Immersion Training Develops Future Pastors

July 03, 2021 | Education | Jodi Wagner

You may notice new faces on your church’s ministerial team, thanks to two programs providing theology students at Walla Walla University with immersion ministry experiences and mentoring from seasoned pastors.

For several years, Walla Walla Valley churches have mentored junior theology majors eager to apply their knowledge in church settings throughout the school year. Now, through a new partnership between WWU’s School of Theology and the North Pacific Union Conference, that experience is being expanded during the summer to include Adventist churches across the Northwest. This new 10-week summer internship program gives theology students the opportunity to focus on full-time ministry without the additional responsibility of work or classes.

“Practical experience in doing ministry in a local church plays a crucial role in preparing our students for careers in pastoral ministry and chaplaincy,” said Carl Cosaert, School of Theology dean. “Working with seasoned pastors across the Northwest exposes our students to what ministry is all about and it helps them build confidence you can’t learn in a book.”

Behind-the-Scenes Training

“I felt God’s calling in my life," explains Matthias Bernard, a WWU junior. "And now I am participating in ministry as a theology major." This school year, Bernard served his internship at Walla Walla University Church, where he served occasionally as presiding pastor and helped with different areas of ministry, including community service activities and Sabbath School classes. Senior pastor Andreas Beccai provided one-on-one mentoring and guided Bernard on a sermon series he'll present during his internship at the Kent Adventist Church in Washington Conference.

Bernard said his internship with Walla Walla University Church taught him how to handle unexpected tasks and to manage his time. “I was surprised by the amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into ministry,” says Bernard. “I have learned to roll with the punches of life and to allow myself the time to deal with things in a timely manner.”

Building Relationships

Also in the theology program at WWU, Aurora Gault wasn’t sure what major to pursue. “I struggled a lot with choosing my major. However, I felt God easing me toward theology and religion more and more,” she reasoned.

As a junior theology major, Gault served her internship in the Milton Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and Blue Mountain Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Athena, Oregon. In these settings, she experienced working on a passionate pastoral team, preaching sermons and repairing aging buildings. “I really enjoyed how well the pastoral team worked together,” she said. “I also loved getting to reopen the Blue Mountain Valley Church after it was closed for about a year due to COVID-19. See how excited the congregation was to be back together and their strong sense of family really filled my heart.”

Through her internship, Gault learned the importance of caring for herself as a pastor so she can minister effectively to others. “It was a journey for me to figure out how I need to take care of myself in order to be emotionally, spiritually and mentally available to care for others,” she said. “I learned that my passion in ministry is less about the preaching and more about making meaningful relationships with people and in showing others Christ through my way of life rather than simply through words.”

Partners for the Next Generation

The School of Theology aims to develop future leaders equipped to carry on a ministry of proclamation, worship and nurturing within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The university’s theology program offers well-established advisement and vigorous classroom instruction. Cosaert notes that immersion experiences like internships are invaluable to help future pastors sharpen their skills and prepare to lead into the future.

“We are so grateful for the pastors and churches who partner with us in training the next generation of church leaders,” he said. “It is this partnership that makes the theology program at Walla Walla University so strong.”