To see this church reach the next generation for Christ, we need to invest in future leaders. Grace Communion International is looking for men and women, either married or single, who have a strong sense of calling to pastoral ministry and a willingness to be immersed into a “hands-on” learning experience that will last one or two years.
Interested? Go to https://www.gci.org/internprogram for more detailed information and an application. The application and selection process is designed to help prospective candidates know whether they are being called to serve in this way.
Jeff McSwain, coordinator of the GCI Pastoral Internship Program, processes the applications and matches the interns with qualified pastors, and then assists the pastors and interns in creating a development plan specific to their needs. The goal for interns who successfully complete the training is to place them as GCI Associate Pastors, planters of new churches, or Senior Pastors.
The intern positions are handled as a partnership between the GCI home office and the host congregation. Paid intern positions are limited, but volunteer internships are also available for qualified candidates, including college and seminary students needing internships for class credit.
GCI is keenly interested in welcoming more intern applicants, and encourages congregations and church districts to budget for this program.
We asked three of our interns to tell us about their experience.
Question: What made you decide to become a pastoral intern?
Hillary: I never imagined I would be in pastoral ministry. When GCI decided to ordain women, I told God not to even think about it. But I think a part of me knew that I would end up right here.
I chose to study Bible and Religion in college. I planned on volunteering in church youth ministry while pursuing an education and career in counseling. However, professors and advisors began encouraging me towards further theological/pastoral education and pastoral ministry. Eventually I began to listen.
Skyeler: I was an intern three times prior to this, but I was frustrated. Many churches wanted me to work for free, or be a member of their congregation for a year or greater before providing me an opportunity. I was at a point where I was burned out of trying, and another internship was not what I was looking for. Then an opportunity presented and I decided to give it another go.
Q: How did you get into the program?
Jason: My wife found out about the program on the GCI website and, knowing that our desire was to one day be in full-time ministry as a pastoral family, we filled out the application and contacted the appropriate individuals to discuss the next step in the process. And now here we are.
Hillary: One summer, my father, a senior pastor with GCI, asked me if I would like to apply. I spent some time in serious prayer about this, and sought spiritual direction with mentors and professors who knew me well. Then I turned in an application, spent a couple months discussing details, and officially began as an intern the next January.
Skyeler: I transferred my job from Eugene to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and was laid off the day my wife Tracy and I arrived. So we moved to Reno, NV. My wife needed to be on campus to finish her Masters. I also wanted to be closer to my dad, who was dying of liver failure. I had reconnected with Tim Sitterley (GCI pastor) and he made the commitment to me that if I returned to Oregon, he would make an internship program happen.
Q: Describe your life as an intern. What do you do?
Hillary: My two main “projects” now are to develop and lead a youth ministry and to help the congregation become more active in outreach in the community. I also preach every five weeks. I read a lot! I attend adult discipleship classes and a mid-week small group so I can learn from the pastor. I attend staff meetings, not only to participate, but to learn how to lead them. I am mentored in ministry by the pastor (which is made easier since he’s my father). I attend district pastoral meetings and conferences.
Jason: Life as an intern is exciting and difficult, challenging and rewarding. I spend time working on my classes, organizing and facilitating the small group that I started. I am the worship director for our congregation. I spend several hours a week working with the pastor in pastoral ministry. And I preach once a month.
Skyeler: I have started a small group and have oversight in another group that recently started. Our community group ministry is growing, and it is my job to facilitate that growth. I develop videos and video content for our website and sermons. I speak on occasion and attend most church functions. I help plan activities for our camp, I get to shadow my pastor to various congregations, and I also get to help at the regional conference.
Q: What advice would you offer someone considering joining the program?
Jason: If God has placed it on your heart to “feed his sheep,” then jump on board. GCI is a wonderful denomination, with its grace-filled and humble servant leaders and its passion to participate in God’s work and a deep desire to share the life and love of Jesus Christ.
Hillary: Pray, pray, pray! Talk to fellow Christians and Christian leaders who know you well—parents, spouses, mentors, teachers, pastors, significant others, and friends. Listen to them, but also listen for the Holy Spirit speaking through them. Don’t worry if it takes a while to be certain. Reflect on your passions, on what fulfills you, and on why you want to do this. Pastoral ministry is not glamorous, but if you are called to it, it will be one of the most fulfilling things you will ever commit to.
Skyeler: Be patient and realize you are needed. This denomination has good leadership, and those leaders want to mentor you and provide you an opportunity to succeed and make a difference for Jesus Christ.
Q: How do you see the future?
Jason: I see myself as a future full-time pastor of an existing GCI congregation.
Hillary: I’ll be attending a seminary soon. I hope this internship will last two years. After that, I would like to serve as an associate or assistant pastor for another year or two—I’m a firm believer in pastors needing thorough training, education, and experience before becoming a senior pastor. After that, I will consider pastoral openings in GCI, but at this point I feel more apt to pursue planting a daughter church with the support of GCI and the congregation I am interning in.
Skyeler: I know I will be involved, but where and in what role is still up in the air. I want to get a doctorate and help transform people’s minds. I will probably stay here for a while, as there are some loose ends to tie up, and my job and schooling require more time. I look forward to what opportunities God puts in my way, and will gladly follow where he leads.
Q: How do you support yourself while training? Are you paid?
Jason: It has been a blessing that the congregation and the denomination have been able to pay me as a part-time intern. To supplement the difference, my wife works as a part-time police and fire dispatcher for the city we live in, and I am a licensed massage therapist and give several massages a month to help out.
Hillary: I am paid a part-time, hourly salary as an intern. I tried to find a second part-time job to help cover some expenses, but that was impossible in my area. I am a recent college graduate, and I am blessed to be able to live at home with my family for now. Financial aid is helping me attend school. Besides that… it’s a step of faith.
Skyeler: The internship provides me with some money for rent, food, and some basic needs. I am also bi-vocational with another ministry. My wife works as a teacher and for my other job, I work at raising funds.
Q: Anything else you would like to say?
Jason: I am very excited for what this program holds for the future of GCI and for the kingdom of God. God is preparing the hearts of the younger generations to step up and be strong, committed and humble servants who will partner with all generations to participate in the work he is doing.
Hillary: Yes! For any young women out there considering pastoral ministry with GCI, God knows you and accepts you; if he has called you to this, he knows what he’s doing. Don’t be intimidated by what is still a male-dominated field. If God is sending you, go! We need young men and women with passion, who are not considering pastoral ministry to fulfill their own needs.
Skyeler: Not everyone can be an intern, but everyone can have a part. If we want to see this denomination reach the next generation for Christ, we need to invest in future leaders. One way to do this is to donate to the internship fund.
We are very thankful for this wave of new pastoral leaders in our fellowship. We pray for their growth and eventual placement in ministry, and we ask the Lord of the harvest to bring more laborers to join in this movement!