[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in August 2006. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

Undergraduate Students Sample Ministry from EMS Grads

Katie Chaffinch
Katie Chaffinch helped lead Vacation Bible school at First Mennonite church in Denver. Here she is with Dawson Voth, one of the children who participated in Vacation Bible school.

If experience is the best teacher, then five Eastern Mennonite University students received some excellent first-hand learning experiences in pastoral ministry this summer.

Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) graduates hosted five EMU undergraduate students in the Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP). The seminary graduates, all pastors in Mennonite congregations, helped students test their call to ministry by allowing them to participate in the life and work of their congregations.

MIP offers pastors and congregations specific ways to help students experience leadership in the church. Pastors serve as mentors and examples; students learn by both observing and doing.

Student participants included Katie J. Chaffinch, ('07) from Greenwood, Del., Matt R. Garber ('08) from Elizabethtown, Pa.; Annie E. Johnson ('08), from Lititz, Pa., Seth M. Miller ('07), from Sarasota, Fl, and Brian Hackman ('08), a transfer student from Emmaus, Pa.

EMS graduate host pastors were: Mike Derstine ('89) and Dawn Ranck ('02) who hosted Garber at Plains Mennonite in Lansdale, Pa.; Mark Schloneger ('05) who hosted Johnson at Springdale Mennonite, Waynesboro, Va.; Rachel ('05) and Shawn Gerber ('04) hosted Chaffinch at First Mennonite Church, Denver, Colo.; Mark ('97) and Wendy Wyse Miller ('97) hosted Hackman at Whitestone Mennonite in Hesston, Kan.;, and Elizabeth Nissley ('02) hosted Miller at James Street Mennonite in Lancaster, Pa.

Students experience ministry first hand

These students experienced many of the duties of the pastor, including preaching, helping with vacation Bible school, leading youth activities and visiting elderly members of the congregation.

"I learned that pastoring is much more than preaching," "Garber said. "Some aspects of a pastor's job are appealing to me and some are not. I also learned that this is okay; not every pastor is gifted in everything."

"The experiences where I have learned something have been completely hands- on," said Johnson. "My second week I was active in vacation Bible school; and although children are not my area of gifting, my heart was drawn to these children who were eagerly learning about Christ."

Learning to be the pastor is key

Matt Garber
Pastor Dawn Ranck said, "People in the church, from 1-year-olds to youth to adults enjoy being with Matt." Matt Garber, an EMU student, participated in the Ministry Inquiry program this summer at Plains Mennonite Church in Pa. Dawn Ranck and Mike Derstine, both EMS graduates served as mentors for him in the program.

"One of my goals for Katie [Chaffinch] was that she would really develop a sense of who she is as a ministering person," Rachel Gerber said. "I wanted her to feel like a full-fledged pastor and part of our pastoral team, not just an intern who watched the real stuff from the sidelines."

"Matt [Garber] was an easy fit for our congregation and for our staff," Ranck added. "By week two or three the rest of the staff forgot he was new."

Leadership development is part of the church's work

"An essential part of the church's ministry is encouraging and equipping people to discern and respond to God's call to ministry," Mark Schloneger said. "In a congregational setting, this means providing a space for those who are exploring a call to ministry."

"On a personal level," he continued, "I remember very well those men and women who encouraged and provided counsel to me as I explored God's call to be a pastor. I want to provide the same opportunities to others."

Chaffinch was not always comfortable with her role as minister but felt increasingly confident at the summer progressed. "It was hard at first to believe that I had something to contribute to First Mennonite, especially in just 11 weeks," she commented. "Here I was with these energetic, educated, deeply caring pastors. What could I bring to the table? But over the course of the program I discovered that the congregation was interested in hearing what I had to share."

While the Ministry Inquiry Program gives undergraduate students the opportunity to experience ministry and test their own sense of call and gifts for ministry, they also receive a small scholarship and stipend for participating in the program.

By Laura Lehman Amstutz