MC receives grant for training future church leaders

MC receives grant for training future church leaders

Nov. 10, 2016

Maryville College has received a grant from Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala., to support programs that help develop future leaders for the church.

The grant is part of an existing strong partnership with Independent Presbyterian, which is providing funding for Maryville College’s “Training Future Church Leaders Project.”

The project has two components that aim to help prepare students for ministry and church leadership: annual seminary exploration trips and funded summer internships.

"Students who sense a call to ministry grow so much when they have the opportunity to explore their gifts in the context of strong congregations,” said the Rev. Dr. Anne McKee, campus minister at Maryville College. “Independent Presbyterian is such a congregation with a long history of sending its young people onto greater service in the church and the world. We are grateful for their generosity toward our students and our program at the College, and we look forward to working in partnership with them.”

The Rev. Elizabeth Cole Goodrich, associate pastor for discipleship at Independent Presbyterian Church, said the church was grateful for its long partnership in ministry with the College.

 “Independent Presbyterian Church is grateful for our long partnership in ministry with Maryville College,” Goodrich said. “We are excited to be connected to a college that is doing such innovative, creative and faithful work in forming leaders to meet the challenges of our changing world.” 

Seminary Exploration Trips

One of the ways Maryville College encourages students to consider ministry is through annual seminary exploration trips.

“The trip both exposes students to the possibilities of theological education and inspires them to imagine that they might keep growing theologically, no matter what they do for a living,” said McKee, who has taken groups of students on seminary trips for the past 14 years.

For each trip, staff members in the College’s Center for Campus Ministry select a geographical location with a variety of types of graduate theological education. Each trip is designed so that up to 12 students of diverse denominations have the opportunity to visit schools that fit their backgrounds, and each trip usually includes a visit to a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary, a university-related divinity school, and a seminary representing a different denomination. During a four- or five-year cycle, seminaries are visited in Atlanta, Chicago, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Northeastern United States and the mid-Atlantic region.

Halle Hill, a Maryville College senior, went on the College’s fall 2015 seminary exploration trip to Chicago – an experience she enjoyed “immensely.”

“The experience was reassuring and helpful,” she said, adding that she had the opportunity to visit Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, the University of Chicago Divinity School and McCormick Theological Seminary. “I got to sit in on classes and meet with faculty and students. It is helpful, fun and a worthwhile experience.”

She also took part in the 2016 seminary trip to Atlanta, taking advantage of the opportunity to compare two strong schools – Columbia Theological Seminary and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology – in her senior year. 

Church Internships

Another way Maryville College helps students consider ministry is providing opportunities for a significant practical experience of working in a congregation. Every year, Maryville College students are placed in churches where they serve as interns, learning what ministers do in various capacities, taking on projects and supporting the church’s ministries.

“These experiences of working alongside current pastors, being mentored and reflecting on their work helps students gain a picture of what their life might be like as a pastor, and how they might best use their gifts,” McKee said.

The grant from Independent Presbyterian Church provides funded summer internships to support two interns in congregations of their denomination.

“Many churches would benefit from a summer intern but don’t have enough funding to support it, and many students would love to intern in a church for the summer, but they need to be financially supported to do so,” McKee said. “Having funded internships available will help individual students and congregations, as well as the larger church and the college community, as these students will return to enrich our Center for Campus Ministry in the short run and will enrich the church for many years to come.”

Summer 2016 Experiences

Hill and Mason Warren received internships through the grant this summer.

Hill, a religion major from Knoxville, Tenn., interned at Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala., for eight weeks. Working primarily with youth, she assisted with planning events; took youth on a mission trip to Mobile, Ala.; worked at the church’s Vacation Bible School; attended the Montreat Middle School Conference; and assisted with the church’s day school.

“Through my internship, I learned how good people can be,” Hill said. “I also learned how refreshing it is to work hard when you are doing something you love. I worked with kind and bright people who taught me a lot and challenged me.”

Hill said she had thought about attending seminary before she was selected for her internship, but the experience has helped her further discern her next steps.

“I enjoy working in the church and am strongly considering a career in the church as well,” she said.

Goodrich said that hosting an intern is “a blessing that continues to give.”

“Besides being enriched by the contributions of an incredibly talented, faithful student during her time with us, we also receive the benefit of knowing we've played a small part in shaping the church's future,” Goodrich said. “We look forward to seeing what God will do with and through Halle." 

Warren, who is majoring in neuroscience (psychology track), interned with Maryville College’s Center for Campus Ministry and Office of Church Relations over the summer. During his internship, he served as a camp counselor for Expanding Horizons, a week-long retreat for rising 10th, 11th and 12th graders who have an interest in theological education; attended the PC(USA) General Assembly in Portland, Ore.; and attended the Montreat Youth Conference as a college work-crew member with his home church, Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church of Dublin, Ga. He also went to Purdue University to serve as a member of the production team for Presbyterian Youth Triennium, a triannual youth conference that brings together youth from across the world for worship and fun.

 “This internship has given me a great insight into a lot of the inner workings of the Presbyterian denomination, as well as what goes into planning huge events and conferences,” said Warren, who plans to pursue a career as a neurosurgeon. “Through this experience, I was able to reflect on my life and what my purpose in life going forward is. I have begun to think deeper about what I intend to do after graduating from Maryville College.”

By Chloe Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”