Leading pastoral interns to success
By Lindsay Peyton
Churches in the Texas Annual Conference are preparing to welcome new faces in the fall. The Center for Leadership Formation is debuting a new and improved College Pastoral Internship Project – CPIP 2.0. The program will provide greater opportunities for students to discern their callings – and give churches fresh eyes and helping hands during the school year.
CPIP 2.0 gives interns a chance to explore various types of ministry, including youth, children’s and music ministry, in addition to the traditional pastoral internship program. Candidates are full-time college students who are interested in vocational ministry or working in the church in the future.
Ten students will be funded this fall for the part-time internships, which will be completed alongside their college curriculum. The Center for Leadership Formation will award each intern a grant of up to $3,000 and provide assistance for churches building a structure for the program.
Participating churches must agree to mentor the students and help them with their discernment process. The Rev. Deborah Hawboldt, Associate Director of the Center for Leadership Formation who developed the program, explained that congregations will benefit from the interns’ energy, insight and hours of work.
“This is going to help a lot of churches who have access to students but don’t have the budget to bring on an intern,” Hawboldt said.
Churches will be recruiting students into the program, which is one of the main differences from the summer internship program, she added. “In the summer, we interview, select and place the students,” she said. “In the semester internship, the churches are responsible for finding the students.”
Congregations have already expressed interest in taking on the task. Hawboldt recently sent out applications to churches, and about 18 have answered the call. “I’m still accepting applications,” Hawboldt said. “Churches can email me until we fill them all.”
Asking what if
The Center for Leadership Formation is providing funding for the semester internships and resources to mentor the participants. Most importantly, Hawboldt said, there will be a curriculum to help students with spiritual formation and discernment. “The whole point of CPIP in the first place is to help people hear if God is calling them,” she added.
Hawboldt has worked with the Rev. Lindsey Runyan, Associate Pastor at A&M UMC, to develop the program. In fact, the church’s work on its own internship program helped spark the development of CPIP 2.0.
“They’ve learned a few things about how to make it successful,” Hawboldt said. “Now we’re moving from the stage of dreaming about it and prototyping it last spring to launching it in the fall.”
Runyan joined A&M UMC as director of college ministry in 2019. “I had one full semester here and then COVID hit,” she recalled. “But it was incredible to be with the students and see what God was doing at Texas A&M and here at the church.”
The pandemic had an unexpected side effect -- more time spent in reflection, Runyan said. More and more thought centered on revamping and reexamining the church’s internship program.
“What if this became a place for students to explore their calling?” Runyan asked.
Church leaders envisioned a program where students on the campus across the street could learn more about life at church and how their faith could intwine with future careers. Runyan compared the idea to a teaching hospital.
After all, she could clearly remember her own experience, receiving her calling as a student. She attended Texas A&M and was active with Wesley Foundation on campus.
Runyan explained that A&M UMC had sponsored interns in the past, but the church wanted to grow its program. In addition, she wanted to provide more space for discernment and discipleship to students.
The congregation launched a pilot program in the summer with three interns and then increased the number of participants in the fall.
Students were also charged with making their own project by the end of the term. “I wanted to make sure students had a tangible project,” Runyan said. “They can feel confident that they are making a difference in this community.”
The program appeals to students who are interested in seminary, as well as those who do not want to be in the pulpit. It helps them to find other ways to incorporate faith in their work.
“Just take this one step at a time,” Runyan tells students.
She wants to foster a culture of calling – and help youth discover the community surrounding their call.
“We want to make this a place of reflection,” she said. “We keep the door open. We don’t limit what God can do in their lives.”
Pioneering a program
The pilot program at A&M UMC was a success and Senior Pastor Preston Greenwaldt wanted to expand it. “We have to call Deborah,” he told Runyan.
Hawboldt, prior to her current post, had started the college ministry at the church. Greenwaldt knew she would be the ideal person to brainstorm this internship program and broaden its reach.
A&M UMC was seeking funding for their program – but Hawboldt saw even greater potential. She hoped the internship at the church might become a model for the Conference.
In Spring 2020, the Center for Leadership Formation funded two interns at A&M UMC – Noah Vaughn and Abby Huie, granddaughter of former TAC Bishop Janice Huie.
“They were kind of the pioneers of what this could look like for our conference,” Runyan said.
At the same time, Hawboldt and Runyan began brainstorming ways to translate what was underway at A&M UMC in different contexts across the conference. “What if this could be replicated in other areas? What if we could do it intentionally?” Hawboldt asked.
Together, they created a program that centers on the “three Es” -- empower, equip and educate. Shadowing clergy is one element, but independence and creativity are also key.
Runyan and Hawboldt have spent time exploring ways to foster the spirituality of participants, and at the same time, how they can meet community needs.
“Now, we’re rolling it out this fall,” Hawboldt said. “We’re figuring out how to equip pastors and mentors to lead the students to success.”
Runyan is in awe thinking about the potential impacts for both students and the church. She never expected the prototype at A&M UMC to reach so far beyond church walls.
“I’m over the moon,” she said. “I’m excited to learn how Deborah and I can follow Jesus to see how we can make a difference in the lives of all these students who are discerning their call. I have no expectations about where this will go. I just want to be surprised by the journey.”
Answering the call
Hawboldt said that CPIP 2.0 can provide churches the means to develop a relationship with a college if they do not already have one – and a way to delve deeper if they already do.
At the same time, students can walk away with a better understanding of how church works and how they fit in. “It benefits both,” Hawboldt explained. “College students need a job. If they have an interest in the United Methodist church this could be a fit – and give them an opportunity to draw closer to God.”
The semester experience is more focused and part-time, she explained, which could serve as a launching pad for the summer internship, which is a full immersion into ministry.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” she said. “They can stick their toes into the water, and then see if they’re interested in taking the plunge.”
This fall will be a step toward the future of CPIP, Hawboldt said. “God is always calling people, but there are certain settings where we can hear that call,” she added.
CPIP 2.0 will help students realize the call year-round – and provide the resources to help them on their journey. “It gives the space and structure to pay attention,” Hawboldt said. “Then, we’ll let God be in charge of the results.”
She is eager to see how the new internship program unfolds – and can picture it expanding in the future. “We’ll see what happens next,” she said. “It’s super exciting to see God working.”
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