True Northern Journeys: Tiffanie Shanks experiences a calling for change
A call to professional ministry can be one of the most difficult things to decipher. But when Tiffanie Shanks, senior communication arts major from Dayton, Ohio, met with youth ministry professor Bill Croy over this question, she found that he had some practical advice to offer. “He told me all about an internship with the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church,” Shanks says. “And within a couple of days, I applied.”
As part of the Next Generation Summer Internship Program, Shanks spent ten weeks as a pastoral intern in Athens, Ohio, and two additional weeks traveling. While with Central Avenue UMC, she delivered two sermons, coordinated fellowship events to build relationships outside of the church context and organized the congregation’s food-pantry ministry. Here, she increased involvement by asking congregants to bring in a brown bag of groceries once per month as a part of communion Sunday.
During her time on the road, her internship took her on a national seminary tour as well as to Washington, D.C., where Shanks and her fellow interns had the opportunity to speak with members of Sen. George Voinavich’s and Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy’s staffs about immigration reform.
“The internship did a great job of showing me what a pastor does,” she says, “but I don’t know that I fit that role right now.” Shanks did, however, sense a calling from the summer. “I'm truly feeling a call into multi-site development and change management within the local parish.” She explains multi-site development as a way to efficiently use the resources of larger churches while still utilizing small local church buildings and reducing costs. Change management involves the logistics of making such an organizational change. She points out that her generation’s desire to feel an intimate connection is not being met through the mega-church model. “It’s harder to experience connection in the mega-church.”
Shanks’ passion for this new model grew as a result of working with her internship placement site, which is actively pursuing multi-site development. She also will have the opportunity to meet with the bishop of the West Ohio Conference about the future of multi-site development, for which she credits her experience as an intern. “It was an extremely good networking tool.”
“Multi-site development is the future of the church,” Shanks insists. Returning to her studies with fresh direction, Shanks is able to say as well as anyone that knowing what you want to do with your life is a true blessing.
Senior creative writing major
North Royalton, Ohio