Luke Burch (back right) leads Harmony Baptist’s youth group on a summer activity. Courtesy of Luke Burch
MONROE — It’s not common for a 19-year-old with little formal ministry leadership experience to take over the interim youth minister position at a church he’d never been a member of before. But for Luke Burch and Harmony Baptist Church, it was one of the best experiences.
Burch, in his second year at Kennesaw State University, Marietta Campus, knew he wanted to spend his summer serving. He’d already committed three weeks of his summer to Georgia Baptist Collegiate Ministry’s Send Me Now missions in Vermont. So, he decided – with the help and encouragement of Pastor Rando Acres from Burch’s home church of Center Hill Baptist in Loganville – to ask around and see if he could be of any help in a local church’s youth ministry for two-thirds of the summer.
Meanwhile, Harmony Baptist had halted their youth minister search to reevaluate the position. With VBS on the horizon, their minister of discipleship and education, Ethan Todd, would be preoccupied with kid’s ministry and VBS planning.
So, they brought Burch on board for an “interim-ship.”
Burch and the already-established team of volunteer leaders took a collaborative approach. He led the students on Wednesday nights and coordinated events in just being a younger presence. Meanwhile, someone with more experience taught Sunday School.
‘Let no one despise you for your youth’
At first, Burch recounts, he would be mistaken for one of the youth. He came to see that as blessing by the end, though, because it really helped him connect with the students.
“It was a little bit of a surprise to them that I would be playing a bigger role,” he said. “But honestly, it just helped me to make those connections with the students that someone who was older may not be able to.”
He continued, “I know more of what they’re going through because I’m closer to their age. It was just easier to connect that way.”
Those connections were beneficial for the church staff as well, Todd added.
Burch was able to help him better understand the youth group. Through Burch, he learned what the youth in his church respond well to, their characteristics, how they interact with each other, and what style of teaching and ministry works best with them.
“It really quickened how I was able to put together a discipleship plan for our youth,” Todd said.
A ministry mindset
Burch took away much from this “interim-ship” as well. His Send Me Now mission trip ran smoother because he’d spent the first part of his summer immersed in practical ministry and brought a ministry mindset to the table.
Burch’s experiences in his own youth group and involvement in his youth worship team at home gave him a love for the ministry. But being able to “help lead that process and just to be able to have a bigger role in that, it’s something that just had a big impact on me.”
Both he and Todd agree that this summer grew him as a leader. “I saw clear and considerable improvement from the time he started through the time he left,” Todd said.
From Burch’s perspective, he got to learn firsthand how things are run on the other side.
“Being a college student and being able to be involved at a high level really opened my eyes to some of the different things that you don’t necessarily always see going on. It definitely helped me in my spiritual walk.”
To train the next generation
“It was really humbling,” Burch said.
“I am really, really thankful for Harmony Baptist actually giving me the opportunity. Almost every church should offer this kind of opportunity for college students to take on a leadership role in the youth group, music ministry, or wherever they feel most led.”
Todd echoed that.
“Summer internships are great, and I think churches should consider them. Not only will it help the church, but it can help [the students] out as well. That’s investing in possible future ministers,” he said.
It’s not about what the student can do for you, Todd explained. It’s about how the church can train the next generation of leaders. “Really think about the big, big picture here,” Todd added.