The 2016 ELI interns. Photo by Linda's Photography
By: Christa Meland
Peter Constantian had felt a nudge toward ministry for a long time, but it was a hands-on internship last summer that he said gave him the confidence to name his calling as ministry.
Constantian was one of seven college students who spent summer 2016 participating in the Minnesota Conference’s Exploring Leadership Internship (ELI) Project. Now in its third year, the internship is designed for those exploring a call to vocational ministry.
Constantian interned at New City Church in Minneapolis, a new church start that’s focused on environmental justice. He was involved in working on a new program through which the church plants fruit trees for neighbors in the hope is that the fruit trees show the abundance of God’s love. He helped establish a timeline for planting, built a budget for the project, and led canvassing efforts to find potential partners.
“Through one-on-one meetings with neighbors and community leaders, participation in vigils for the loss of Philando Castile, and canvassing our neighborhood, New City Church provided me the opportunities to humble myself in the presence of people different from me and to grow in my understanding of God's love,” he said. Constantian is now working on his master of divinity degree at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina.
Applications are being sought for 2017 interns and host churches—and will be accepted through Feb 15 (learn more and apply).
Growing ‘intellectually, spiritually, emotionally’
After gathering for an orientation (May 30-June 2), which will include trips to seminaries and an opportunity to learn about the United Methodist Church, each intern will be placed at a host church or organization for eight weeks (June 4-July 28) and assigned a clergy mentor at that site. Over that period, the host congregation will invite the intern to gain hands-on experience in a wide variety of ministerial contexts—and involve the intern in intentional reading, spiritual formation, and reflective discussions to help him or her hear and discern God’s call. A three-day wrap up (July 30-Aug. 1) at the end of the internship gives students an opportunity to reflect on their experience.
Every 2017 intern will have the opportunity to:
• Preach and/or lead a Bible study
• Plan worship
• Be involved in a social justice or community outreach ministry
• Observe leadership development/discipleship ministry
• Provide pastoral care
“I can confidently say that I grow intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally every day that I spent at my site,” said Isabelle Davies, who interned at Living Spirit United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.
Although Davies doesn’t see herself pursuing vocational ministry, and instead plans to become an elementary school teacher, she said the internship provided a valuable learning experience that she’ll carry with her.
“The biggest thing that I learned is the importance of extending a hand to community members and those in need,” she said. “During the time that I was at Living Spirit, the tragic murder of Philando Castile occurred. I saw how the community pulled together as one to fight for justice and civil rights. I learned the importance of coming together and standing as one during challenging times. I also learned about the power of conversation and listening. Many times we listen to others just to respond, however, it is vital that we listen simply to understand.”
‘A prime leadership development and discipleship opportunity’
Jody Thone, the Minnesota Conference’s new director of leadership development who is heading The ELI Project, points out that the internship provides a great experience for host churches and clergy mentors as well.
“This is a prime leadership development and discipleship opportunity,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for congregations to create a culture of call and gives them practices for identifying and developing leaders on a larger scale.”
Rev. Nate Melcher, associate pastor at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, was a 2015 clergy mentor.
“My intern sought my wisdom on all things ministry and was open to my processing questions and it was wonderful,” he said. “What a blessing it was to bounce ideas off and receive feedback from a person who is on the inside but from the outside.”
The core tenets of the internship won’t change much from the first two years of the program. But Thone is working to integrate deeper communication and more touch points for both interns and clergy mentors throughout the eight weeks of the on-site experience. For example, she’d like for interns to able to connect with each other via video conferencing on a regular basis and for each student to have one fellow intern “learning partner” they check in with frequently.
Interns will receive a $3,000 stipend, $2,000 of which will come from the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry and $1,000 of which the host church is expected to provide.
“The ELI Internship is an incredible opportunity,” said Constantian. “Whether you're considering ordained ministry or just curious what opportunities there might be for engaging community as a Christian leader, the ELI internship will provide an opportunity for exploration, critical self-reflection, and growth. The internship's focus on your learning and spiritual development is consistent from orientation week to the final send off. You will not regret taking this summer to learn more about your church, your faith, and your future.”
Visit The ELI Project website for more information or to apply to be an intern or a host church. You can also stay connected to The ELI Project through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church