How the RUF Internship Changed My Life: Thoughts from a Current Campus Minister

Nate Bower  |  July 16, 2018

Leading Up to the Internship
“I think I want to do college ministry…Is that even a job?” I sat in my dad’s office at the end of my senior year in college, ready to head into my Super Senior victory lap. I was finishing my degree in biology and had just come to terms with the fact that I was no longer interested in the medical field. God was calling me to ministry, leaving me both terrified and clueless. I had never considered ministry as a career before and had no idea what it took to even start to pursue it. My dad then told me about RUF, which didn’t exist in Ohio at that point, and sent me to talk to his former RUF campus minister, Bebo Elkin. I spent several weeks talking with Bebo about ministry, calling, and RUF. He recommended I apply to this thing called “the RUF internship.” My life hasn’t been the same since.

During the Internship
The RUF Internship kept me from becoming a performance based, ego driven, narcissistic pastor by allowing me to learn, experience and engage in the real-life work of ministry with appropriate checks and balances. I depended on the financial partnership of dozens of other people and churches; my work was overseen by an ordained campus minister, an area coordinator and a presbytery; the study program and staff training required me to structure my ministry responsibilities based upon biblical principles and not personal preferences. Needless to say, there was a lot of structure and growth.

While serving as an intern, I discovered that I wasn’t the best thing since sliced bread. I learned that God didn’t finish working on me when he saved my soul in college—He was only just getting started. Students that I developed relationships with became more to me that ego boosters, ministry projects, and stepping stones. They became souls that I learned from, cared about, and wept over. My campus minister, Chad Smith, with incredible patience, gentleness, and humility showed me what it looks like to put down the gospel of self-improvement and to preach only the Gospel of Jesus.

Overall, the internship really helped me understand what gifts I had in ministry, confirming both outwardly and inwardly that this is something God was calling me towards. It also made pursuing seminary financially feasible due to scholarships offered to RUF interns by many institutions.

After the Internship
Going into seminary having that practical experience, not only doing ministry as a full-time job but living and growing as a Christian in the midst of full-time ministry, was invaluable. It kept me from focusing solely on myself and my studies while in school, reminding me that ministry is about other people as well.

However, the biggest impact that the internship had on my life has been the community it connected me to in the form of fellow RUF interns, campus ministers, and staff. They are the only reason a kid from Akron, Ohio, ever ended up making it through the internship, seminary, and now five years of campus ministry with RUF at the University of Akron. This community forces me to deal with sin in my life and is a continual conduit for the grace of Jesus. When I am scared of support raising, depressed because of ministry difficulties, or rejoicing in the midst of ministry success, these dear brothers and sisters in Christ keep me grounded by pointing me to God.

Should You Apply for the Internship?
If you are reading this and thinking about applying for the RUF internship I want you to know that it is not going to be easy. You will have more responsibility than you know what to do with. You are going to be tempted in ways that you will never see coming. You will fail epically…and through it all you will not be alone. God knows that you can’t do ministry on your own. He will use the internship to connect you to a group of fellow sinner-saints that will walk alongside you through life, always pointing you to the hope and strength found in our risen Savior. They will rejoice with you, pray with you, and weep with you. So don’t be scared. Step out in faith and be prepared to have your life changed for the better…forever.