By Malari Mcham

Finding a calling to ministry is a journey and the College Pastoral Internship Project (CPIP) is there to help guide those who feel a pull. The CPIP, a part of the Texas Annual Conference, is created to assist young Methodists in discerning God’s call to ministry and Christian service.

They serve in pastoral internships at local churches for the summer to gain first-hand experience in ministry. Interns get a closer look at life in ministry and build relationships to help them explore their calling into ministry.

Not only do participants of the program receive mentorship from a pastor, but they also get to learn from other church staff. Those a part of the internship this summer are Rachel Risko who attends Southwestern University; Sarah Ross who attends Hendrix College; Robert “Matt” Mooneyham who attends Texas A&M University; and Alex Howell who attends Texas A&M University.

Rachel Risko
When did you start feeling called to ministry?
When I found out about the Texas Youth Academy, I was very excited. At that point I kind of still had this calling, I just didn’t really know if it was a calling yet. I thought, let try the Texas Youth Academy and I can figure out if this is what I’m meant to do. After being at the Youth Academy for two weeks, my call was confirmed outside of Perkins Chapel as I sat on the grass. ‘I feel like this is it for me and whatever you want me to do I’ll do it.’ Ever since then I’ve kind of been on this journey of being called to be in ministry.

How did you learn about the internship opportunity at CPIP?
I heard about it about a year ago and I’m really glad that I did. There are a lot of great people here and just learning different things behind the scenes of what it is like to be a pastor and other things around the church – it’s really great.

Can you tell me about your experience in this internship?
I’ve just been shadowing everybody, that’s kind of what the internship is like. The College Pastoral Internship Project is to shadow the pastor and the rest of the staff. St. John’s, where I am interning, is a much smaller church than my home church Athens First UMC. St. John’s is a smaller church, but  a really nice, tight group of people.

I have learned a lot from the pastor, and I think I would like to be a pastor one day. I’m really glad that she’s my mentor because we are very similar, a bit introverted at times. But when we get out with like a crowd of people, something awakens inside of us we begin talking. I think it’s just the Spirit working through you in how you do that – it’s really amazing.

How do you feel this has been a valuable experience to learn and grow in ministry and as a person?
Next week I am going to do this event that I’m putting together called “Exploring Grace Space.” It’s something that I’m passionate about that will be very family friendly.

What would you tell others who are looking to pursue ministry?
It can be kind of hard to figure out your calling sometimes. It’s really an eye opening experience to realize it is your call. It doesn’t really just happen right away – It’s a journey, that’s the cool thing about it. It’s an experience.

What do you plan to do after the internship?
I don’t start school until the 22nd. I’d like to go back to my hometown church and talk to my senior pastor about what I have been doing. We also have a certified lay minister at my church, and I’ve been in contact with her as well. I actually did my first sermon a few weeks ago. I was a little nervous, but it was really cool because I’ve never done anything like that before.

Sarah Ross
When did you start feeling called to ministry?
I started feeling the call when I was in youth group. We had a youth led service on Easter at sunrise, so freshman year and sophomore year and senior year I was able to preach those services. In my own personal journey, noticing that I really felt connected to God, and then people at my church telling me, ‘hey, you’re really good at this, you should maybe consider it.’ So that’s kind of how I figured it out that I wanted to go into ministry. At first, I thought I wanted to go into youth ministry and then I went to college, and I thought deacon and now I’m kind of going between that and elder. I’m still kind of up in the air, but I do know that I’m called to ministry.

How did you learn about this internship opportunity?
There are two guys (Mooneyham and Howell) who are the interning again this summer. They are my sisters age and went through the Wesley Foundation with her and so I got to watch them go through the internship and they loved it.

Can you tell me about your experience in this internship?
I have learned a lot. I am teaching a class about Methodism, it’s a pastor-led study, so I’ve been able to do a lot of research. The pastor has given me lots of opportunities to really dive in and see what it’s like to be a pastor one day. I’ve gotten to preach once, and I’ll get to preach again. They’ve been so great about giving me resources and stepping me through it, teaching me how to prepare for sermon. They are constantly giving me advice but also giving me freedom to make it my own.

What would you tell others who are looking to pursue ministry?
I would say you’ll never know unless you ask questions and do some research. So even if you’re not sure if you’re being called, it’s something to explore. There’s lots of things to learn, even if you don’t become a pastor. There’s still lots of ways that you can be in ministry.

What is the most fulfilling thing about ministry for you?
When somebody comes up to me and says that something I said made a really big impact on them or something inspired them, bringing tears to their eyes.