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Grassroots intern program to launch this summer

Young adults serving in Detroit

Know a young adult with gifts for service or ministry? Become a host site and encourage their call through the Michigan Conference’s new Connexion young adult intern program.

Content Editor

You know them — young adults with a passion for service or a heart for ministry. They go to your church, volunteer at your camp or nonprofit, or are active members of your campus ministry. Plus, you’ve had a gut feeling that God is calling them to something more.

This summer, the Michigan Conference is launching a brand-new young adult intern program — Connexion — as a grassroots strategy to help churches and other United Methodist ministry sites and nurture young adults with gifts and graces in their own communities. Rooted in Wesleyan theology, Connexion will also build weekly gatherings with other interns into the program to offer spiritual development, discernment opportunities, and support.

This 8-week internship is for post-high school young adults aged 18 to 27. There will be a three-day leadership development training event they will be required to attend in late May before their internship begins. Intern applications are due May 1, 2024. Click here to apply.

Michigan United Methodist congregations and affiliated camps, campus ministries, and nonprofits that wish to host a young adult at their ministry site and provide mentorship and discernment for 8 weeks should respond as soon as possible. Applications for sites are due April 1, 2024. Click here to apply.

The Michigan Conference has a rich history of nurturing young adult leaders with a variety of programs. Connexion is the latest incarnation in a long line of formational programming started by our conference. Read more about previous young adult programs in this article.

As a young adult, Rev. Elizabeth Hurd, pastor of West Bloomfield UMC, is grateful for the experiences she’s had on her discernment path. She remembers the words of a trusted older adult who nudged her toward discernment and an internship that eventually led to ordained ministry.

Elizabeth Hurd and intern friend
In the summer of 2015, Rev. Elizabeth Hurd (right) served as a Mission Intern with the Kid’s Discovery Network at Port Huron: First UMC. This day camp began with the intention of giving neighborhood children a safe place to go during the day while also sharing God’s love with them. She is pictured with Rev. Ruth VanderSande, a fellow intern. Hurd recalls, “A fun fact is that summer was a reconnection for Ruth and me, as Port Huron: First was my home church, and it was her family’s home church before her father went into ministry himself. After that summer, Ruth and I couldn’t get rid of each other! We were in the same candidacy exploration group, were commissioned the same year, and were ordained the same year. That summer launched a lifelong ministry partnership and friendship for us.” ~ photo courtesy Elizabeth Hurd

She says, “The late Rev. Terry Gladstone looked at me and said, ‘I have a feeling I’ll see you get ordained one day.’ But she didn’t just leave it at that statement. She made sure I had opportunities to test out ministry through camp counseling and by steering me toward the Mission Intern Program.”

Hurd says ordination is just one way of being in ministry, and those who know of young adults with potential should think outside the box. Connexion is open to vocational discernment of various kinds.

“There are also many folks called to be strong, active lay people,” she explains. “If you’re looking at a young adult, don’t limit yourself to wondering whether they would make a good ‘pastor.’ Broaden the definition of ministry for yourself. Think, ‘Would this person make a strong missionary? A strong lay leader? Do I see them active and engaged and excited about being in ministry, no matter what that looks like?’”

Connexion is different from recent intern programs created by the Michigan Conference (Mission Intern, EncounterMICall, and Ministry Exploration) in two primary ways. For one, it has a more grassroots feel in that churches or ministry sites (camp, nonprofit, campus ministry) will work with young adults to identify and help them reach their goals. Rather than interns being matched with a site with a predetermined work plan, each internship will flex and be customized to the needs of the young adult. This also means the focus will be on a broader call to vocation, more than just those called to ordained ministry.

The other big difference is the intentional weekly gatherings for Connexion interns. Hurd explains how this differs from her experience. With the Mission Intern Program, the only other interns she could get together with regularly were those assigned to her site. “So, this regular connection with other interns and with leaders,” she says, “is really great.”

Connexion is one of several new initiatives the Michigan Conference Board of Young People’s Ministries is launching in 2024 due to the feedback they received from recent young adult listening sessions. Hurd, who serves as chair, and Lisa Batten, Connectional Ministries Team staff member for the Michigan Conference, facilitated these group and one-on-one listening sessions.

The Board of Young People’s Ministries and conference staff worked together to bring forward the best parts of the previous intern programs and listen carefully to what young adults need and are asking for today. “That meant letting go of some of what no longer was working,” says Batten. “In this way, we hope to build on a solid foundation and move into the future.”

From the listening sessions, Batten has highlighted four current priorities for young adults: meaning-making spaces, inclusive spaces, Wesleyan theology, and peer relationships.

Connexion touches on these four priorities. The program emphasizes connection to God through regular spiritual practices, connection to the community through a service- and justice-focused role, and connection to each other through weekly peer group meetings. It also emphasizes the connectional aspects of The United Methodist Church as ministry sites cultivate a culture of welcome and vocational discernment for young adults sorting through their call, whether it is as laity, deacon, elder, or another form of professional ministry.

Each ministry setting will be unique, and leaders at each site will work to craft a description with responsibilities that fit the desired goals and spiritual gifts of the intern. They will address the areas they want to explore further. Site leaders will help train, mentor, and supervise young adult interns and provide feedback in a welcoming environment. It’s an excellent opportunity for intergenerational ministry and healthy mentor-mentee relationships to be forged.

Elizabeth Hurd at intern site
In the summer of 2016, Hurd served as a Mission Intern at a different site. She served at Cass Community Social Services just as they began Tiny Homes Detroit. She looks back on that time and says, “My internship there looked a lot different than my internship with Port Huron. We led mission groups, organized volunteers, did some research for Tiny Homes, and more. It was a great hands-on missional experience and helped me see what is possible when our churches listen to the needs of their community.” ~ photo courtesy Elizabeth Hurd

In practical terms, what might a young adult be involved in during their Connexion internship?

Hurd says that when she was in her seminary internship, there were specific things she wanted to learn. Here are some suggestions for churches to consider based on her experience:

    • Think beyond tasks typically given to younger people, like running technology and social media.
    • Design and lead worship.
    • Lead a Bible study.
    • Design and lead a mission project.
    • Have them attend committee meetings and give them full voice and input (and vote if they are a member of your church).
    • Visit with constituents and members.
    • Schedule weekly check-ins with their supervisor (ministry leader in their context).
    • Work with the children’s program and the youth group.

To this list, Batten adds tasks such as pastoral care/visitation, planning special services like funerals and weddings, social justice work in the community, and new ideas the young adult and church want to try.

For campus ministry sites, Batten says the young adult intern could help with summer preparation for fall outreach and programming or connect with local congregations as an outreach from the campus ministry. She notes that last summer, as part of a pilot intern program, one intern planned a music series that continued into the fall.

For United Methodist-affiliated camps and nonprofits, it’s about identifying young adults who continually show up and volunteer and matching their skill set and interests with ministry opportunities at that site, whether it’s a feeding ministry or a resource for unhoused people in the community. Batten mentions that Cass Community Social Services in Detroit has already applied as a site and can adjust the responsibilities based on the intern’s skills and interests.

Are you curious about Connexion and want to learn more? Maybe you are an interested young adult who doesn’t know of a site that would give them the experience they want. Contact Rev. Elizabeth Hurd at [email protected] or Lisa Batten at [email protected]. They would be glad to answer your questions and help you in your discernment as you seek to live into God’s calling on your life.

Last Updated on March 5, 2024

The Michigan Conference