Learning, growing, and preaching through The ELI Project

By: Hannah Lundberg

Hannah Lundberg is one of seven young adults spending the summer interning with The ELI Project, a Minnesota Conference program designed to help college students explore a call to vocational ministry. She has spent June and July at Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC. Here, she reflects on what she's experienced and learned, and how she's grown.

I came into the ELI Project feeling pretty confident that I would like to go into ministry, but in a lot of ways, this experience has validated some of my gifts and shown me new areas in which to grow and develop both my leadership skills and my faith.
 
There are a lot of elements of church work that you don’t see from just attending worship, and it was really exciting to spend the summer learning more about those (both the exciting and the monotonous) and to see how the pastors and staff I worked with would balance the day-to-day administrative tasks of running a church while also doing the deeper, spiritual work that people think of more immediately when thinking about pastoral work.
 
My host church, Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC, is currently going through the MCCI (Missional Church Consultation Initiative) process, which in part means creating a lot of committees and groups to discuss how the church moves forward to even better ministry opportunities—“jump-starting a new life cycle of ministry fruitfulness,” as I’ve heard it described. I have gotten to help with a lot of the logistics of forming all those committees and getting congregants excited about the process moving forward, and I think it is one of the areas in which I have learned the most throughout my internship.
 
Coming from outside of The United Methodist Church, one of the highlights of the program has been learning more about the UMC and the Minnesota Conference through our orientation week trips to a variety of churches, the week we spent at Annual Conference, and interacting with all the structures of the larger church body that impact the specific local church I am working with.
 
I have gotten to meet and interact with a lot of different people who have been down the path of discernment that I am currently walking, and it has been so helpful to hear those stories and see how other people have discerned their call. Even better, I have built a lot of relationships with people working in different ministry areas throughout the Minnesota Conference. I now have lots of smart, awesome people in ministry I can call upon for advice as I move forward and have questions and difficult decisions to make in my own life and in whatever ministry I eventually do.

Probably the most exciting part of my summer was getting to preach and then talk to congregants afterwards who would give me feedback, encouragement, and advice. The first time I preached, I was at our church’s smaller campus in Cottage Grove, where all the services are lay-led; this made it a nice, low-pressure way to start off.

The second time I got to preach, it was at the larger Woodbury campus, and I got the big surprise of having a large youth group from a United Methodist Church in Ohio sitting in on the service! They were on their way out for a mission trip and had spent the night at our church, but I didn’t realize until a few minutes before the service started that they would be there for it. Afterwards, I talked to a lot of high school and college students who were really excited that a young person had given the message. It was a neat “God moment” that made a really fun morning of preaching even more meaningful.

All in all, my experience with The ELI Project has been truly wonderful, and I am so glad to have spent my summer this way. I have done a couple other internships related to ministry during other summers, and this was definitely the best and most engaging one yet. I was paired up with a really great church and with leaders who were excited to work with me and find ways for me to learn and help advance the ministry of the church, and the things I did felt meaningful. I have learned a lot and know I can take the lessons on to whatever other work I eventually will do.