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History · Leadership Training · Servant Leadership · Spiritual Formation · Five Values

Based in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC, the Johnson Intern Program (JIP) recruits 8 young-adult men and women (college graduates and young adults with comparable experience ages 21-30) for eleven-month hands-on service placements, leadership training (in the servant leader model), and spiritual formation. Our program is organized around the five values of Communion, Compassion, Co-creation, Collaboration, and Character.

AmeriCorps positions have been available in the past through our affiliation with Catholic Network of Volunteer Services (CNVS). We will be applying to AmeriCorps for part-time (900 hours) Education Awards for our interns, but won't know the status until after April. We are not currently affiliated with AmeriCorps. Our program starts in early August and runs through June.

Our interns receive housing, utilities, a community food allowance, health insurance, plus a modest stipend. A goal of the intern year is to learn to live simply, in alliance with the poor.

The intern residence is a large house within walking distance of many of our intern placements and is convenient to the bus service (which is free). The JIP house is situated in the heart of the lively community of Carrboro, NC, near the community center called Weaver Street Market, and across from the famous Carrboro Farmer’s Market.

The program is organized around the four components of social justice, intentional community living, leadership training, and spiritual formation. Interns work a four-day week in Partner Organizations. A new component places some interns in business with a social justice mission. Our Fridays are reserved for a unique program of spiritual formation and leadership development in the Servant Leader model. The Johnson Intern Program began in 2000 at The Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church, and to date has hosted 51 interns.

JIP Interns come from a wide variety of geographic, ethnic, and spiritual backgrounds (see Alumni). They live in intentional community in the JIP house, create a covenant to guide their experience of living together, and share opportunities for common meals, discussion, and devotion. Interns are expected to volunteer within a local spiritual community of their choosing. They are assigned experienced mentors who serve as a friend and guide for their intern year. Each group of interns designs and completes a service project (called Praxis) for the year.

On Christian Community

JIP has, since its inception, chosen to be a part of AmeriCorps when possible. As such, we are required by law to be open to people of other faiths and to people of no faith. Questions emerge as to the intersection of faith and government in programs such as these. We have found the answers to be sometimes difficult, but we have enjoyed the creative tension that exists at this intersection, and believe that all of us have been enriched by it.

An attorney told us that the test is not “will you” take a person from a different (or no) faith tradition, but “Have you?” JIP has had, almost every year, interns who were from other faith traditions or agnostic—and we always try to choose Christians from varied backgrounds and theological understandings so that we can learn from each other. These diversities have enriched the experiences of all of us tremendously. The Parakaleo tradition, begun by our 2008-2009 interns, has given us the tools to “walk alongside” each other.

We trust that God works in and through people "on the outside” of what any of us define as orthodox, and we only have to read our bibles to discover that fact. Those of us who follow the path of Jesus see that he was an outlier who challenged the mores of his time.

Because JIP was started by and is housed within an Episcopal church, the term "Christian Community" has been used to refer to the interns living together. This term is not meant to be exclusive (as in Christian-only) but to be descriptive...because the model we use for community comes from the Christian monastic tradition. We could also call it "Benedictine Community," because we come most closely to following the rule of St. Benedict.

Using the term "Christian" does not mean "only Christians allowed." Rather it defines our tradition and the focus and foundation of our training in Servant Leadership. But because so many understand the word "Christian" to mean just such exclusion, we’ve come to use the phrase “Intentional Community” instead. Within this context our hope is that the doctrines that tend to divide us can become avenues for understanding, and that we will each make the long journey from the head to the heart to discover that it is there that we are united in one infinite heart.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who has written eloquently on community life, said that He who loves community destroys community; he who loves people builds community." We have experienced this as truth. The love of ideals-- community, faith, and justice-- fails. But the act of loving each other in and through our mutual brokenness is the place from which justice rolls down and community and faith flourish.


In 1998 Margaret (Callie) Johnson bequeathed her estate to The Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill, NC. To meet the need for more young adult ministries, the Johnson Intern Program was established and began operation in 2000. In 2005 The Johnson Intern Program became a non-profit corporation and established a Servant Leadership school for the interns and other community members. In 2007 our class increased to 8 interns.

Our classes of interns have represented Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Missionary Baptist, Evangelical, Quaker, Mennonite, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist denominations.

Leadership Training

Leadership development takes place on most Fridays during the eleven-month intern year. Leadership training encompasses the participative leadership of the
Servant-Leader model, explores issues of social justice and inequality, and incorporates skill-based practices that employ leadership principles in real-life settings. Leadership is examined through the experience of community living, on the job in the placement sites, and through the development and implementation of the Praxis project. Anyone with a free google account can view our google calendar - johnson.intern@gmail.com.

Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership was initially conceived by Robert K. Greenleaf, whose
Greenleaf Center is still guiding organizations to view leadership as a power-with as opposed to a power-over model.

The concepts of Servant Leadership were brought into a context of faith by Bennet Sims in Atlanta, Gordon Cosby in Washington, DC, and Tim Patterson in Greensboro, NC. Servant Leadership is a style that empowers others. It is organized around three instinctive centers that reside in each of us; the centers that seek security, esteem, and control.

Servant Leadership is about discovering our true selves, understanding and owning our shadow-sides, and moving towards an authentic self that is in communion with creation, is compassionate with ourselves and others, and is in alignment with divine power and purpose. We explore the tenets of Servant Leadership through the sacred texts that have shaped our society. The initial course in Servant Leadership is taught each fall to a class composed of Johnson Interns and other members of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community.

Spiritual Formation

Our focus on spiritual formation has been enhanced by a generous grant from the Trinity Wall Street Grants Program. The three-year grant allowed us to develop a program for young adults that is based on Servant Leadership and which emphasizes the inward journey through regular spiritual practice.

Five Values Communion. I am committed to a regular, transformative, centering practice of spirituality and I intend to live the moments of my life increasingly present to life and awake to who I am called to be.
Compassion. I confess my own humanity and acknowledge the heart connection I have with all who share the human condition. I see the light of creation in every person. I embrace people who are different than me, because I understand that we are all one.
Co-Creation. I hear a voice of truth above the clamor of the dominant culture, a voice that asks me to question my culture's assumptions and beliefs. As a servant leader I align my life with this truth and engage with others to be co-creative instruments of justice and peace.
Collaboration. I trust in the abundance of creation to provide all that is needed, so that individuals and groups can collaborate instead of compete. I strive to engage others in full participation and lead in such a way that builds leadership in others.
Character. I am truly accountable to those served and approach opportunities for change with awareness of community assets. I meet commitments on time and act responsibly with public and personal trust. I am accountable for my words and actions.


Johnson Intern Program · Chapel Hill, NC 27514 · P: 919-442-2568 · · Find Us on Facebook