A student from St. Phillip's College contacted me recently. He is interested in studying Deaf culture for a class project. He is one of many who have come to Family Deaf Church over the past few years to learn more about American Sign Language and the Deaf.
The Baptist Temple campus has become a learning lab for multicultural ministry in an urban context. We currently host three Christian Social Ministries interns and one music intern from the Baptist University of the Americas. Last month we entered into a formal agreement with OLLU and UTSA to help train students in their MSW programs. Earlier this year we hosted conferences for Deaf ministry and small church/bivocational ministry, as well as, the Immigration Service and Aid Center's Summer Institute.
Hands-on experience in a real world environment enhances classroom learning. In the business, non-profit and government worlds internships have provided mutually beneficial vocational opportunities. The host organization receives free or very cheap labor and the intern receives resume enhancing training and experience.
My personal experience of serving a two year internship in a new church start was foundational to my ministerial career. It not only gave me confidence in my first paid ministry position but, perhaps most importantly, paved the way for that job and the next as well.
Beginning with that first ministry position I have committed myself to help ministry students to develop their call. My internship experience allowed me to practice ministry skills under the mentoring and protection of a pastor. On more than one occasion he stepped between an angry church member and myself; even though I was in the wrong. His point was that I was a novice and our church was to show me grace and prepare me for the mission field. It was not until I had to do the same for one of my own interns that I fully understood the risk he took in protecting me.
Beyond traditional ministry training, Baptist Temple has had the opportunity to work with AARP to provide job training in office and janitorial skills. Furthermore, we wish to provide training in early childhood education and cooking.
Being a learning lab for multicultural ministry in an urban context requires providing a network of experiences that are both mutually supportive and independent. Spiritual formation, life skills, emergency interventions, recreation, health improvement and more all offer opportunities to develop marketable leadership skills.