Synod Assembly Offering 2023: Gulf Coast Synod Innovative Internships Fund

Apr 15, 2023

By Tracey Breashears Schultz, Bishop’s Associate for Leadership

For those preparing for rostered leadership, internships abound in blessings. The candidates receive vital training that prepares them for years of faithful service. Internship congregations receive the gift of the energy, passion, and perspective that interns provide. This is why I am thrilled to introduce this year’s Synod Assembly Offering: the Gulf Coast Synod Innovative Internships Fund.

In 2006, I spent a year as a pastoral intern at Zion Lutheran in Limon, CO. I had been largely raised in the suburbs and had a prior career, as a teacher, in Little Rock. Limon is a rural community on the plains of eastern Colorado. The population was under 2,000 when I served there; wheat and cattle were the main industries. It was unlike anything I had ever known, nothing I would have chosen, and it was perfect for me. I was sent there (by Wartburg Theological Seminary) because it was a detached site, meaning my supervisor was off-site, and I would have the experience of being a pastor, including having authorization to preside over communion. It was such a good year of trying on my pastoral identity and leadership skills in a nurturing community that I chose Limon as the site for my ordination! Because I had such an excellent internship experience, I want this for others.

The Gulf Coast Synod Innovative Internships Fund will be distributed to congregations who apply to be an internship site and could not otherwise afford to do so, including congregations in redevelopment, churches whose ministry is with and for the housing insecure or under served, or congregations going out of their way to do mission beyond the walls of their building. Our income will determine how many new sites we can potentially fund, but we are striving toward a goal of $75,000.

I recently invited Pastor Jason “J.T.” Thomas, who is in his first call at Covenant Lutheran near Katy, to reflect on his internship, which he did at Christ the Servant Lutheran on the west side of Houston. This is what he shared:

“…I heard countless horror stories from my classmates about their internships in other synods. That’s why I was so surprised at my experience here in the TLGCS! The Synod leadership worked closely with me and a variety of sites and supervisors to make sure I had an experience that not only shaped me as a pastor, but took my whole life situation into account. My internship site and supervisor welcomed the experience and gave me all the opportunities I needed to try on pastoral ministry before I had to stand before the Candidacy Committee for approval…I encourage every congregation to host an intern, if possible. Not only does a greater variety of sites make for more qualified and prepared pastors – but the joy congregations experience from having raised up future leaders of the church is something you can’t get from any other experience!”

Vicar Kellie at Zion’s Blessing of the Animals

Kellie Escovy, a distance learner and Wartburg student, is an intern at Zion Lutheran in Houston. When I asked her what this time of learning has meant to her, she said,

“I’m so happy to be doing my internship with Pastor Mindy and the people of Zion in Houston. In many ways, this has been my dream internship context. It’s such a vibrant and gracious community, and a TERRIFIC place to learn how to become a pastor…what has been particularly exceptional about doing my internship in this synod is my relationship with my ministry colleagues. Suddenly, people I have known and looked up to as a child have become my PEOPLE, and they are such a gift. Learning how to become a ministry leader in this era isn’t likely to be an easy ride anywhere, but I can’t imagine a better context to learn the loving joy and nitty gritty of ministry life than with Pastor Mindy, the people of Zion, and my colleagues throughout the synod.”

Vicar Andrew Thompson with his supervisor, Pastor Paul Zoch

Supervisors have the privilege of accompanying and mentoring candidates during their internships. As they help a student live into their call, they inevitably reconnect with their own sense of call. Pastor Paul Zoch, whose congregation, Good Shepherd in Bridge City, TX is hosting their first intern, Wartburg student Andrew Thompson, says, “Having an intern has been an awesome experience where we all are learning and growing together. The best part has been having a connection to a new generation of thought.” Pastor Jen Kindsvatter has supervised Donna Krueger, who has served a rural two-point detached internship. Pastor Jen shares, “Partnering with Donna in this journey reminded me of the true joy of being a pastor! Her enthusiasm is contagious; her wisdom is admirable. I am grateful for her two internship congregations. Their willingness to be incubators for pastoral leadership is a gift to the whole church.”

Thank you in advance for your generosity as we seek to raise $75,000 through the Synod Assembly Offering to make these innovative internships possible. I see the internship site as an extension of the seminary classroom, and I am excited about the learning and growing candidates will do in our synod, with your help.