10 MN pastors enter new Nonprofit Church Leadership Program

July 17, 2018
Clergy participants gather for an orientation to the new non-profit church leadership certificate program. Photos by David Stucke, Dakotas Conference

By: Doreen Gosmire, Dakotas Conference

Ten Minnesota pastors and eight Dakotas pastors are improving their administrative effectiveness through a new non-profit church leadership certificate program at Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU).
In a nutshell, the program will provide clergy with the business acumen required to meet the demands of a growing church, along with training in how to handle aspects of fundraising, organizational leadership, and human resources.
“There are only so many things you get in seminary,” said Rev. Max Richter, who serves Champlin UMC and is one of the participants. “This program is a great opportunity to develop as a clergy and a leader. I hope to take my church to the next level with what I learn.”
The program is 21 graduate credits, delivered in eight courses that emphasize stewardship of all resources—money, people, talent, and vision.
“I hope to understand stewardship at a deeper level,” said Rev. Dayne Zachrison, who serves Epworth UMC in Valley City, North Dakota. “I want people in my church to give because it is an inspiration and means something. I want to lead them to give in all the ways they can so we can do new ministry in the church.”
Dakota Wesleyan University and the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church launched the non-profit church leadership certificate program with an orientation that took place July 10-11 at First UMC in Sioux Falls. 
“We are excited about this new endeavor with the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences because it uniquely fills a gap in pastoral leadership training and is designed to improve their confidence in administration while applying to their workplaces,” said Dr. Alisha Vincent, nonprofit administration professor at DWU and chair of the program. “The hands-on nature of the courses, supported by one-on-one coaching and mentoring, will further enhance their learning and leadership capacities. We believe our program is relevant and relational while respecting and accommodating the busy lives that pastors lead.”
The certificate program is designed to provide clergy with learning and competency development in the following areas:
• Financial stewardship: 21st-century resource development and management
• Stewarding human resources: Governance, personnel, and volunteer management
• Stewarding vision: Strategy design, implementation, and evaluation
• Stewarding the church: Leadership and management
The program is a year-long experience that includes online learning as the primary teaching platform; three in-person cohort gatherings with coaching sessions, speakers, and peer learning; and two applied learning projects. The applied learning projects will focus on and benefit the local churches that participants are serving.
“Seminary teaches you many things, but it doesn’t teach you the business side of running a church,” said Rev. Seth LaBounty, who serves First UMC in Pierre, South Dakota. “I hope to learn a lot about how I can manage human resources, volunteers, cast a vision, and lead others.”

Rev. Brooke Heerwald Steiner, who serves Excelsior UMC, said one of the things that attracted her to the program is that it is specifically tailored for clergy leaders.
“It seems like I never ran short of new ideas in my ministry,” she said. “I hope to learn how to manage the timing and process for implementing new ideas and change. I want to be able to cast a vision with a congregation and live into that vision.”

Joining Richter and Heerwald Steiner are eight other clergy participants from Minnesota: Revs. Brenda King, Randy Koppen, Sarah Lawton, Gary Liker, Nate Melcher, Jeff Ozanne, Tyler Sit, and Carol Zaagsma.
The idea for the certificate program came from the leadership and planning team for the Lilly Grant project that includes the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation, Minnesota United Methodist Foundation, Dakotas Conference, and Minnesota Conference. In late 2016, the Dakotas-Minnesota Area received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The funding is to help pastors develop stronger financial literacy skills, reduce or eliminate personal debt, and become equipped to foster a theology of generosity within their congregations. The grant is helping underwrite the cost of the certificate program for participants, although clergy and their churches are also funding a portion of the cost.
Diane Owen, area program director for the Lilly Grant initiative, helped coordinate and develop the certificate program.
“We are excited about the potential of this program,” she said. “The Lilly project is providing inspiration and funding to enhance the leadership skills of clergy by focusing on the stewardship of all resources, including money, people, talent, vision, and time.”
Developing leaders is a crucial goal of both the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences. The certificate program is one of the many ways that the Dakotas-Minnesota Area is doing this.
“We are delighted to partner with Dakota Wesleyan University to provide this opportunity for our pastoral leaders,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, resident bishop for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church. “This is an opportunity to provide our pastors with additional competencies necessary to navigate the complexities of a church adjusting to the changing world and, at the same time, wanting to change the world.”

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