Using What I’ve Learned | Joe Neidhard: Why Ignite?

My first year at the JSC was marked by a lot of wide-eyed nervousness. I went into the Ignite internship spiritually and mentally drained by the previous year. I had lost my previous job as a bank teller that spring—a job I was working because What else am I supposed to do with this English Lit degree?

“There’s so much you can do with a degree in Humanities” faculty advisors told me a whole lot. And to be clear, there is. Studying the humanities makes you more empathetic, inquisitive, and communicative. Skills like those are marketable and needed in a professional environment.

So I’ve been told.

But right out of college I was overrun by the paralyzing belief that I wasn’t equipped to be good at any job. Pair that belief with having no sense of vocation, and I was deep in what could generously be called a quarter-life-crisis. My hope was that the Ignite Internship could at least lend me some direction while giving me a year to find my bearings as an “adult.”

Fast forward two and a half years and I’m still here in Milford. I can’t imagine how my life would be panning out if I hadn’t been led to this internship.  I’ve written a lot on the blog about how working here over the years has taught me public speakingthinking on my feetworking on a team, etc. But I’ve been appreciating lately how much the internship and my work here in Milford has allowed me to stretch myself creatively and really put that humanities degree to work.

There’s a lot of duties that the members of the Ignite community do as a team. We all learn how to lead activities and small groups together. But working in the office on non-retreat days has been shockingly beneficial. It’s in the office that each of us can find our niche. For me, that has been writing and communication. For the last two years, I’ve been tasked with running our organization’s social media and editing our staff blog. I love it. It’s probably my favorite part of this job outside of the direct ministry.

After each retreat, I gather the photos the youth team has taken and curate them with a caption before blasting the final post out on social media. The goal is to have the pictures viewable to the public before the departed retreatants have even gotten off their bus back to school. I’ve made a science out of it. During stretches when retreat work is sparse, I’ll keep our feeds alive with photos of our grounds paired with reflections on the timely liturgical feasts.

This blog itself has been a creative boon for me. It’s given me an outlet as a writer and storyteller and given me chance to do my own spiritual reflection on God’s role in my ministry. But I think I’ve enjoyed editing other people’s posts just as much as I’ve enjoyed writing my own. Editing other people’s writing let’s me deconstruct the creative process and get to the grit of what makes good writing good. I’ve begun to notice patterns of effective writing: fewer prepositions, say “that” less, show, don’t tell. I’m using my English degree—well.

When I applied for the Ignite Internship, I was excited for what it could entail. I learned much of what I was expecting to learn. But it’s let me do more than that. It’s tapped into my desire to make things. I can point people to examples of my writing, photography I’ve done, and (pretty soon) videos I’ve shot and edited and say “I made that happen.” Praise be to God that I was given this opportunity to create, and even live up a little to my saintly namesake who was himself a “maker.” I’ve become more confident as a person and as an employee because of the skills I’ve learned here, but most of all I feel like I better know what God wants from me. My time at Milford let me discover that, and I am forever grateful.

If you or anyone you know may be interested in our Ignite Internship, you can find the application here