by Duan Walker
Since 2011, Mid-Valley Fellowship has offered a ministry internship, now named the Erēmos Internship. When it began, MVF had been in existence for about 5 years.
We were beginning to see consistent engagement with participants and volunteers, and our programs were gaining traction. However, one of the main challenges we faced was leadership – more specifically, the lack of equipped leaders. An organization rises and falls on leadership. Without a healthy and equipped team of sufficient size, we would not continue to grow or be sustainable for the future. We had good leaders. We just did not have enough of them.
A couple years prior, I sensed God developing a desire in me to invest in the next generation. It was a desire to pass along those things that spiritual fathers had invested in me. I was doing that in the context of counseling or support groups, but there was a desire for a different context for investment. I had also heard something from another local ministry leader that caught my attention: Those who need to be mentored often do not realize it or know how to ask for it. They need us to invite them.
I began thinking about the people around me who seemed to need some direction or perspective. As I contemplated that, I invited a young man that I knew through church to have coffee. And then we kept doing that. Those first several conversations were awkward, I suspect for both of us, but over time, we began chatting about his life and my experience. I saw a lot of potential in him – specifically for leadership – and I also saw struggles that inhibited him stepping into it. This informal mentoring continued for a couple years, including his time abroad at a one-year Bible school. As that was drawing to a close, we began talking about what was next for him.
Before MVF began, I had done a ministry internship at our sister ministry, Portland Fellowship. I remembered how incredibly valuable it was in preparing me for full-time ministry. It was not just the information I received (though there was a lot of good stuff), but it was also the relational challenges and encouragement that helped me grow. Having a responsibility to serve in that context and relate with others doing the same, exposed areas of needed growth in me. Then I had mentors that would walk with me through those areas and how to navigate the reality of my ongoing healing while serving others.
It was incredibly valuable, and it set the trajectory for the establishment of Mid-Valley Fellowship.
As I talked with my mentee about what was next for him, I realized I wanted to offer the same kind of leadership development I had experienced, in the context of Mid-Valley Fellowship. After much conversation, he felt led to embark on the journey of the first year of the ministry internship at MVF. There was much to learn and navigate that first year. We both learned and grew from the experience. That is the value of an intentional learning community. It also reminds me of one of my favorite leadership passages:
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.I Corinthians 1:26-31
The result of stepping out in those ways – saying “yes” to God’s invitations – is the Erēmos Internship, now wrapping up its ninth year. Crazy! Amazing! God has been faithful to us! We have been blessed by the service and perspective interns have brought over the years. And we get to bless the larger church and community as well. Some of our interns have stayed and joined staff or our leadership team, while many others have moved on to serve in areas of supporting people via education, the foster care system, full time ministry locally or internationally, and ministry service in their local churches.