By: Christa Meland
When Allison Schwarz took her first mission trip to South Dakota just before seventh grade, she led the evening devotion—and it prompted fellow students to give her the nickname “Pastor Allison.” That experience planted a seed that perhaps pastoral ministry was what she was called to do.
“From then on, my love for helping others and making relationships grew,” said Schwarz, a member of Le Sueur UMC and a college student at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. “I went on four more mission trips and volunteered every chance I could. Serving in Tennessee, South Dakota, South Carolina, and my hometown allowed me to see God in a multitude of people and places.”
Today, Schwarz is even more confident that God is calling her to be a pastor, and she looks forward to spending this summer discerning that call and trying out pastoral ministry in a church setting. Specifically, she’s eager to practice delivering a message, exploring styles of prayer, and seizing opportunities to share her faith with others.
Schwarz is one of four college students who will spend June and July participating in a hands-on learning experience through the Exploring Leadership Internship (ELI) Project. Each intern will be assigned to a host church and paired with a clergy mentor at that church. The ELI Project, now in its fourth year, aligns with the conference’s desire to create a culture of call that actively encourages young adults to explore how God is calling them to build the kingdom.
After gathering for orientation at Annual Conference in St. Cloud from May 29-June 1, each intern will spend the next two months at his or her host church and gain experience in a wide variety of ministerial contexts. All 2018 interns will have the opportunity to:
• Preach and/or lead a Bible study or devotional
• Plan worship
• Be involved in a social justice or community outreach ministry
• Observe leadership development/discipleship ministry
• Provide pastoral care
Jordyn Yourczek, another 2018 ELI intern, accepted Christ into her heart at Mountain T.O.P., a nonprofit Christian ministry in Tennessee. Her time as a camper was so impactful, in fact, that she eventually served on the ministry’s summer staff.
Yourczek is pursuing physical therapy as a vocation, but she has wondered if God has a different plan for her.
“Although I feel that God is calling me to go into physical therapy, I still feel a tug towards ministry,” she said. “Through this internship position, I am hoping to explore opportunities in the church, learn more about my strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, grow in my relationship with God.”
Earlier this year, college students and local churches were invited to apply to participate in the ELI Project this summer. A team of clergy and laity selected interns and host churches from the pool of applicants. 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.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church