2014 Greater Northwest Area Ministry Interns. From left, Amanda Nicol, Rachael Phelps, Ryan Scott.

By Patrick Scriven | Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministries

[dropcap type=”1″]O[/dropcap]ne of the most significant things we can do as church is help people to understand their calling, that interesting and unique intersection between their God-given gifts and the needs of a broken world. When people find this niche, their passion is kindled and their interest and investment of time is affirmed by a fruitfulness relevant to the particular calling.

A couple weeks back, the Lewis Center released their latest report on clergy age trends. You can read that report here. It again affirmed the need for the church to address the painful reality that very few young people are choosing ordained ministry.

[pull_quote_right]I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to explore and discern the call to ministry alongside such a welcoming and dedicated community of people that shares a deep desire to develop and live out the mission of Christ’s church in the world. – Amanda Nicol[/pull_quote_right]Of course, these aren’t unrelated threads but they are ones that are sometimes mis-woven into each other. Calling is often misunderstood as something solely for the select few who would become pastors or spiritual directors of some sort, rather than something each and every Christian must work out with, as they say, fear and trembling.

In 2012, the United Methodist General Conference moved to create a $7 million Young Clergy Initiative fund “designed to “increase the number of young clergy among the jurisdictional conferences.” The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) was asked to administrate it and set up a granting process. Our Greater Northwest Episcopal Area was successful, thanks to the efforts of PNW Associate David Reinholz, and key staff of the OR-ID and PNW Annual Conferences, in securing a $100,000 grant to launch internships in our area. You can read more about that here.

According to Reinholz, “The Ministry Internship Project is one piece of a more comprehensive effort to create a “culture of call” in the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area. Local churches, districts, and the conferences must make it our business to identify, recruit, and affirm the call of the next generation of visionary lay and clergy leaders for the church. Leadership development is the linchpin for the revitalization of The United Methodist Church.”

Our first cohort of interns

In response to the area-wide invitation to participate, several young adults and a number of churches applied to be a part of our initial round of pastoral internships. Chosen interns would have the opportunity to experience first-hand ministry in the church and in the world. After interviews, conversations, and prayerful deliberation, the following matches were made for internships that started September 15th and will conclude on, or around, June 15th, 2015:

  • Ryan Scott, a young adult from Springfield, Oregon will serve at the Valley and Mountain spiritual community in the Hillman City neighborhood of Seattle, WA, alongside Rev. John Helmiere.
  • Amanda Nicol, a young adult from Spokane, Washington, will serve at Gresham United Methodist Church in Gresham, Oregon, alongside Rev. Dr. Steven Lewis.
  • Rachael Phelps, a young adult from Seattle, Washington, will serve at Audubon Park United Methodist Church in Spokane, Washington, alongside Rev. Geoff Helton.

The most difficult piece in the process came in matching the young adults with a faith community as the project had a number of excellent, willing host churches they couldn’t use.

The first group of ministry interns, representatives from the local ministries they'll serve, and program staff gathered at the PNW Conference Office in September. Photo by Patrick Scriven.
The first group of ministry interns, representatives from the local ministries they’ll serve, and program staff gathered at the PNW Conference Office in September. Photo by Patrick Scriven.

Recently the interns gathered at the Pacific Northwest Conference Office in Des Moines, Washington to meet with representatives from the local churches where they would be serving, discuss goals for the year, and begin to develop relationships with the other members of this first ministry intern cohort. In addition to the support of a mentor pastor in the setting they serve, each intern will have the intentional support of laity, access to an outside spiritual director, and a weekly check-in with their cohort.

What we hope to learn together

As a Greater Northwest Area, we are hoping to learn from this yearlong experiment in internships. We already know from their wide use that internships can be a highly effective way of helping individuals to discern vocation. We are also hoping it is an effective vehicle to nurture and reinvigorate and understanding of the church as a place where call is regularly discussed and explored for people of all ages. We’ll also work with a shorter term model over the summer of 2015 so we can compare each model and impact other churches and ministry settings

[pull_quote_left]This opportunity and space to explore what it is to work in ministry is a dream come true. I hope to come out of the experience with a smile on my face, a satisfied heart, and a dose of clarity on the direction to which I am called. – Rachael Phelps[/pull_quote_left]Through our United Methodist connection, churches that never meet these young folks can also learn from their experiences. On a monthly basis they’ll be sharing their experiences with us here in a variety of ways. We hope you’ll come back to read and share their reflections on a school year spent in service and discernment.

Success is a tricky thing to measure in a time when we are in great need of new leadership. A good environment for vocational discernment can never have a predetermined end fixated on solving an institutional need. Just as healthy local churches can find space for new people with distinct gifts and ministry passion, this project will be successful not in funneling young people toward ordination but in helping them to best understand where their gifts and passions will lead toward fruitful ministry and where they won’t.

Please pray for our interns and for the lovely settings that will be blessed by them. If you have any questions about the Ministry Internship Project, or would like to offer support, please contact David Reinholz, Patrick Scriven, or Teri Tobey.


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