ELI Project seeks interns, host churches for 2020

February 13, 2020

By: Karla Hovde

Christina Johnson knew she was called to ministry, but it wasn’t until a hands-on internship last summer that she found the confidence to pursue a career as a pastor.

“The ELI Project got me started with tools, skills, and experiences to confidently move towards a career in ministry,” she said. “I was full of hesitation before my internship about my call, whereas now, I am much more confident in myself and in my call.”

Johnson is one of seven college students who spent summer 2019 exploring vocational ministry through the Minnesota Conference’s Exploring Leadership Internship (ELI) Project.

Johnson plans to participate in a second summer of exploring her call through “ELI 2.0”—an expansion of the internship program designed for returning ELI interns to explore ministry in a new way. In the fall, she plans to either start classes at Wartburg Theological Seminary or take a gap year before seminary to take part in Young Adults in Global Mission, a Lutheran international service program.

Applications are being sought for 2020 interns and host churches—and will be accepted through March 2. Learn more and apply.

Last summer, ELI Intern Christina Johnson gained confidence that God is calling her to pastoral ministry.

What is The ELI Project?

Through the ELI Project, up to 10 college students are placed in Minnesota United Methodist host churches for 10 weeks in the summer. Over that period, the host congregation invites the intern to gain hands-on experience by preaching and/or leading a Bible study, planning worship, becoming involved in a social justice or community outreach ministry, observing leadership development/discipleship ministry at the host site, and providing pastoral care. Each intern is paid a $3,000 stipend. By being involved in a wide variety of ministerial contexts, the intern has a taste-and-see experience of what it really means to be a pastor at a local church.

“To my fellow college students interested in ministry, The ELI Project is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a congregation and get a taste of what working in ministry is like,” said Johnson. “The people you will encounter are warm and welcoming and excited to partner in your learning and discernment.”

Raising future leaders

The ELI Project is now in its sixth year—and Director of Leadership Development Jody Thone, who leads the program, said the Minnesota Conference is seeing the success of the program as former interns pursue seminary education and become pastors.
Some former interns include:
  • David Hodd, 2015 intern, now a licensed local pastor at Gethsemane UMC in Lino Lakes
  • Lee Miller, 2015 intern, who is finishing seminary and preparing to be commissioned in the Minnesota Conference
  • Hannah Lundberg, 2017 intern, who is attending seminary
  • Anthony Windau, 2018 intern, who is attending seminary
  • Christina Johnson, 2019 intern, who plans to attend seminary
  • Jon Mehlhaus, 2017 intern, who plans to attend seminary
  • Ruthie Olson, 2017 intern, who plans to attend seminary
  • Allison Schwarz, 2018 and 2019 intern, who declared her candidacy as an elder in the Minnesota Conference and plans to attend seminary
Mehlhaus has been accepted to two seminaries and plans to pursue prison chaplaincy or earn a Ph.D. in systematic theology. Mehlhaus affirmed The ELI Project as a pivotal step in his discernment process.
“All of this would have seemed far-fetched and a lot more nerve-wracking without getting a chance to test out congregational ministry” through The ELI Project, he said.

ELI 2.0

Participating in ELI 2.0 made a significant impact in Allison Schwarz's life. 
ELI 2.0 is now in its second year. Whereas regular ELI interns take a deep dive within a single host congregation, ELI 2.0 interns gain a conference-wide perspective of ministry, visit a variety of churches, and help mentor the first-time interns. ELI 2.0 interns receive a $3,500 stipend.
Schwarz, who participated in ELI 2.0 last summer, said the lessons she learned through both of her years of internships have stayed with her—and the relationships she formed have made a significant impact on her life.
“From chaperoning mission trips to preaching to learning about social organizing, the range of experiences were prized memories and have been crucial to my discernment,” she said. “I left the ELI Project both summers feeling like I had extended my family.”

How you can help

The success of the ELI Project hinges on the partnership between local churches and the Minnesota Conference. Local congregations do the vital work of recognizing and encouraging disciples who are discerning a call to ordained ministry, and the Minnesota Conference offers those young people the space and the tools to discern that call. The ELI Project is an important and effective part of our shared work to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
Do you know students who are considering a call to ordained ministry? Do you see leadership skills and a desire to reach new people and heal a broken world in the young people around you? Help raise up these young leaders. Encourage them to apply for The ELI Project!
  • E-mail or text the college-aged students you know, inviting them to learn about The ELI Project and apply for an internship: www.eliprojectmn.com
  • Share Facebook and Instagram posts from The ELI Project.
  • Get the word out about The ELI Project in your bulletins, newsletters, and announcement boards.
  • Apply to be a clergy mentor and host congregation for The ELI Project.
Applications for interns and for host churches close March 2.

Karla Hovde is the communications specialist for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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(612) 870-0058