By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Exemplary college and seminary students interested in addressing today’s cultural issues from a biblical perspective have the opportunity to become directly involved in issues that impact millions of people through the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We offer volunteer internships, providing students hands-on experience in the fields of communications, public policy and administration,” shared Bobby Reed, who directs the program.
Noting that an internship can be a tremendously formative experience for students as they prepare for their careers, Reed shared that the ERLC seeks to design each experience around the individual’s gifts and interests.
“Our staff is committed to the success of each intern and will mentor him or her during the internship program and beyond,” he added, explaining there are internships available for qualified students throughout the year in both ERLC’s Nashville, Tenn., and Washington D.C. offices.
The ERLC office in Washington is located at just four blocks from the Capitol in a house called the Leland House, named for John Leland, a Baptist minister who championed the cause of religious liberty in colonial America.
There, the ERLC interacts with senators and members of the House of Representatives on a daily basis to urge their support for issues that relate to faith and family.
Clifton Drake had just graduated from law school at Georgetown University when he decided to pursue an internship with the ERLC in 2008. Placed through the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a ministry of the Alliance Defense Fund, Drake spent six weeks in ERLC’s D.C. office working on public policy issues of interest to Christians.
The main issues that summer ranged from global warming to broadcast indecency to internet gambling and FDA’s regulatory authority over the use of tobacco.
“I could not believe the types of things I was able to do,” shared Drake, a prosecuting attorney in Florida. He attended Senate hearings, took notes and even debated policy with staffers, exposing them to the SBC’s positions.
“From Day One, I got to interact with really high profile cases and people,” he said, explaining that he read the existing bills, analyzed them and presented them to Barrett Duke, vice president for Public Policy and Research with the ERLC, who manages the D.C. office.
In return, Drake received an interesting insight into the political process, particularly with the Christian perspective.
As a 20-something student, he found himself constantly marveling, “I can’t believe they’re letting me do this! I am actually debating public policy for the SBC!”
In addition to his other responsibilities, Drake drafted letters and action alerts, including content for ERLC’s 2008 “40/40 Prayer Vigil” that focused 40 days of prayer on personal, church and national spiritual revival.
In a similar way, Natalie (Kaspar) Bunch’s work involved a lot of research and personal interviews. In ERLC’s Tennessee office, located downtown Nashville, she observed the editing and recording of the “Richard Land Live” radio program hosted by ERLC President Richard Land.
Serving as an intern while a student at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, Bunch said, “The ERLC got me out of the college-writing bubble and into the bigger ministry bubble.”
Now a freelance writer for the “Upstream Collective,” a nonprofit organization that challenges churches to be more missions-minded, Bunch remembers how hard it was at first to interview nationally known figures, such as Vicki Courtney (author of “5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter” and “Your Girl”).
“I remember being terrified, but now it’s just part of my job,” said Bunch, who once served as an International Mission Board Journeyman and continues to write for the IMB on a freelance basis. “The ERLC was a great stepping stone for me—and for me to learn how to do things well.”
Brandon Bryant also helped research news stories for ERLC’s radio programs. While involved in the technical editing, he gained great experience in media “that I wouldn’t have had otherwise” during his internship as a student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
He now serves at “Overseas Radio and Television,” a nonprofit Christian multimedia company in Taiwan that uses magazines, radio and television to teach English and to share Christ with the Taiwanese and the greater Chinese population.
Bryant said it was the unexpected blessing of a mentorship at ERLC that propelled him into ministry. He credits most of his growth to the long talks he shared with his host family member, Harold Harper, executive vice president of the ERLC.
“It was the coolest experience, much more than the job itself,” he shared, explaining that Jesus was very apparent in Harper’s life. “In our discussions about personal life matters, Harold was instrumental in helping me grow spiritually.”
Reed urges students interested in current social, moral, and public policy issues to give serious, prayerful consideration to the opportunity of an ERLC internship.
Applicants should provide the following: résumé, brief personal testimony (page or less about spiritual journey and passions), paragraph about goals and expectations of an internship, time frame of availability (spring, summer, or fall) and samples of writing abilities.
These items may be sent electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, contact Reed at 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, TN 37203 or (615) 782-8407.
For more information, visit online at www.erlc.com and click on the internship tab.