Best Practices in Church Internship Programs


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Internships are all about investing in the next generation! On today’s podcast I have two friends and collegues – Sara Defazio & Jason Yost – and we have a conversation about what we’ve been learning about internships at Liquid Church. This episode is perfect for church leaders considering adding an internship program … or potential interns looking for an idea of what to expect!

Episode Highlights

00:31 // Rich Welcomes Sarah and Jason to the show.

01:20 // Sarah introduces herself.

01:53 // Jason introduces himself.

02:47 // Sarah talks about the importance and the benefits of internships.

04:00 // Sarah talks about the things to consider when hiring an intern.

04:53 // Jason highlights the opportunities that internship provides.

07:11 // Sarah gives examples of a good internship experience.

08:28 // Sarah talks about the training for internships at Liquid Church.

09:18 // Jason gives examples of the types of people suitable for internship.

11:40 // Rich makes a statement as a ‘non-HR professional’.

12:47 // Sarah talks about tailoring internships to fit skills and interests.

13:50 // Rich offers his contact information for anyone interested in an internship with Liquid Church.

14:29 // Jason compares the scripture in Joshua to the opportunities internship offers.

Episode Transcript

Rich – Alright well welcome everybody to the unSeminary podcast, I’m so glad that you’ve decided to put us in your earbuds today. Happy Thursday, hopefully you’re having a great week as we head into the weekend. Today we have a fantastic conversation with a few friends and co-workers of mine, Sarah Defazio and Jason Yost from Liquid Church. I’m super happy to have them on the show, welcome to the show.

Sarah – Thank you.

Jason – Thank you.

Rich – So Sarah is the HR guru at Liquid Church, she does all things HR, which is incredible and Jason is our Music Pastor, he oversees all our worship at all of our campuses and today we’re talking about internships. This is something that I think over the last couple of years we’ve learned a few things and I think we’re taking some real positive steps and still learning. I wouldn’t say we’re experts by any means, but I wanted to get these guys on the line today and have a quick conversation about that.

Why don’t we start with you Sarah, why don’t you tell us a little bit about you, tell us the Sarah Defazio story?

Sarah – Alright, well I was born and raised in Southern California and then in New Jersey for about three years. I’ve always thought of myself as a Christian but really came to know my faith about two and a half years ago, when I started attending Liquid Church and l, like you said, oversee HR as well as the guest connections systems at Liquid. I’ve been here at Liquid for about a year, working here.

Rich – Nice, fantastic. Jason why don’t you introduce us to yourself, tell us about the Jason Yost story and you do have a very snappy hat, for people that are listening in, you’re missing the video experience today, Jason has a snappy hat on.

Jason – Yes I am rocking the hipster hat today. I’m originally from a little, I guess I could say the South, no not really, a little south of New Jersey in Marilyn. I spent some time in DC at National Community Church leading worship and a Campus Pastor there for a number of years and have been leading worships for 14 years in church leadership and music and have been in Liquid now for about a year and six months. We’re loving it here, my wife Shelley, we’re expecting in April.

Rich – Yeah congratulations.

Jason – And we have a daughter who will be two in March as well.

Rich – Nice, fantastic. Well Sarah why don’t we start with you, when you think about internships, I know that’s something we’ve been trying to encourage all our leaders to think about here at Liquid, why do you think they are so important for churches to consider?

Sarah – Well I think they’re definitely important for churches to consider but I would also say that they’re important for any organization to consider. I think my entire professional experience was shaped by an internship I had when I was in college. So I really think they’re very important to anyone, but for churches specifically, it gives us a chance to both gain and give back when we offer internships.

So it’s a chance to give the next generation of our workforce kind of a glimpse into church operations, but also allows them, the interns themselves, to make a big impact. So some things you never want to be short of, that fresh perspective and enthusiasm, those are some things that just come naturally to those young folks that we bring in, so it’s a chance to get that great output while giving someone experience for their future.

Who knows, maybe end up hiring the person and then you got to try them out as an actual employee for a few months.

Rich – Right. Now I know that there’s… this may be a bit of a technical question, I know that there’s like kind of legal bounds of what is considered an internship. There’s like a certain kind of construct to it. What is that, to kind of familiarize people, obviously we’re not going to be able to give legal advice but there’s rules of thumb when we think about what is an internship?

Sarah – Yeah you really want to make sure that you are providing an experience for this intern. So it’s not that you’re just filling a hole in your organization, you really are pouring into that person. So it’s not something where you just have an opening and you want to fill it with an intern, it’s an added experience. I mean special projects, extra things that you would like to have done or would like to have something working, it’s not just part of your normal employee workforce. So that’s what you really want to make sure is clear when you’re hiring interns.

Rich – Okay, very cool. So Jason, in your role as our worship guru, I know you’ve been pursuing folks to join us from an internship point of view, what roles have internships played in your world, as kind of developing leaders and team members in the past?

Jason – I think it’s a great opportunity number one, to be like a taste test or an appetizer for people who are really interesting in an area of expertise or maybe a skill’s development, where it’s a safe environment where they can learn, number one, not only about the task at hand, like [inaudible 00:05:13]. Internships provide a great way for people to learn about themselves as well, like what their skills are, what their strengths are, what their weakness is.

I even remember doing an internship when I was in my [inaudible 00:05:27] linguistics and it was when I did my internship that I realized that [inaudible 00:05:37] 8 to 3 o’clock in the classroom, same kids, same everything, I like to move around, I like change. So it was in that internship, it was a defining moment for me, that I totally realized that I wanted to give myself to music and that’s what I’ve been doing for 14-15 years at this point. So it’s a great opportunity to learn about the task and to learn about yourself as well.

Rich – Yeah absolutely. I’ve got a couple of teenagers in my household and it’s funny, when I think about, even if they would come to me, which they haven’t and I probably would steer them away from it, but even if they would come to me and say like, “Hey I think I want to go into vocational ministry like you,” I’d be like, “Wow that’s really nice, maybe you should think of something that pays better,” once I had picked myself up off the ground.

Internships I think would be a key part of that, I would say, “I think the best thing you could do, although schooling is super important, obviously getting a good education is super important…” I’d want to start working right away on like, “Okay, how can we get you a fantastic internship in a couple of different churches, expose you to a couple of different varieties?” because I think, like you said, it provides a great practical insight into what it’s like to actually work, hopefully within a positive work environment.

Sarah what’s the balance between us providing training or a church providing training or kind of giving back to the intern versus them actually doing work? Is there a line there somewhere? How do we define that or how should we define that as churches?

Sarah – I think a lot of people think of interns sometimes as maybe just the people that are going to get you coffee every day and an end to all your administrative tasks, but students these days are really looking for places that will invest in them and where they can gain real work experience, but also be poured into. So having a mix of teaching them real on the job stuff, but also investing in teaching them about your culture, good leadership skills, those things will attract the best intern candidates as well as motivate them to value your culture and work towards that vision that you cast for them and the rest of the employees.

So the best intern experience is when they feel totally integrated into the organization. So you really should do everything you can to give them that same experience that any employee would have, even if they’ll only be around for a short time.

So I would say, when you are thinking about, “Well should I invite them to this training or this thing?” Yes the answer should always be yes.

Rich – Yes.

Sarah – Things like staff meetings, regular team meetings, then orientation, any leadership development classes that you offer, anything that they can get their hands on and they’ll probably be there to learn.

Rich – Yeah, why don’t you get a bit practical and talk… even specifically at Liquid, what do we do on that front to try to provide training that would be similar to, say like a new member of staff, that sort of thing?

Sarah – We have our orientation which is called ‘First Ninety Days’ and that class is really designed to teach new staff members all about our mission, vision, values, what we call our pathway, which is what we take our attendees alongside to really connect them into Liquid. So we want to teach interns those same things, so we would invite them to First Ninety Days.

We also have Leadership Development training that we call [inaudible 00:08:51] for short. So we would invite them to that as well and really bring them into what we would give every staff member and other key leaders in our church; the opportunity to learn how to feed themselves, how to feed others and then how to lead other people too.

Rich – Very cool. So Jason what sort of people have you found are best suited for internships? What would be the profile of those types of people?

Jason – I’ve got kind of two thoughts on that and one might not be the typical, but number one of course is more the typical, like your 20 something, just coming out of college. One guy told me that your 20s should be just lives of experiences, just try everything, don’t stress out so much like, you’ve got to find that job that you’re going to do the rest of your life. So it’s a great opportunity again to just try it before you buy it, to see what you love, what you want to spend your life investing in and that type of opportunity.

But then also, like on the flipside of that, I think it’s a great opportunity as well, maybe for someone who’s in their 40s or 50s and they’re in a position where they’re just kind of like, “I need something fresh, I need something new, I feel like God’s calling me to something else.”

I remember when we did an internship at National Community Church. We had a guy that came and did media. He was a pastor for like 11 years, a Senior Pastor and he was just at a time of transition in his life and he loved movies and media and all that kind of stuff. So he left there and moved his family to DC for a year’s unpaid internship to learn how to make movies and do aftereffects and all that kind of stuff, he actually works for the assemblies.

So whatever age you are in your life, if you need something fresh and new it’s a good chance to learn new applications, to learn new stuff. No matter at what stage, it doesn’t have to be a typical, like a young student out of college either.

Rich – Very cool. It’s funny, I was just talking to another church leader this week and they were asking about some roles we’re trying to hire and Sarah’s going to kick me from an HR point of view because I think this is illegal to say, but I said, “We’re trying to find younger leaders to surround ourselves with, we really want to, as an organization, continue to be really open and proactive,” and this guy looked at me and said, “What, you’re young!” I was like, “A lot of our leaders, we’re like in our 40s and a bunch of 40s white guys. It would be nice to have some non-40 white guys who are involved in leadership.”

One of the things I love about internships, I think it brings in a group of people who are different than kind of the typical people we end up hiring. So I think it can be amazing and I love that idea of, like you say, someone who’s looking for something a little different in life, who is maybe looking at a bit of a change. I think it’s fantastic.

So again, that was Rich, the non-HR professional speaking, not speaking on behalf of Liquid Church Incorporated, just as an individual.

Jason – I want to make a disclaimer too Rich to all of our listeners that Sarah and I are not even close to being a non-40.

Rich – Yes that is very true, that is very true, it’s old guys like me. Anyway Sarah, so we’re doing internships this year at Liquid, we can continue to do this. Obviously this is going to air, kind of as we’re pointing into the summertime, as students are thinking about those kinds of things. What sort of positions do we offer? Is it just like one or two things? Is it basically like if you want to become a pastor or lead worship that sort of thing? What are we offering this year from an internship point of view?

Sarah – I think the phrase that I would throw out there, if someone at our church is doing it there’s an internship for that. So we’ve had things from having people help out with children’s ministry, small group’s ministry, Spanish translation team, guest connections team, some of those typical Sunday experiences and we also have like the finance department, graphic and video design.

So yeah, I’ll just say it again, if someone at the church is doing it we can have an internship for that and we don’t like to just categorize everything but look for what the person might be skilled at, what they’re interest is and try to tailor their internship experience towards that. We just get them as much exposure as they want to church operations in general.

Rich – Absolutely, it’s been fun watching Sarah do that. There’s a candidate that’s coming in, who I think starts soon, basically we’ve build the custom internship for them. They are taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that and piecing it together and making it a great experience for that individual. I’m obviously super biases, if you’re listening in today and you might know some people who are looking for an internship, we’d love to have them connect, you can contact me, [email protected]. We’d be happy to get you plugged in, or Sarah or Jason, any of us would love to get them plugged in, we’ll treat them nice.

Jersey is a nice place. I want to just underline something that Sarah said. Sarah is from California and moved to New Jersey.

Sarah – Southern California, not even…

Rich – Southern California, SoCal, a real Valley girl, but she doesn’t talk like it. I’m not sure why that is. Anyway, it really is a fantastic place to come and particularly in the summertime, it’s a great place to come.

Jason is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up today’s interview?

Jason – Just if anyone out there listening is interested in either of those categories, to learn and get your feet wet I would say just do it. One of the biggest things that spoke to me in my life was the scripture in Joshua where he talks about, you know when they wanted the Israelites to cross the Jordan River in Exodus got part of the river before they stepped in it. When they were talking to Joshua and the Israelites he wanted them to put their feet in it before it parted. So someone today might be at a crossroads or a decision making point and I think an internship is a great opportunity to do that and then trust the Lord to provide the rest of the way.

Rich – Absolutely. To underline a little bit of some of the opportunity on the music front I know part of the reason why we have Jason here is because we are actively looking for people to help and to come and intern on the music side and Jason on the team are doing an incredible job recording music, there’s lots of opportunity, that’s one of those areas where if you want to get experience leading worship you actually have to get in and do it somewhere, you can’t get that same experience by just doing it in your basement. So that’s fantastic.

Well I appreciate you guys being on the show today. Thank you so much for giving up time in your busy schedules, I know you’re incredibly busy leaders, so thank you and thank you for listening in to the show today, hopefully it’s been an informative conversation. If you have any more questions you can drop by our website,, we’d be happy to help out in any way. Thanks so much.


  1. Rich, thanks so much for these invaluable resources to help the Church! Great insights for us as we launch year two of internships for our community. I remember Brian Houston being asked how they (Hillsong) stay so relevant and he didn’t even hesitate in saying, ‘We surround the table with next generation voices.’ Seeing Sara (without an ‘H’) and Jason today rekindled that for me. Thanks!

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.