Talking Internship with Mark Dever

Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., is well known for its effective intern program. Our Clint Clifton sat down with Mark Dever, the church’s senior pastor, to discuss the nuts and bolts of the program.

Clint Clifton: Tell us about the origins of the internship at CHBC. What inspired you first to do that? Did you model it after somebody else?

Mark Dever: No. I had a guy who came to know the Lord through my preaching when I was living in England. After I moved back here, he contacted me and said, “Hey, can I come and do an internship with you?” I said, “Well, we don’t have one.” He said, “Well, I need to, for my Bible college. I mean, can I just come and follow you around for a few weeks and read some books?” I said, “Sure.” And so it started.

People kept asking. So, in 2002, about seven or eight years after the first guy asked, I got a group of members together to think through a budget for the internship program and parameters for it, so we could suggest it for the budget. And they did a super job. That’s basically the structure we kept ever since spring of 2003. So, we have six budgeted positions for two semesters, as it were five months, one in the spring and one in the fall. We do the same material. It’s a five-month internship, and it’s basically we pay you and give you housing just to sit around and read books and write papers.

Clint: What’s the internship structure? How many interns do you have? How long do they stay? Where do they live?

Mark: We have six interns at a time, officially, but often will pack in a seventh or an eighth. We have them move here on the block or in housing we provide nearby. They’re in their own apartments. We give them a grant of $1,500 a month stipend. One class goes from January to the end of May. The other one goes from August to Dec. 15. In this current class of eight, we have one single guy and seven married.

Clint: That’s not always been the case though. You started off with younger, more single guys.

Mark: That’s right. But the preponderance now are married. We’ll have probably more in their 30s than their 20s, and we have guys in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

Clint: During that season of time, what’s their relationship to CHBC?

Mark: They are members of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and they are paid a stipend by the church.

Clint: What’s the makeup of what they do for the church, as opposed to what the church does for them?

Mark: Other than a couple hours of admin in the middle of the week, they don’t do anything for the church. We pay them to sit around, read books, write papers.

Clint: What’s the expectation in terms of the way they interface with members? Is it above what a normal member’s expectations would be?

Mark: Very slightly. I mean, they attend the services. They cover the doors on Sunday morning. But, no, it’s just to be a normal active member.

Clint: Thinking about your investment from a time standpoint, week to week, how much time weekly are you spending on the internship?

Mark: A good bit. I’m reading all the papers they write every day, and I’m leading the three-hour discussion on Thursday morning, and I see them every afternoon for 30 minutes. We just talk about what they’ve been reading or various pastoral things. It’s not a lecture or anything. It’s a very informal conversation. Whereas the discussion on Thursday morning, which is where I’ve read all their papers for, I lead them through a kind of Socratic discussion of issues that they read about.

At the beginning of the semester, they have a reading schedule literally day-by-day through the end of May. With the book title, the page numbers, and when the paper due, and how long the paper is, and what date we be discussing it on.

Clint: Did you say they’re writing a paper every day?

Mark: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Two to three pages long, but there are some three- to five-page ones. All the pastoral staff are required to be there on the Thursday morning for the conversation. I sit with the interns in the inside circle or at the table, the pastors sit on an outside circle and both are included in the conversation.

Clint: How are the interns selected? Has the process changed over the years, or has it been pretty much the same?

Mark: Pretty much the same. There’s an application online. We’ll get 30 to 40 applicants for each class of six to eight. Often, internationals are involved, so we’re working to see if can we get a visa for them in time. I’m looking for guys I think would be useful in ministry or will influence other guys.

Clint: What do you mean by will influence other guys? Do you think they have capacity to be leaders?

Mark: Yes. I want to multiply the influence as much as I can.

Clint: What benefit have you seen come to the church body at CHBC?

Mark: It’s wonderful. I mean, we know pastors now around the world. Certain pastors, churches were basically interrupted by the police in Shanghai two weeks ago. We know about it. When a brother from Algeria turns up in Atlanta, we know about it. When a pastor in Munich is needing another guy to come to do an international church there, we know about. The congregation has friends literally around the world and certainly around the US.

Clint: Has the church more directly benefited by interns becoming staff members in the future?

Mark: Yes. Our junior staff, the PAs are populated by former interns. Generally, we’ll require somebody to do the internship before they would come on staff.

Clint: The expectation though is that, generally, interns are going to leave and go away and do ministry somewhere else.

Mark: Correct.

Published February 28, 2022

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