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EncounterMiCall blesses students to be a blessing

Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Area

Much is written about millennials these days, the generation now 10-30 years of age. Some talk about them as the NONEs; those who have no religious affiliation. Others go so far as to call them the DONEs; persons who have had it with the church. But if you talk with Wesley Foundation Directors across the state of Michigan, you will meet young people, millennials, who are among the CALLed.

 West Michigan Ministry Consultant, Naomi Garcia, engages interns around habits of highly effective people. ~photo courtesy of Lisa Batten In the fall of last year three clergy from the Area—Paul Perez, Carl Gladstone, and Lisa Batten—designed a program intended as a network of interns sent from campus to be mentored in local churches. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry approved a grant request for EncounterMiCall in the amount of $64,000.

This month the denomination’s dollars were released and EncounterMiCall has officially launched. An application process had already taken place to match discerning students and local placements.   Last week two training sessions were held, one for mentors and the other for interns. Paul Perez met with those gathered in East Lansing on January 14 to discuss best practices of mentoring. Naomi Garcia shared Seven Habits of Highly Successful People with interns who came together at Cornerstone UMC on January 17.

At the present time Motor City Wesley (Wayne State University), Kalamazoo Wesley (Western Michigan University), CMU Wesley (Mt. Pleasant), Wesley Fellowship at Grand Valley (Allendale), and MSU Wesley (East Lansing) have placed interns. Some of those interns, with separate funding, began work last fall; the rest start-up this semester through the EncounterMiCall grant.   Gifts and needs

Lisa Batten remarks: “Churches tend to want to put young adults with children or youth and we do have people working in those areas. But we also have interns for visitation, communications, and worship/music leadership. One intern is helping to manage a free store.”

Lisa is excited about the variety of ministries engaging the students and the way the local churches’ understanding of young people is expanding. “Here’s someone passionate about justice, so let’s put him there. She majored in Public Relations, so use those skills.”

The Rev. Bill Chu notes that one of MSU Wesley’s interns is sharing her artistic talents with a new church start, Oasis Community Church in East Lansing. So the program already is ecumenical in its outreach.

Other placements help long-standing programs refresh. “We are exploring how a Motor City intern can engage in bridge-building work,” says the Rev. Carl Gladstone. “It would expand outreach to international students at Wayne State while linking with the ongoing multi-cultural emphases of Metropolitan UMC.”   Community grows

Campus ministers and local church leaders explore best practices of mentoring with the Rev. Paul Perez. ~photo courtesy of Bill Chu The Rev. Greg Lawton, GVSU, celebrates the sense of community that the internship is creating among students, congregations, and campus ministries across the state. “This really puts a face on what relevant partnership can look like. The internships provide a conduit to what is going on in congregations and in the lives of young people,” Greg notes.

Lisa adds, “Previously any connection between campus ministries and local congregations fell to pastors and directors. Now there are Wesley students present in the church, making relationships easier and more organic.”

Bill speaks of an unanticipated value of the program. “Two of the local churches involved in our internships introduced me to the students. Danny and Becca are now active at Wesley through recommendation of their congregations. That’s a real bridge!”   Lisa calls that a “two-way raising up of ministry leaders.” Lisa and Greg both recognize the circle needs to grow even wider. “How do we get interns into churches that are too far away from our campuses?” Lisa asks. She suggests the possibility of a summer internship program with congregations providing housing. Greg believes the intern experience itself…the model and the training…could be adopted by any local church. “They could develop an experience using the EncounterMiCall framework but using local funding.”

Culture of call

The centerpiece of the grant is providing hands-on experience and mentoring that will support a student in the discernment of his or her call. “When we first dreamed this up,” says Bill Chu, “I imagined it would be the intern getting all the benefit. But it’s broader than that.” Bill has seen other students “get discernment benefit” as interns share with their Wesley friends. He explains how one mentor was inspired through her work with an intern to explore her own call to ministry. “It’s been infectious into the entire community,” Bill adds. “You don’t always know how God can work to help people to discern a call. Culture of call happens.”

For their part, students are excited to be working in a place “that has meaning.” Lisa reports that time management and navigating generational differences were cited by interns as challenges to their ministry. “But the general mood is excitement and an eagerness to get ready, to get going and to keep going,” Lisa notes.   Yes, they are millennials. “Some have had struggles in congregations before but they want to serve,” Lisa concludes. “These young people love the church.”
Learn more on the EncounterMiCall website.


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