For Tim Pfennigwerth, spending his teenage years at a church with only a handful of kids his age turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to him.
“God knew what He was doing,” Tim says. “There were a bunch of people there who were much older than me and yet quite genuinely interested in who I was and what I was doing, and it was really special. I felt quite loved. And I was encouraged there to go to Presbyterian Youth—that’s kind of where my faith grew legs, I think.”
Tim, who lives in Newcastle with his wife and son, is part of Grace Presbyterian Church. Alongside his photography work, and also studying part-time at SMBC, Tim co-coordinates the Lead for Life (L4L) Internship.
What is Lead for Life?
L4L is an internship for young adults with three components: one week of residential intensive teaching at a PY Summer Camp, 12 months of ministry and mentoring in a local church, and leading a small camp on a PY camp.
“I think it’s a pathway of maturity in your Christian faith,” Tim explains. “I’m thinking specifically of young people. Maybe you’ve been a member of a church for a while. Maybe you went to kids church and then maybe after that you went to youth group and now maybe you’re reaching the end of that and you’re wondering what comes next—and you don’t just want to sleepwalk off into whatever the next phase of life is—then a Lead for Life Internship is a way to seriously engage with your faith and the ways that you could deepen and mature it.”
Tim describes the L4L internship as a “neat little package.” In his experience, by the end of the 12-month period, an intern usually has a clearer idea of where they’re heading the following year.
“If you go to summer camp on the internship, do the intensive week, spend the year being mentored and serving and living, and then come back 12 months later as a leader—that’s a fun way to fully close that loop,” Tim says, “Karen, one of our coordinators, invites us to think about a LEGO minifigure. She talks about taking the camper head off the minifigure, and putting on a new ‘leader’ head. The intensive week is to do that switch — taking off and putting on. And then the next year is like growing into that.”
Why Lead for Life?
As a teenager, Tim started attending PY camps as soon as he was old enough.
“I was totally enamoured with it,” he admits.
After Tim’s older brother did the L4L internship—and loved it—Tim applied for himself after he graduated high school.
“I did my HSC, and didn’t do schoolies, and then went to Summer Camp and did the internship,” Tim says. “It was so good for me. I made some lifelong friends and it really changed who I was. It set me on a path that was good—and very different from where I think I otherwise might have ended up. It introduced me to serving in church, introduced me to being mentored and the joys of that.”
Fast forward a number of years later, and Tim is still raving about L4L. He sees it as a crucial way to keep young adults plugged into their local church.
“We lose a lot of people in the church where we’ve put seams,” Tim explains. “We’ve put a seam between kids church and youth group. We’ve put a seam between youth group and night church, and then you put a seam between night church and morning church. The one between youth group and church is significant, and we lose a lot of people. We don’t really have a plan for them. We’re not quite sure how to integrate them. They’re at a time where their mind is ready to start thinking about the more serious things. They’re at an age where they’re maturing in lots of other ways. And I think the internship is a really great answer to that problem.”
Tim considers it a privilege to see the way the Lord works in and through the L4L interns each year.
“I think if you are feeling lukewarm in your church and you want to be more connected and involved, you should do it, because you’ll get a mentor and you can get in your ministry and it’s a great experience,” Tim says. “I think if something is really important to you, then you should make time for it. And if you want to be serious about your faith, I think you should make time for it. And maybe that’s something else, but maybe it’s the internship.”
Check out more info about L4L here.