More than 100 young adults experience ministry over past 5 years
How does the church prepare a new generation of leaders? in the Pacific District Conference that process involves 100 young adults over the past five years participating in a summer internship program that encourages them to step forward in their faith and their service.
This summer 23 young adults participated in the summer internship program developed by the PDC Board of Leadership Development. The purpose of the program is to assist young adults in honing ministry skills by providing a supportive atmosphere where growth can occur.
“The internship program is an important part of how we want to work at leadership development with the next generation,” says Gary Wall, district minister. “We want to give young men and women the opportunity to test gifts and experience ministry leadership opportunities in a supportive, healthy church environment.”
The program is designed for men and women ages 19 to 25 to serve and learn in a Mennonite Brethren church. According to Wall, the purpose of the age stipulation is to reach students making important life-decisions.
“College-age men and women are making important life decisions with regard to career, marriage and future education,” Wall says. “While some young adults have a crystal clear vision of who they are, who God has made them to be and what God wants them to do, many struggle with finding answers to these questions.
“As a conference of churches, we want to assist in the development of godly leaders, helping them find their way and discover God’s will for their lives,” says Wall.
The paid internship spans three months, and the student is expected to work at least 40 hours per week alongside a supervisor.
“The role of the supervisor is key in the intern’s experience,” Wall says. “Having a seasoned mentor to offer encouragement, guidance and counsel along the way is vital."
Students are mentored in such areas as children’s ministry, youth ministry, music ministry, preaching/teaching ministry and administrative ministry.
“The placement process happens in concert with local church leadership and takes into account the intern’s area of interest and gifting,” Wall says. “We try to stretch our interns, encouraging them to move beyond their area of comfort and try something new and different. For example, some of our interns have had the opportunity to preach, which always improves the intern’s prayer life.”
Two-time intern Melanie Seuss of Lodi, Calif., says that the internship program “is a safe environment to try out new ideas and see what works.”
“One of the speakers at our internship training, Fred Leonard, told us to ‘fail boldly,’” Seuss says. “That became my goal for the summer. You never know what works until you try, and sometimes when you take big risks you fail. It's OK though. God can still create so much out of our failures.”
Seuss served in children’s ministry at her home church, Vinewood Community Church in Lodi.
In order to participate in the program, interns must have a recommendation by their local church leadership. Among other expectations, the intern is required to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ, share a love for the church and desire to learn and grow as a spiritual leader.
For Sheri Warkentin, an intern who served in children’s, youth and college-age ministries at Reedley (Calif.) MB Church, serving the church is a natural part of her faith.
“I participated in the program because I have a passion for the Lord and wanted to do his work,” she says. “I thought that the internship seemed a little intimidating at first, but I knew that it would give me a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes at our church.”
Throughout the summer, Warkentin served in various roles including camp counselor and vacation Bible school leader. At camp, Warkentin said she helped several girls come to Christ.
“While at camp, I was able to bring a few girls to know the Lord, and I know that it was not me who did that,” she says. “I know that the Lord was speaking through me. I felt very honored to be able to talk and encourage the girls in our church to be pure women of integrity.” And Wall says the internship program as a whole is successful.
“We believe the local church is the hope of the world,” he says. “So we are convinced that giving potential church leaders a taste of God’s Kingdom work among His people is an opportunity for the Lord to use these experiences to call forth workers for his harvest.”