Today, it has been a year since the completion of my music ministry internship at the Fairfield Church of Christ in Fairfield, Ohio. It’s honestly hard to believe it’s been a year, because much of what I learned and experienced while I was there is still so fresh in my memory. Since this 3 ½ month experience was so vast to describe, this post is a compilation of my reflections on the experience from my writings. I hope that those of you that where a part of my experience there will appreciate these memories, and others will be able to appreciate what I learned about the ministries of the church from a different perspective.
For those that may not know what I did on my internship, this first part is a compilation of notes from the presentation I did about my internship for my home church after I returned.
I completed my ministry internship at the Fairfield Church of Christ in Fairfield, Ohio, in the Cincinnati area. My internship was focused on music ministry, since that is the focus of my college degree and a requirement for the completion of my degree. My primary duties consisting of planning and organizing worship, working with the adult praise choir (as a member and as a director), and leading worship team practices. I was especially involved in planning of the Palm Sunday and Easter services. I was considered a part of the church staff while I was there and attended weekly staff meetings.
My mentor, Mike Dainton, was a great person to work with. He was very supportive and encouraging, and truly has a heart for the people he serves. From the beginning, he wanted to invest in me and teach me what he knew about ministry. I shared his office space and shared his days off. I felt that I was more than an intern or a college student to him: I was a partner in his ministry. I learned so much because he had confidence in me to do what he needed me to do.
In addition to my music ministry duties, I was very involved in the youth ministry, mostly because the youth minster is my cousin, Aaron Hibbard. Aaron gave me the opportunity to teach for one of the high school small groups for Sunday night youth group, because of requirements I had for an online class I was taking. I also enjoyed being involved in some youth group activities while I was there, such as a high school lock-in and CIY Believe.
I also involved in our Easter production, called His Final Week. We took the audience through walk thru experience of the Passion Week through a tour of different rooms in the church building. We recreated scenes such as the cleansing of the temple, the last supper, the trial before Pilate, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and some the of the resurrection appearances. In addition to helping the production team, I played the role of Mary Magdalene in one of the four “Jesus groups” (cast groups that performed on rotation). This production was one of the best parts of my internship, both for the learning experience and the fellowship that happened behind the scenes.
Since this internship was considered a credited class to finish my degree, I had to do a few written assignments. This is a reflective essay I wrote after I completed my internship, along with the questions I was answering according to my assignment’s instructions.
What was the best part of your internship experience? What was the worst part?
For me, the best part of my internship was the people of the Fairfield Church of Christ. All the people that I became close to, my mentor, the rest of the staff, my host family, the worship team, the choir, the kids of the youth group, the college age group (those around my age), and those that befriended me in other ways, all impacted my life in those few months I was in Fairfield. I enjoyed life and community in this church in a way that I had not experienced before, and I am so grateful for that experience.
The worst part of my internship was learning how to deal with the unexpected changes that occurred often. My mentor Mike Dainton struggled with health issues related to the removal of the sciatic nerve in his right leg after a battle with cancer. Although he is now cancer free, he is still experiencing issues relating to the missing nerve which sometimes prevented him from coming into the office, which meant that a lot more responsibility fell on me and I had to trust the guidance of other staff members or other ministry volunteers. Although I learned a lot about working through unexpected changes, it was probably the most difficult part of my internship.
What are the three most valuable lessons you learned during your internship that you will use in your future ministry?
I learned many valuable lessons while I was on internship. The most significant was the importance and necessity of flexibility in ministry. Although it was something that I already knew I struggled with, I now see that in order to best serve others (one of primary goals of any ministry), we need to be willing to adapt to whatever situations may come our way. The times that I able to adapt and finish what needed to be done were some of the more fulfilling moments I had, and the most helpful to the whole of the music ministry. I hope to be able to learn more flexibility in my personal life, so that I can better serve others and it will natural overflow into my future ministry endeavors.
When we fail to be creative or think outside of the box, we are not growing, and most likely limiting the people that we can reach. Especially when it comes to the way we present or teach the Word of God, what we do should never be perceived as boring if we can do things to make it more appealing. I hope to be able to think and teach more creatively in general, so that I can apply this to my future ministries.
What impact has this internship had on your spiritual life?
This internship had changed my life in ways both big and small. I had to learn how to trust in the Lord more than had before, because in the moments that my mentor wasn’t able to help, I struggled with feeling inadequate for fulfill my duties. Through it all, I realized that Christ was able to help me in my inadequacies, and He also helped me to discover talents that I did not know I had that I have been able to use for ministry purposes. Trust in the Lord is an important lesson for anyone to learn, regardless of their situation in life.
I also found so much inspiration from my mentor. Mike is amazing man that loves his ministry and loves the people he serves. I know personally how much he loves the people he serves because of the way that he cared about me as a person and became a good friend to me in my time at the church. He genuinely wanted to invest in me from the start and I reaped many blessings from that investment. He especially inspired me through his health issues. Mike was experiencing extremely intense pain related to his missing nerve. Despite his setbacks, he still has his thoughts and prayers with his ministry and the people he served. I hope that when I finally get to my own ministry, I will come have a heart like Mike Dainton’s heart for the people I will serve.
The biggest impact this internship had on my spiritual life was connected to my involvement in the church’s Easter drama, His Final Week…Portraying one of the first people to hear that Jesus is alive was one of the best experiences of my life. That is something that I want to spend the rest of my declaring to those that need to hear it. The impact of playing a part in this play is something that I hope to remember as I strive to serve Him with the talents He has given me for the rest of my life.
[If you want to read more about my experience during His Final Week, click here]
To give you a sense of the good, the bad, and the funny, this a selection and revision of a list I made for fun called “Things I Did Not Expect To Learn On My Internship” (This is 30 of the 48 I had originally)
13. It is entirely possible to hold a production together with primarily the following materials: hot glue, foam board, tape (of many varieties), paint, and pipe and drape
14. You can use shower curtains as light gels for florescent lights (My mind was blown)
15. If you make yourself cry for theatrical purposes, you shouldn't cry so hard that you start hyperventilating, which I came close to doing. Don’t forget to breathe!
21. When singing on worship team, don’t forget to turn on your microphone!
22. You know that people love you when you tell them your favorite flavor of ice cream (Peanut Butter and Chip from UDF) and they drop everything to go get it for you. This happened more than once!
23. I'm just as fun and crazy as the kids in the youth group. I guess that's why we get along so well.
24. Having your cousin on the same church staff is awesome. It was such a blessing to have Aaron in the office across from me.
25. On the other hand, you realize how weird you are when the first guy to ride alone with you in your car is your cousin…
26. “You’re never as good as they say you are, and you’re never as bad as they say you are. You’re usually somewhere in between.” – Dave Hargrave
27. Trial by fire is a good learning experience, even though it may be uncomfortable. I learned more through some of the unplanned parts of my internship then I did from planned parts.
28. Never take the staff of your church for granted. They are servants to the Lord and to you, and they deserve a ton more recognition than they get.
29. Community in Christ, especially in the context of a church body, should never be taken for granted. I was so warmed welcomed into the church and felt very much at home with them. If you find yourself in a church like that, consider it a blessing.
30. Do your best to be prepared for any situation that comes your way. That is when you are open for the Lord to use you, no matter where you are in your life.
Prior to this internship, I had not had the chance to really experience the finer details of music ministry. Most of my experience up to that point had been singing on worship team and some worship planning. But after spending 3 ½ months going into the church office 4 to 5 days a week and often not returning home on those days until late at night, I became more assured of a fact I already knew: pastors, ministers, and those who are on staff at a church do so much more than their congregation will ever see. They don’t just work on Sunday mornings, and they often don’t work a 9 to 5 kind of job. Being in ministry is a devotion, a calling, and a lifestyle that demands more than many people outside of ministry can really understand. Even their volunteers only get a taste of the demands and devotion required to faithfully fulfill this calling. Being a pastor’s kid, I knew this truth, but I finally had the chance to experience it while I was in Fairfield, and that is something I could never experience in the classroom.
This is just a glimpse of all the things I learned in my time at the Fairfield Church of Christ. I am still grateful for all the things I learned and all the experiences I had in Fairfield. It was by far the best experience of my education. As I reflect on what I learned, my heart overflows with gratitude toward all the people that made my experience possible. I am still ever so thankful for the Fairfield Church of Christ, my mentor Mike, my cousin Aaron, the other staff members at FCC, the members of the worship team and praise choir, the leadership team for His Final Week, my host family, and the countless other people that befriended me, made me feel at home, and gave me opportunities to serve. I still miss them and thank the Lord from them often.
I am also reminded about what ministry is really all about. It’s not just about serving with our talents when were interested. It’s about contributing to the needs of the church so the body of Christ may be strengthened. Every person is a piece of the puzzle of that ministry, and each ministry is a piece of the puzzle of the church as a whole. I hope some of these memoirs from my internship have helped you see this truth and that you will find ways to strengthen the body of Christ by contributing to the needs of ministries in your own church. I also hope this will help you respect the work of whoever ministers to your own church, because their work extends far beyond Sunday mornings.