Eastern Mennonite University rising seniors (from left) Wes Wilder, Daniel Barnhart and Rachel Schrock will participate in the Ministry Inquiry Program this summer, with rising junior Jeremiah Knott (below). (Photo by Lindsey Kolb)

Students discern leadership gifts in summer-long Ministry Inquiry Program

Answering a call, following a hunch, listening to your heart – four Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) students, each with a different way of expressing what they are heeding in their faith journey, will spend 11 weeks this summer exploring the ministry profession through the Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP).

The students are rising junior Jeremiah Knott and rising seniors Daniel Barnhart, Rachel Schrock and Wes Wilder.

“I’m excited about the unique gifts and talents of each MIP student, and about the opportunities for experiential learning they will encounter,” said Carmen Schrock-Hurst, MIP director and instructor of Bible and religion at EMU. “Ministry gifts and skills are best tested and learned within the context of real life, not simply in a classroom. MIP provides a safe way for students to explore their interest in ministry.”

More than 300 students have participated in the MIP program, a partnership that includes the student’s respective Mennonite college, the student’s home congregation, the student’s home and host area conferences, the congregation where the student is in ministry, and Mennonite Church USA Denominational Ministry.

At the end of the program, each student receives a scholarship of up to $2,000 toward tuition costs at a Mennonite college or seminary for the next academic year, along with a $500 stipend for living expenses from the host congregation.

A student’s placement depends on “his or her own interests in size and type of congregation, the availability of a congregation and pastoral mentor, and a fit between the intern and the host congregation,” said Schrock-Hurst.

Taking action on their calling           

This summer’s MIP participants include three students enrolled in religious studies at EMU.

Daniel Barnhart, from Grottoes, Virginia, is a congregation and youth ministries major who will serve with his home congregation of Mt. Olive Brethren Church in McGaheysville. He has been interning this last semester with RISE, a United Methodist faith community in Harrisonburg.

Barnhart says he is participating in MIP “for the simple reason that I feel this is a call from God, but like any of us, I am tempted by the outside world,” he said, adding that this summer will “help me determine if I want to be a pastor.”

He looks forward to returning to his home church with the new intellectual skills and knowledge he’s acquired at EMU, he said, and with a new interest in liberal and conservative biblical views.

Wesley Wilder, of Hesston, Kansas, is a double major in psychology and Bible and religion. The firsthand experience he’ll gain at Journey Mennonite Church in South Hutchinson, Kansas, will help him discern his path, he says. Wilder knows he’ll be working primarily with youth, joining them for the trip to the Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

Jeremiah Knott-JS
Jeremiah Knott will serve with two churches in his hometown of Elkton, Virginia. (Photo by Jon Styer)

“I look forward to preaching a sermon and jumping into whatever the congregation asks of me,” he said. “I am most looking forward to finding my own niche in ministry and learning more about what I have to offer the church.”

His home congregation is Whitestone Mennonite Church in Hesston.

Jeremiah Knott, of Elkton, Virginia, will serve at his home congregation, Faith Alive Fellowship, as well as the church he was raised in, Bethel United Church of Christ. For many years a professional musician, Knott plays guitar, sings and writes songs on the Faith Alive worship team.

A Bible and religion major who plans on going into the ministry and pursuing graduate studies, Knott says the MIP opportunity appeared while he was waiting to visit a professor during office hours.

“I saw the flier [for MIP] and I had a hunch and I listened to my hunch,” he said. “I’ve always known since I was about 13 that I was supposed to go into ministry, so I’ve had a calling, but now I’m taking action on a calling.”

Fresh lens in a spiritual setting

Rising senior Rachel Schrock, an art major, says her interest in MIP came from a “Divine moment,” while speaking during a winter break church service about her cross-cultural experience.

“It felt electrifyingly right,” Schrock said, adding that the decision to explore ministry was encouraged by her family and close friend Hanna Heishman, who participated in MIP last summer.

Schrock will head to her home state of Iowa, dividing her time between Crooked Creek Christian Camp in Washington and her home congregation of First Mennonite Church of Iowa City.

“It will be a new experience for me – entering a community that I am already familiar, with a fresh lens,” she says. “I want to see the ins and outs of leadership within a spiritual setting.”

Schrock looks forward to mentorship from two female leaders she already knows well, the spiritual director at the camp and the pastor of her home church. She’ll spend her summer organizing a children’s peace camp, working in the office, giving a few sermons, and making visits to people in hospitals, retirement homes and home care.