College Interns Getting Hands-On Experience

Date Posted: 7/10/2014

College students are taking a break from the books this summer to explore a variety of ministry opportunities first hand across the conference. Each of their stories is unique.
Sisters on mission together, representing the Lydia Patterson Institute (LPI) Student Lay Ministry Intern program, are blessing the congregation and community of Tyler, Texas. Susana Sanchez just graduated from LPI as the valedictorian of her class.  She earned a four-year scholarship from the University of Texas El Paso and begins classes in September.  Her sister, Jocelyn, will be a junior at LPI this fall.
Rev. Scott Myers says, “This is the third year that Marvin United Methodist Church in Tyler has hosted summer interns from LPI.  The Sanchez sisters are working with the missions and children’s ministries at Marvin. They recently helped organize Marvin’s annual Mission Week and then participated in the more than 15 major outreach projects around town and which involved about 500 volunteers from several churches.  Both also delivered inspiring devotionals to 300-400 people during the week.  In July, the sisters will be helping organize and conduct Marvin’s Vacation Bible School.”
They are experiencing many different types of ministry projects. At the St. Paul Children’s Foundation, they are assisting the food pantry and clothes closet ministries. The sisters also teach English as a Second Language classes to a group of women.  

An Inside Look at the LPI Intern Program
In 1998, Lydia Patterson Institute developed the Student Lay Ministry Program in response to the needs of the United Methodist Church for bilingual and bicultural leaders to assist in developing Hispanic ministries. With the explosive growth of the Latino communities throughout the country, the United Methodist Church sees the need to minister and reach out to this population, but faces the challenge of differences in language and culture. According to LPI Development Director Richard Hearne, the purpose of this program is to provide an opportunity for students to choose a route that will prepare them for higher education as well as train them to serve as Lay Ministers in areas where they may be useful to the church. Students must also serve an internship in a local church, agency, institution or other ministry of the UMC while attending and after graduation from LPI. In return, the student may be awarded a scholarship from a UM college or university and the local church where the student serves an internship may provide room and board. Seminaries also provide scholarships to students interested in ministry.
Summer Send Off
Each summer, LPI sends out between 20-30 Lay Ministry Students to serve a summer internship with local churches, conference office or other UM organizations. Interns bring their skills as a bilingual and bicultural bridge builder to assist the local church to reach the Hispanic community or help the congregation relate to the Hispanic culture. 
Rev. Chris Harrison, Kingwood UMC, adds, “We are one of the host churches being blessed by the placement of a Lydia Patterson summer intern. Our student’s name is Paola Dominguez and she is a delightful 18-year-old. We are thoroughly enjoying having Paola with us and she is very involved in the life of our congregation as a youth and also as a youth helper in various situations.” Paola has been involved with:

  • UMARMY (a week of mission work in Crockett, Texas)
  • Mission Madness (a program for 4 & 5th graders to do local missions)
  • Refugio worship and youth group (Kingwood UMC’s Hispanic ministry)
  • Hanging out and interacting with summer college youth interns
  • High school lock-in
  • Helping with nursery for a weekday Bible study
Paola really enjoyed UMARMY. “I got to work on three worksites with my small group and most enjoyed roofing,” she shares. “I loved that people got close enough -- even to the point of trusting someone else to catch them if they fell.” Adds Chris, “Paola enjoyed the worship services in the evening and loved that the praise team stayed afterwards and continued playing music. She loved the people there and being a part of helping others.”
Cypress UMC is keeping 16-year-old interns, Pam Natera and Denise Pena, quite busy. Rev. Jerome Brimmage says, “We have already taken them in and consider them our girls. They are very personable and interact well with all of our staff, youth and laity.”
Thus far, they have assisted in preparations for youth events, Vacation Bible School and district summer camp. Additionally they have attended a mission excursion to Galveston as junior assistants with the junior high students. Before the summer is over, they will attend a UMARMY senior high mission trip in the Dallas area.
Adds Jerome, “Their host families have taken in these young ladies and they are part of the family. They are included in various day trips and family get-togethers. We have given them various opportunities to be in ministry throughout the church. They will be leading some adult and youth Sunday school classes in July to tell their LPI story.”
According to Rev. Michelle Hall, Associate Director of the TAC Center for Clergy Excellence, another group of college pastoral interns from different colleges are dispersed throughout the Conference doing a variety of assignments. Several of them share these perceptions of their experience so far:
What are you enjoying the most? 
  • Melanie Hauer, Texas Southern University: The youth -- surprisingly they get me away from all the chaos of being an adult and make me laugh. It’s good to see that I can teach them about God and also put a smile on their faces.
  • Trevor Warren, Spring Hill College: The thing that I am enjoying most at St. John's UMC is the chance to be involved in trying to reach people in the community, especially young adults, who have felt excluded and unaccepted by the Church. 
  • Dylan Cumberland, Alvin Community College: I am most enjoying the person-to-person ministry, where I meet members of the congregation and we share our faith stories and the love of Christ.

What are you learning about ministry?
  • Melanie: Ministry is definitely hard work, but it gives you a sense of accomplishment once you have shared the message and love of God in all ways. You cannot label ministry or put it in a box because everything you do is a ministry in some way.
  • Trevor: The thing that I'm learning most about ministry at St. John's UMC is that ministry isn't about creating mega churches, having high membership attendance, starting different Bible studies, etc. Ministry is about showing the world Christ's love and creating disciples who will work to bring about God's Kingdom on Earth. 
  • Dylan: I'm learning a lot about how to minister to people in a pastoral role, with home visits and hospital visits. I'm also expanding my Biblical knowledge through teaching Sunday school and learning from my mentor pastor.
What have you been surprised by?
  • Michele: I did not know being a pastor of a church is much like being in the corporate office in so many ways. The only thing different is that you have to be about God's business and fight the adversity with the love of God.
  • Trevor: The thing that I have been most surprised by at St. John's UMC is their ability to create a diverse church. Being raised in a predominately white, middle class Methodist church in Northeast Texas, I grew up thinking that there was no way this congregation that I belong to would worship with anyone but others that were like them. But at St. John's I see people of different income levels, race, sexual orientation, etc. all worshipping together under the same roof, something that I would've thought impossible.??
  • Dylan: Much like C.S. Lewis, I've been surprised by joy! I have come to love this congregation and they have welcomed me as one of their own. I've been blessed by this internship and all that it has brought me.
Adds Michelle Hall, “The Conference is so blessed to have these students and the others listed below in our midst. We pray this summer inspires them to greater things in their call to ministry in the coming months and years.”

  • Alonzo Berry from Wiley College is serving at Trinity United Methodist Church with Rev. Dr. Robert McGee

  • Matthew Cecil, Stephen F. Austin is serving at Hardy Memorial UMC, Texarkana, TX with Rev. Preston Greenwaldt
  • Kenneth Crawford from Wiley College is serving at Greggton UMC, Longview, Tx with Rev. Ricky Ricks
  • Michael Dickens from UT Tyler is serving at Hallsville FUMC, Hallsville, Tx with Rev. Dr. Nathan Hodge

  • Marquice Hobbs from Stephen F. Austin is serving at Wesley UMC, Beaumont, TX with Rev. Robert Besser
  • Joshua Hundl, University of Houston is serving at St. John’s UMC, Houston with Revs. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus and Rev. Stephen Cambers

  • Shammia Williams from Wiley College is serving at Wesley McCabe, Longview, Texas with Rev. Virginia Wall