Natallie Brown, left, is a youth ministry intern at Divine Unity Community Church this summer. Elizabeth Eby is interning at Ridgeway Mennonite Church. (Photos by Rachel Holderman)

Students sample congregational vocations through ministry internships

For students who want to explore a possible call to ministry, a summer program at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) allows them to experience ministry firsthand. The Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP) is a summer service-learning experience that places students in an eleven week full-time internship with a congregation or congregational setting of their choice.

This year’s Mennonite Church USA MIP participant, Elizabeth Eby, has a varied workload at Ridgeway Mennonite Church this summer: leading worship, preaching, conducting children’s services, and visiting congregants. Eby, who hails from Goshen, Indiana, is double-majoring in peacebuilding and development and Bible, religion, and theology. 

“I’m approaching MIP as an opportunity to further explore any gifts I might have related to pastoral ministry to see how I might best be of service one day. And so far, I’m really enjoying what I’m getting to do,” she said. “I’m excited to keep learning. I look forward to learning through reading, growing relationships, and growing skills such as learning how to structure a sermon.”

Program participants are also expected to delve into books and media relevant to their placement and ministry interests. Eby’s been reading books that her pastor recommended in response to her questions about theology.

“For example, I had some questions about the Christian understanding of Hell and was recommended a podcast and a documentary, Hellbound, on the subject,” she said.

MIP is a program of Mennonite Church USA held in conjunction with Mennonite colleges, conferences and congregations, designed to nurture gifts for ministry in college aged students.

Traditional MIP participants each receive a $2,000 scholarship from the program, to be applied to college or seminary tuition in the next academic year. The scholarship is paid for (jointly) in part by the Mennonite Church USA, the student’s home congregation, the home and host church conferences, and EMU. The host congregation also provides housing and a $500 stipend for living expenses. 

Another EMU student is also engaged in a ministry internship this summer. Natallie Brown, a Bible, religion, and theology major from Bowling Green, Virginia,  is working in youth ministry at Divine Unity Community Church in Harrisonburg.

“My hope through this internship is that an affirmation of my calling will be revealed to me,” Brown said. 

She specifically chose this church because it’s part of the congregational network Every Nation Churches and Ministries, which Brown hopes to work for some day.

“They purposely plant churches in college towns as they believe that leaders are found and formed on campus; I love that,” she said. “Divine Unity Community Church is a product of Every Nation and my internship gives me an opportunity to see a glimpse of what that looks like.”

As a youth ministry intern, Brown plans events and lessons for the church’s young people, and provides childcare for some of the church leaders. 

“The most exciting part about this experience is being able to plan events and create a space that is fun and engaging for our youth to know and grow in Jesus,” she said. “My prayer is that we can build a firm foundation for our youth that will lead them to Jesus and promote community.”

EMU’s faculty MIP director, Carmen Schrock-Hurst of the Bible, religion and theology department said she is “thrilled we were able to arrange two ministry intern placements in this first summer following the intensity of COVID restrictions. It is a blessing that we had students willing to participate, and congregations willing to do so as well.”

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