Home EMU program allows students to serve a congregation, explore ministry

EMU program allows students to serve a congregation, explore ministry


20160425-Ministry Inquiry Program-003Adrienne Derstine spent a gap year in New Mexico after high school, so when it came time to select a location for her Ministry Inquiry Program placement, the decision was clear.

In June, Derstine, a rising junior at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), traveled from her home in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, to serve in Albuquerque Mennonite Church under the supervision of Pastor Tom Kauffman.

There, she’s experiencing a bit of what it might be like to work as a pastor, a new career prospect for this peacebuilding and development major.

Experimenting is part of the point of MIP, an 11-week summer internship sponsored by Mennonite Church USA. Students serve in congregations to experience church leadership from preaching to pastoral care.  Mennonite Church USA provides a stipend to students, who can also receive credits. The program attracts many Bible and religion majors, but students in any major can participate.


‘Hands-on’ experience

For the past six years, the program at EMU has been directed by Carmen Schrock-Hurst, an instructor in the Bible and Religion Department. She speaks highly of MIP’s potential to teach students about ministry.

“Rather than just sit in a classroom talking about church leadership, or mentoring, or working with youth, MIP lets students get out there and experience ministry first-hand with an actual congregation and actual people,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

Much of that personal growth is driven by the unique format of MIP. Each day is different: Students might lead worship, preach, observe committee meetings, shadow pastors on pastoral care visits, attend church events and fill in gaps in pastoral staff. This opportunity gives students an accurate image of the diverse duties of a pastor.

While Derstine headed across the United States for her internship, the second student participating this summer stayed closer to home.


Serving in urban ministry

Christina Hershey, a rising senior from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, is serving with Whitehall Mennonite Church. A ministry major, she’s shadowed pastors for classes and participated in camp ministry in the past, “but I wanted to experience church ministry in a congregational setting.”

At Whitehall Mennonite Church, Hershey works with Pastor Rose Bender, an adjunct faculty member at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

Though she has had a positive experience, Hershey has encountered a few unexpected challenges.

“One of the most difficult parts for me has been adjusting to a new community and situation. I was unconsciously expecting it to be fast-paced and crazy busy like my camp experience, but I have had to learn to take it at a slower pace, to enjoy the downtime and to listen to what God is leading me to here.”

Derstine has enjoyed seeing connections between her peacebuilding and development studies and the possibility of a career in ministry. “I was not explicitly interested in becoming a pastor,” she said, “but I saw a series of connections between peacebuilding and the work that pastors and other ministry leaders do. After taking part in MIP, I can envision a future in being a pastor as I never did before.”



Some MIP participants do not have much in common besides their interest in ministry, but this summer’s participants share several experiences. They both participated in Service Adventure after high school — Derstine in New Mexico and Hershey in Raleigh, North Carolina — and they are both transfer students from Hesston College.

“In my years as MIP coordinator, I have had several Hesston transfer students,” Schrock-Hurst said. “The Hesston program has prepared students well for congregational ministry.”

Schrock-Hurst also had plenty of praise for Hershey and Derstine in particular.

“Christina and Adrienne are receiving extremely positive feedback,” she said. “They are young women who are mature beyond their years and are contributing a great deal to their placements.”

Story by Caleb Schrock-Hurst



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