Ministry Summer Service: Seeking clarity for the needs of young adults and the church

By Becky Ullom Naugle

In 1996, Ministry Summer Service began as a collaborative effort between the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry and Youth and Young Adult Ministry to encourage young adults to consider God’s call on their vocation. The program would provide an insider glimpse into a variety of set-aside ministry roles, from pastoral ministry to being a district executive or a camp administrator.

In exchange for 10 weeks of service to the church, Ministry Summer Service interns received a college scholarship in addition to food and lodging costs for the summer. In the 25 years since the program began, it has provided this leadership and spiritual development opportunity to 258 young adults and around 175 mentors and/or placement sites across the Church of the Brethren, deeply enriching the lives of individuals, communities, and the denomination.

The Ministry Summer Service interns from 2019.

Yet, the lives of young adults and the realities of ministries are not the same as they were 25 years ago. Few college students graduate with an intent to study at seminary the following fall. Instead, pursuing ministry seems to be happening later in life, perhaps even as a second career in the second half of life. While many congregations would like to hire a fulltime pastor, many do not. There also has been “position attrition” in other types of ministry settings.

As these trends deepen, interest in Ministry Summer Service has diminished. In 2020, MSS was held online due to the COVID pandemic. In 2021, as the pandemic continued and MSS applications declined further, the program took a sabbath rest. Facing a third summer of pandemic-affected program, as well as the long-term trends, 2022 will provide a chance to listen. Instead of moving ahead with the program or taking another sabbath, the future of the program will be intentionally considered.

What do young adults need and want as they seek vocational discernment? What do congregations and other ministry settings want in terms of development opportunities for young leaders? How can the Youth and Young Adult Ministry and the Office of Ministry support both groups in their related, yet not always equivalent, needs?

In the spring months of 2022, a small group of MSS “stakeholders” will be identified to participate in a “think tank” process. In the summer and fall months of 2022, the group will gather to brainstorm, ask questions, and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than to make specific plans. In early 2023, the Youth and Young Adult Ministry office hopes to communicate broadly with young adults, potential mentors, and the denomination about next steps for nurturing young adult vocational reflection and faith-based leadership development.

If you have interest in this conversation, please be in touch with Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, by email to

Becky Ullom Naugle is director of the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Find out more about Ministry Summer Service at


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