DWU graduates second class in church leadership program

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Dakota Wesleyan University celebrated the second class of United Methodist Church pastors to complete the nonprofit church leadership (NPCL) graduate certificate program via a virtual gathering July 6-7.


The program is a joint effort of DWU and the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church that launched in July 2018 with participants enrolled from South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota. The program has expanded to include ministry leaders serving outside of traditional congregations and has included a broader ecumenical reach with pastors from other denominations.


“For the second year in a row, I am impressed with the impacts that these ministry leaders have in their local congregations and communities throughout the duration of their time in the program,” said Dr. Alisha Vincent, NPCL program chair. “This year proved especially challenging for church-life during the pandemic and yet our participants rose to the challenge and innovatively led their churches, implementing many of the practices learned and developed while in the program.”


The program consists of 4 appropriately paced, three-credit, online learning classes that teach church leaders how to raise funds, recruit and manage volunteers, oversee budgets, create and use strategic plans, and develop a congregation that is focused on the purpose of each respective church. These classes are coupled with the development of projects that provide a direct benefit to the pastor and the church. The program also offers plenty of opportunity for engagement among other ministry professionals and fellow students which includes three face-to-face meetings throughout the duration of the program (offered either in-person or online).


Additionally, each student is paired with a coach that helps the student understand the material, execute projects and serve as a mentor.


“The program offers quality curriculum content, applied projects for application in the church, and coaching to support growth and development. The coaching piece is in many ways the secret sauce,” said Bill Lewis, coaching coordinator, NPCL.


Dubbed the “pastors’ master’s,” program participants also have an opportunity to transition into DWU’s online MBA program and complete their MBA with an additional 18 credits of coursework.


“We are excited to welcome these pastors into the DWU MBA. They’ve already demonstrated a commitment to professional development, and this is a natural extension of the NPCL program. Pastors select six, online courses from a program of 12, so their MBA is customized from start to finish. The MBA with an emphasis in Nonprofit Church Administration is unique. This is something they can’t get anywhere else,” said Diana Goldammer, director of the MBA program at DWU.


The NPCL virtual gathering brought together the current cohort to celebrate the completion of the outgoing class, all while welcoming a new group of students that will begin the program in July. A southern cohort consisting of church leaders from Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Missouri will also start the program this month. In total, 48 pastors and ministry leaders will be enrolled in the 2020-21 year.


For more information about DWU’s nonprofit church leadership program, visit


The following is a list of 2019-20 graduates:


Nicole Clade, Hope United Methodist Church, Duluth, Minn.;

Andrew Bartel, Alaska Missionary Conference, Anchorage, Alaska;

Lori Broschat, Devils Lake United Methodist Church, Devils Lake, N.D.;

Andrew Buschena, Common Ground United Methodist Church, Cambridge, Minn.;

Karen Evanson, Faith United Methodist Church, Farmington, Minn.;

Peggy Hanson, Trinity United Methodist Church, Lead;

Michelle Hargrave, Centenary United Methodist Church, Mankato, Minn.;

Geoffrey Hilton, Velva United Methodist Church, Velva, N.D.;

Shawna Horn, Fairmount Ave., United Methodist Church, St. Paul, Minn.;

Erica Koser, Centenary United Methodist Church, Mankato, Minn.;

Karl Kroger, McCabe United Methodist Church, Bismarck, N.D.;

Jeff Lathrop, Wesley United Methodist Church, Grand Forks, N.D.;

Clay Lundberg, Canton United Methodist Church, Canton;

Scott McKirdy, Spearfish United Methodist Church, Spearfish;

Kris Mutzenberger, First United Methodist Church, Fargo, N.D.;

Laura Nordstrom, Stewartville United Methodist Church, Stewartville, Minn.;

Kyle Reinhiller, Harrisburg United Methodist Church, Harrisburg;

Becky Sechrist, Minnehaha United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Minn.;

Rachael Warner, Anoka United Methodist Church, Anoka, Minn.

Teresa Whetsel, Miller United Methodist Church, Miller;

Lou Whimer, North Highland United Methodist Church, Aberdeen.


The following is a list of members of the incoming class:


Carrie Binnie, Community United Methodist Church, Monticello, Minn.;

Amy Bur, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Mendota Heights, Minn.;

Andrew Church, Sunrise United Methodist Church, Blaine United Methodist Church, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Minn.;

Jenene Earl, Sturgis United Methodist Church, Sturgis;

Anthony Fink, Pine Island United Methodist Church, Pine Island, Minn.;

Randall Gehring, Our Savior’s Lutheran, Sioux Falls;

Roger Grafenstein, Grace United Methodist Church, Moorhead, Minn.;

Christy Heflin, Lake Poinsett Camp, Arlington;

Valerie Hummel-Labounty, Montrose United Methodist Church, Montrose;

Shawn Moore, Living Spirit United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Minn.;

Brenda North, MAC, Detroit Lakes, Minn.;

Jeffrey Otterman, Trinity Lutheran, Yankton;

Ruth Ann, Ramstad, Brunswick United Methodist Church, Golden Valley, Minn.;

Lora Sturm, Nerstrand United Methodist Church; St John’s, Faribault, Minn.;

Cory Thrall, Missouri Valley Parish, Bismarck, N.D.;

Jonathan Vehar, Peace Lutheran, Sioux Falls;

Lara Ziegle, Storm Mountain Center, Rapid City.


The incoming southern cohort will consist of approximately 28 members – 10 from Louisiana, 8 from Oklahoma and 10 from Missouri.


“Methodist foundations and conferences in these states are working together to help support the endorsement, tuition and fees for student enrollment,” said Vincent. “The South Dakota Synod, ELCA and the foundations and conferences of the Dakotas and Minnesota are doing the same in our region. This collaboration and support from the denominations is really important as it demonstrates the commitment of the denomination to support this ongoing learning for clergypersons and ministry leaders.”