Davis Anderson, a senior at Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU) in Mitchell, South Dakota, served as an Elisha intern at the United Methodist Church in Spearfish, South Dakota.
Davis said, "I heard great things about the Elisha internship program. It was a natural next step in exploring my call to ministry. That call began seven years ago with church and youth group involvement at my home church, Pierre First UMC in Pierre, South Dakota. I was part of the Conference Council on Youth Ministry (CCYM) in high school. That's when I met Brenda Swanson and Katie Clark." Both are on staff at the Spearfish church.
Brenda Swanson is the youth director at Spearfish UMC and has worked with many youth as part of area activities and with CCYM. "I recall going on a mission trip with Davis. As a member, then chair of CCYM, Davis was a very responsible, kind, and caring young adult," says Brenda. "I enjoyed working with him." Read more about Anderson's internship experience here.
The Elisha Project is an exciting internship program for college students in the Dakotas Conference, discerning their possible call to ministry. It is a program where a pastor in a local church mentors a student. Past Elisha interns have preached, worked with children's ministry, made hospital calls, and participated in church administration, worship, music, and mission outreach.
Students who have completed at least one year of college and completed the Elisha application process are selected by the Elisha committee to be assigned to a church and mentor. The Dakotas Conference pays the stipend for each intern while the local congregation provides lodging and meals.
Applications are being accepted for 2022 internships through March 1. The concept is based on the prophet Elijah who mentored the younger Elisha to replace him.
Catrina Standifer has been active in the Flandreau United Methodist Church. She was a leader in the youth group and even sought guidance from her pastor, Rev. Amber Laffey. She went through some dark times and soul-searching during the pandemic and discovered she had a story to tell. That led to an invitation from Pastor Amber to preach one Sunday in church.
"I asked Amber for some tips on sermon writing, and then," Catrina said, "as I preached, I just felt super alive."
Fast-forward to May 2021. Catrina graduated from Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls with a degree in IT Security. She was soon hired for a full-time job but continued following her ministry discernment through her Elisha internship. Serving for the summer at Sioux Falls Asbury UMC helped her understand that calling and the types of ministries she feels equipped and energized to do. Read more about Catrina's call here.
High school students can apply to be a Samuel intern, serving in their home church to explore a call to ministry. For some, the call leads to college, seminary, and becoming a deacon or elder in the UMC. However, sometimes young adults decide not to pursue a career in ministry but plan to live out their faith in other occupations.
In 2020, Abby Ferris, whose local church is Pierre First UMC, in Pierre, South Dakota, was a Samuel intern who worked with mentor Rev. Greg Kroger.
"My goal is to be a faith-based counselor," says Ferris. "I hope to work with a church and help people through their faith journeys. I want to help people as they are wrestling with God. I applied for the Samuel Project internship because I wanted to see how the church works." Read more about Abby's internship journey here.
Culture of call
For more than a decade, the Dakotas Conference has fostered a culture of the call through the Elisha and Samuel Projects. To date, 61 young adults have explored their call to ministry through Elisha internships. The Samuel Project has created inspiration for seven high school seniors.
"We all need to foster the next generation of leaders, both clergy and laity, for the future of the church. Consider asking a young person, 'Have you thought about becoming a clergy person?'" suggests Janelle Jones, a lay leader of Spearfish UMC.