For many professions, the best way to learn is by doing. That is why internships are built into many educational programs.
First English Lutheran Church has been able to experience firsthand what it’s like to have an intern working with their congregation. Mark Nassen is a student at Sioux Falls Seminary and started his internship at First English last spring, marking one full year and the end of his internship experience this coming April.
Nassen said the internship has gotten him one step closer to his Master of Divinity Degree and his ultimate goal of serving as a pastor. This Sioux Falls native was excited for the opportunity to work with a congregation like First English Lutheran Church.
First English Lutheran Pastor Hugh Brewer said this is the first time they have had a seminary intern working with them. He knew one of the Luther House professors and, after interviewing with Nassen, said he would be a good fit.
Nassen had to agree.
He said the experience has provided valuable learning opportunities for him.
“I’ve had experience in a couple of different areas — leading worship, delivering sermons, visits and pastoral care, checking in with different parts of committees, and seeing the business side of the church,” Nassen explained.
Along with the experience gained is the mentorship from a seasoned professional.
“To have a pastor there for feedback, like this worked or rework that, it’s the equivalent to teachers student-teaching, or an apprenticeship,” Nassen said.
Nassen developed an interest in seminary school after first obtaining a business degree from South Dakota State University and working in the banking industry for several years. Then he was ready for a change.
“I started reading in front of the church in middle school,” Nassen said, “People said then ‘you should be a pastor’. People enjoyed my speaking voice.”
In his early years, Nassen also went on several mission trips and was a camp counselor and backpack guide for youth, so when he was looking for a career change, the ministry came back into the forefront.
“I reconnected with a pastor mentor,” Nassen said, “I worked through the Book of Mark, it was a long project but enjoyable.”
And then it was back to school.
Nassen will complete his education this summer after he wraps up his internship at First English and then his Capstone projects. He is planning to become a pastor at a regional church upon graduation.
The highlights for him at First English have been getting to know the congregants and a better understanding of what pastoral care is.
“Walking with people in joyful and hard moments in their life, in grief and difficult times, to be able to give Christ’s word of promise,” Nassen said is rewarding.
One of the challenges, Nassen said, is trying to remember who is related to who. He found the family ties of grandparents down to grandchildren to be a fun thread to follow in the community church.
Nassen recommends anyone interested in going into ministry to heed the calling.
“We’re raising the next generation of leaders,” Nassen said. “People recognize the need for forgiveness and the hope that only Christ’s word can bring.”