It was a decision that radically altered the trajectory of my life.
If you are interested in vocational ministry or just want to spend a year growing as a leader and follower of Christ, I'd encourage you to check out the Protege Program. It's not just an internship, it's a year long leadership and character development program in which you are paired with a mentor from your chosen department.
I'd especially recommend checking out the Discipleship Team... but then, I'm biased.
The Protege Program at National Community Church is a year-long internship/fellowship, geared toward preparing you for full-time ministry in the church or in the context of business-as-mission.
What does this have to do with you and me?
For me, the Protege Program was a step into full-time ministry after a short career on Capitol Hill. Almost four years ago I started my Protege year, working with Pastor Heather Zempel on the Discipleship Team, and last year I became a Department Mentor for Andy Backus, one of this year's Discipleship Proteges.
For you, the Protege Program is an opportunity to get hands-on, practical ministry experience. You'll do real ministry work. This isn't just about folding bulletins or stuffing envelopes (although you'll do those things too).
I'm not sure I can quickly sum up what I did as a Protege, but a few of the experiences included: creating humorous videos; serving as a Campus Pastor; producing our small group catalog; preaching at our Alpha course; leading a small group; writing, designing, and editing a "newspaper" for our leadership retreat; and a thousand other things. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Oh, and it's not paid. You'll have to raise support or work a second job to provide for your living expenses while you're here, so you're not in it for the money.
More than anything else, you should consider coming to NCC because God is at work here. He has by His grace chosen to work in and through us. I don't know how else to say it, but God is doing something big among us. We're trying to seek His face, steward what He's given us, and hold on for the ride of our lives.
Look, I won't pull any punches. Things aren't perfect here. We have personality conflicts, disagreements, sin problems, communication problems, and all sorts of other issues. You'll find yourself variously exhilarated, exhausted, fulfilled, and frustrated.
Working at NCC is a blessing and a privilege, but it isn't perfect. Then again, if you think there's a perfect church out there, I've got some real estate on Mars to sell you.
To continue our candid conversation, some people see NCC as a "hip" or "cutting-edge" church, and there's a certain appeal to working at a place like that. Two years ago that's probably how I would have pitched NCC to you. But that perspective almost always stems from pride and desire for recognition, both yours and ours. So come here because God is moving. Come here because you're called here. Come here because you think you can learn here. Come here to help advance the Kingdom. But don't come because of a "cool" factor.
What can I do at NCC?
I'd love to have you come work with us on the Discipleship Team, but don't let me scare you off. There are a bunch of other great departments you could be a part of including Production, Campus Pastors, Ebenezers Coffeehouse, Student/Children's Ministry, Worship, Missions, Outreach, Media, Business/Finance and probably something we've never thought of!
We have a year-long ministry immersion program at NCC called the Protege Program. People volunteer a year of their time to work on staff at NCC. Our third class of Proteges just started a couple of weeks ago, and we wanted to give a warm welcome to those who are making such a sacrifice to be serve with us. To that end, we put together a welcome video to introduce them to the church and the staff.
A note to any potential viewers from TED: This video is intentionally full of inside jokes and is not my most polished nor well prepared presentation. However, it does show my ability to deliver an engaging monologue, even with little preparation. I had been given some basic ideas and cues but otherwise ad-libbed this.
On Sunday I finished up my time as a Protege at National Community Church. It was a year of ups and downs for me personally, but I learned a ton. If you’re looking for some good ministry experience, good people, and a good city, you should check it out and I’d be happy to talk with you more about it. I especially recommend Team D (a.k.a. the Discipleship Department, a.k.a. people who work on small groups).
On Monday I launched a new website, but more on that later.
On Monday night Rachel and I walked by a house that she had seen for sale online. The man selling it happened to be sitting on his front steps, so we asked him if we could take a look around. It was a great deal, and we decided to see if we could buy it, so I spent the next two and a half days applying for loans, running numbers, etc.
On Wednesday night I won $40 playing poker.
On Thursday morning I was working on getting pre-approval letters. Around 11:40 I checked the house listing again, and they had received multiple offers and weren’t accepting any more.
I’m frazzled. I think I’m busier this week than I was when I was working at NCC. Ah well, back to work on the website.
I’ve mentioned before that I think the reason my entrance into ministry was delayed after college was that God had some things to teach me, especially in the area of humility. I didn’t realize quite how true that was until last week.
On our first day at NCC, the staff and proteges were sitting around talking about the program, and Pastor Joel said something. I honestly don’t even remember exactly what it was, but it hit me. Right after college I was looking into a program very similar to the Protege program. I was talking with the pastor I would be working with, and I just really didn’t want one of those “work here part time and get a job part time as part of your ministry/support” positions.
While I do have a lot to learn practically about how to do ministry, I don’t really think that is why God sidetracked me. Plenty of people start with the same experience I had. No, He had (and perhaps still has) a lot for me to learn spiritually.
Today I start my new job as a Protege (intern) at NCC. Definitely looking forward to it. Got a chance to meet a couple of my fellow Proteges over the last few days, they seem like cool people. Gotta run now, don’t want to be late on my first day at work, more details later.
Most people have prayed for something or someone in earnest, seeking God’s will, only to be left confused by God’s response. Sometimes we ask, “Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?” In Amazed and Confused, Heather Zempel tackles this question head-on by exploring the book of Habakkuk.
Pastor Heather Zempel dives head first into the mess of community, drawing on 10+ years of experience on staff at NCC, a masters in biological engineering, and many attempts at intentionally creating community among small groups of people. I cannot recommend this book to you highly enough.