This summer, I worked at Kirkwood United Church of Christ, a young church start in the midst of moving from its temporary home on a piece of storefront property into a newly-built sanctuary of its own. While we wait for the sanctuary to be built, KUCC worships at Toomer Elementary School. My primary role was to help the church in this transition—physically, in terms of moving boxes and doing carpentry work on our church home, and spiritually, in terms of leading a small group on change and offering pastoral care in the midst of transition.

KUCCThe most important thing I learned this summer was that ministry, especially new church start ministry, involves a host of skills which they do not teach you at Candler! Such skills include moving baptismal fonts, building a wheelchair ramp, setting up cushion squares for the nursery, and fixing broken barbecue grills. Because I desire to more deeply explore church start work, I plan to continue my involvement at KUCC as a lay leader, and also to take a course on New Church Leadership at Candler. 

When the church purchased the land on which we will build our sanctuary, we also acquired a house that we use for small groups, office space, and church gatherings. Unfortunately, this house was not wheelchair accessible. Although KUCC did not have the funds to pay for a construction crew, we relied on the ingenuity of our congregation. One member designed a wheelchair ramp, some others cut most of the pieces and put them in place, and a large team of 20 got together to put the 1,000 lb. ramp into place. It was inspiring to see the church come together to support our members with disabilities. It also made me realize how much low-budget church starts rely on the skills of their members, rather than the depths of their pockets, to get work done.

My Candler courses prepared me for the rigors of preaching, teaching, and engaging in regular pastoral care. My Biblical studies coursework also gave me grounding in Scripture that fed my entire ministry, in particular preaching and small group teaching. At the same time, nothing could prepare me for the messiness of full-time ministry at a local church start, where flexibility and openness to the Spirit are the most valuable skills. I learned so much more from the hands-on experience I received through my work at Kirkwood UCC. After graduation, I hope to find a job working in a growing local church or one that desires to experience revitalization, so that I can continue to learn and practice the skills necessary for this form of ministry.

Learn more about ministry internship opportunities at Candler.

Top photo: Larry (far right) and members of Kirkwood UCC on a parade through the Atlanta neighborhood of Kirkwood this summer.