The Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is a regional body of the global United Methodist Church. It encompasses approximately 350 congregations throughout the state.

The Exploring Leadership Internship (ELI) Project began as a pilot initiative of the Minnesota Annual Conference's Board of Ordained Ministry in 2015 to identify, encourage, and support young adults who are exploring a call to ordained ministry. The program has since continued, and in 2019 applications were accepted for the fifth round of interns.

Through the Exploring Leadership Internship program, or “The ELI Project,” up to 12 young adults are selected to participate in a learning experience each summer. After gathering for an orientation, which will include a seminary visit, leadership assessments, and an opportunity to learn about The United Methodist Church, each intern will be placed at a host church for 10 weeks. Over that period, the host congregation will invite the intern to gain hands-on experience by preaching and/or lead a Bible study or devotional, planning worship, becoming involved in a social justice or community outreach ministry, observing leadership development/discipleship ministry at the host site, and providing pastoral care. By being involved in a wide variety of ministerial contexts, the intern will have a taste-and-see experience of what it really means to be a pastor at a local church.

ELI 2.0 is an expansion of the internship program. Beginning in 2019, it is specifically designed for returning ELI interns to explore ministry in a new way. Whereas regular ELI interns spend two months taking a deep dive within a single host congregation and gain experience planning worship, preaching, and providing pastoral care, ELI 2.0 interns gain a wider perspective of ministry and take on an enhanced leadership role.

The ELI Project was made possible thanks to a grant through the global United Methodist Church's Young Clergy Initiative (YCI). The program aims to deepen a culture of call within the Minnesota Conference--one that invites people of all ages to explore how God is calling them to serve the church and that provides tools to help them answer that call and engage in ministry leadership. The Minnesota Conference is committed to developing missional leaders through a system that begins before confirmation, extends past ordination, and has a variety of entry points along the way. Congregations, meanwhile, are invited to deepen the culture of call within their own walls by identifying and nurturing those who exhibit gifts for ordained or lay leadership.



UNITEd methodist church mission

To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Congregations provide the most significant arena through which discipleship-making occurs (United Methodist Book of Discipline, para. 120).

Minnesota conference mission

To make disciples for Jesus Christ by equipping local congregations for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church, all to the glory of God.  The Minnesota Annual Conference leads this effort through three "gospel imperatives": Grow in Love of God and Neighbor (the Great Commandment, Matthew 22:37-40), Reach New People (the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20), and Heal a Broken World (the Great Proclamation, Luke 4:16-21). 

Starting new United Methodist faith communities and helping existing congregations reach out to their mission fields are the two primary ways that the conference helps churches to reach new people. 

Connecting churches to the ministry and resources of The United Methodist Church, and enabling them to support these ministries, are among the ways that the annual conference provides a connection for ministry beyond the local church.