News - Improvise, Say "Yes, and": Senior Ministry Majors Offer Tips to Internship-bound Classmates

Improvise, Say "Yes, and": Senior Ministry Majors Offer Tips to Internship-bound Classmates

Carla Morris

PraiseMention “improvisation” to most students at Greenville University, and thoughts run to Joyous Chaos, GU’s improvisational comedy troupe. But lately, other students on campus give Joyous Chaos a run for its money thinking quickly and responding: senior ministry majors serving in internships. This summer’s interns practiced Christian improvisation at every turn. 

  • One, placed with a church whose worshipers met in a YWCA, counted church “setup” and “tear down” among her Sunday acts of worship. 
  • Another assisted producing worship services in Swahili to accommodate an unexpected influx of African refugees in Wichita, Kansas. Translators weren’t always available.
  • One stretched to imagine the needs of a parishioner in Kentucky who fell victim at age three to human trafficking. When the trafficked woman shared her story, “she hadn’t been out of it a year.”
  • Then, there’s the camp-ministry intern who helped urban-center kids work through trauma. They gathered daily at the unlikeliest “camping” venue—the University of Chicago.

By summer’s end, nearly a dozen GU students met the internship requirement for completing majors or minors in ministry. Returning to campus, they shared tales “from the front” with GU freshmen, sophomores, and juniors—future interns—in the Bastian School of Theology, Philosophy, and Ministry

Improvising: Keeping Up With Christ and the Holy Spirit

Jasmine Webber relied on improvisation when—during a large church conference in Orlando—she and other youth leaders were tapped to accompany 350 teens to a water park. 

“Who’s idea was that?” she asked in disbelief. “Not only are we taking a ridiculous amount of kids somewhere without parents, but there are only about 15 of us adults, and we don’t know these kids. Are they responsible? Will they answer their phones? Will they call me? . . . I prayed all day long, ‘God, help me be flexible. Well, keep these kids safe, then, God, let me be flexible.’”

“We talk about being flexible and doing improvisation ministry,” says GU Associate Professor of Theology Ben Wayman. “We do improvisation ministry because we’re part of a story that we’re not writing. We try to keep up with Christ and the Holy Spirit in the things we run into.”

Improvisation means staying engaged with neighbors by saying "yes" to where they're at, and adding something more with "and." That "something more" places the engagement within the larger story of how God heals our world.

Internships: Learning on the Fast Track

Wayman supervises the Ministry Internship Program at GU. The internships often result in job offers—unsurprising considering the broad variety of skills interns may hone over the summer: managing people, soliciting volunteers, event management, planning, preaching, leading services, accompanying seasoned pastors on crisis calls, attending board meetings, and more.

“I actually got to help plan a funeral,” said Jasmine, who shadowed the pastor of two small congregations. She had previously interned at a large church and in youth ministry. Upon graduation, she will serve in full-time ministry with John Wesley Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis.

Ministry-interns2The Awesome Reverend Neeley

Seasoned pastors, leaders of not-for-profit groups, and Christian camp directors also guided the interns’ “immersion” in ministry.

“He’s awesome; I love him to death,” intern Dylon Niswonger (at left, assisting Allen Buckta, New Life Fellowship in Scottsville, KY) said of mentor Wayne Neeley, longtime pastor in the Bowling Green area of Kentucky and former conference superintendent in the Free Methodist Church. 

Wayne introduced Dylon to varied and rich learning experiences, including the expansive work of Broadway United Methodist Church in Bowling Green. 

“When he told me about it, it was very intimidating,” said Dylon, a native of western Kansas, well-versed in the “small church” experience. 

Broadway United ministers to diverse persons through multiple campuses and draws people in through a program called Pathways. Dylon engaged persons struggling with addictions and other challenging circumstances. He describes Pathways as “love and grace” extended to persons caught in destructive patterns. 

Ministry Today: Swahili and Homelessness 

Two of the interns worked with congregations who minister to African refugees. Several worked with youth who faced traumatic home situations and persons struggling with chronic poverty and homelessness. Language differences proved challenging for some. 

“I try to encourage the students to say ‘yes, and’ to as many things as possible, Ministry-interns3especially things that are outside of their comfort zones,” says Wayman. Sampling often paves the way to valuable discoveries as students find that saying ‘yes, and’ ignites their imaginations to participate in God’s story of redemption that is full of surprises at every turn.

Kait Mathews, intern at West Morris Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis, echoed Wayman’s advice. She effused about shadowing an “incredible” pastor in Kristen Marble (pictured with Kait at right), seeing immigrant ministries and helping deliver pastoral care in “hard” situations.

“Say ‘yes,’ say ‘yes’ to everything,” she urged fellow ministry students. 

After hearing the interns’ stories, it was hard not to agree.

Learn More

Ministry Interns of Character, Serving the Church
Well-trained Intern Embarks on a Summer of Music
Ministering to the Nighthawks: Talking Pastoral Care With Victor Shepherd
The Bastian School of Theology, Philosophy, and Ministry

Your gift to the Greenville University Fund today provides financial relief through scholarships and helps more students access internships. Thank you for giving.

Top photo: Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

This story was published on September 19, 2019




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