Davis Anderson, a junior at Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU) in Mitchell, South Dakota, is serving as a ten-week Elisha intern at Spearfish United Methodist Church in Spearfish, South Dakota.
When asked why he applied, Davis said, “I heard great things about the Elisha internship program. This is a natural next step in exploring my call to ministry. That call began six 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 and look forward to this summer internship in Spearfish.”
Influenced by clergy mentors
Davis continues, “At Pierre First, I was influenced by great pastors such as Howard Grinager, Peggy Stempson Hanson and Dan Bader. Peggy had a major impact because she was the one who guided me through Confirmation and provided guidance for me as I felt a call and started to wrestle with my call to ministry. She also encouraged and empowered me to seek out and participate in conversations about tough topics.” Peggy Hanson is currently pastor of Lead Trinity UMC, Lead, South Dakota.
When asked about her memories of Davis, Peggy said, “Davis took Confirmation seriously as a way to deepen his faith. In that group of 23 seventh and eighth graders, he was an anchor and set a positive example. During high school, he was a key leader in MAC, Ministry As Career, a small dedicated group that met outside of youth group.”
In 2018, Davis was awarded the Harry Denman Evangelism Award by the Dakotas Conference. In a letter of recommendation, Pastor Hanson wrote, “Davis has a passion for mission and evangelism...inviting others into experiencing a relationship with Jesus... Davis is a humble, joyful and delightful young man...not only the 'future' of the church, but he is also the 'now'.”
While at DWU, Davis has been involved in Campus Ministry working with Eric and Denise VanMeter. “We have a great team of students working together. I helped with various aspects of Campus Ministry, but primarily the Care Team which seeks to make campus and other leaders feel that God and their peers love them.”
When asked about goals for this intern experience, Davis described a desire to learn about the Spearfish church getting out into the community to clothe, feed and care for those in need. Another aim is to ask how does the church operate, what is a normal day? Pastor Scott McKirdy laughed and said, “Normal? Every day is unique. A church deals with whatever comes our way, such as feeding the hungry by giving out Safeway cards or commodities; sending out caring meals; children, youth and family ministries; college outreach... Then in the midst of a busy week, there is call one, then call two for funeral planning and family visits.”
Davis considers empathy and being willing to listen to others as important traits. He hopes to work on his “people skills” during this experience. He is excited yet nervous about preaching while at Spearfish UMC. Pastor Scott invited him to co-preach early in June with Scott and Davis being in dialogue about “Whose job is it?” Davis has preached once at Hayes, SD, a small town in the Pierre area.
Former Elisha intern
Spearfish UMC recently enjoyed an online sermon by Emily Sheldon Rettinghouse and Pastor Scott. Emily was an Elisha intern in 2016 at Spearfish. Scott had mentored her as a student at BHSU in Spearfish and kept encouraging her studies during seminary at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in the Chicago area. Emily graduated from seminary and has her first appointment to the UMC in Cody, Wyoming, which is in the Rocky Mountain Conference.
The Dakotas Conference pays the stipend for each intern while the local congregation provides lodging, mileage and meals. Elisha interns are invited to explore a call to ministry by the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM). Interviews are coordinated by the Dakotas Conference Director of Leadership Development, Deb Kjerstad. A team from BOM reviews the applications, approves the college students, and assigns them to a mentor and host church. Some serve ten weeks over the summer and some work during the school year at DWU, serving with Eric VanMeter, campus pastor. The concept is based on the prophet Elijah who mentored the younger Elisha to replace him.
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 UMC. However, sometimes young adults decide not to pursue a caree in ministry but plan to live out their faith in other careers. The Samuel intern for 2020 is Abby Ferris, a senior whose local church is Pierre First UMC. Abby is working with mentor Rev Greg Kroger. Watch for an upcoming article about Abby’s experience
“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 and retiring laity member of the Board of Ordained Ministry.