that makes it fun is also the challenge – carrying a measure of responsibility to myself, to God, and to others that I have never truly known before.
What knowledge and skills are you learning from the internship?
Pastor Chris has asked me to keep a journal to process and record the things of value that I’m seeing and learning, and you’d be shocked at how full those pages already are. But one thing that really stands out that I’m learning is how to set boundaries in ministry. The pastoral team works incredibly hard, but they also don’t believe that “lone wolves” that do everything themselves can survive in ministry. A team approach and a sense of personal balance are things that I’ve observed with a lot of interest. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. I’m also learning how to come into a new environment effectively, how to get into the habit of planning way, way ahead of time, and the importance of sharing a vision and getting people on the same page. Now the challenge is making these lessons a part of my life, and integrating them into ministry – a challenge I’m definitely up for!
How does the internship relate to your career goals?
Finally, a simple question! It’s a pastoral internship, and I want to be a pastor! But I don’t want to just be a pastor – I want to be a pastor like these pastors: people who love and are dedicated to their congregations, to wholeness, to excellence, and people who serve with a commitment to their church and to those outside of the church.
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