Posts

2019 WTS alumna, Katie AlleyLike many of her peers, WTS alumna Katie Alley ‘19 had non-traditional ministry in mind when she started seminary. A recent article from Christianity Today cites a survey of 5,000+ seminary students in which almost 40% intend to serve in contexts outside the local church. 

Katie had taken a job with a non-profit right out of college, but soon discovered it was not the right fit. She decided to return to the classroom to explore the deep love she had for God and the church. Western’s emphasis on formation, experiential learning, and internships set it apart from other seminaries. She felt it would be a good place to learn while trying on different hats to see what type of ministry might best fit her gifts. 

During her first year, Katie interned with a community development non-profit. Although she learned a lot, she decided to try hospital chaplaincy the next year, hoping it would suit her better. However, her second internship at Holland Hospital didn’t feel quite right either. Although she was gaining confidence in her work, she didn’t particularly enjoy it. 

Meanwhile, she had begun taking a preaching class and leading chapel—and she realized that felt most natural, even though the thought of pastoral ministry intimidated her. Not having grown up with female pastors, she hadn’t considered becoming a pastor until now. 

Faculty members like Travis West and Kyle Small recognized Katie’s gifts of pastoral leadership and encouraged her to find confidence in herself and push through questions she still had. Pam Bush of the Formation for Ministry office came alongside Katie and helped her explore what intimidated her even as she continued developing her talents. Being an in-residence student gave her access to a group of classmates who were praying and rooting for her. 

“At the beginning of seminary it felt like all my classmates knew what they wanted to do and were really confident,” Katie says. “I learned along the way that everyone was equally scared. Yet, it never felt like competition. We all wanted each other to be successful and discover what we were meant to do.”

After her second year of seminary and with the support of the community behind her, Katie felt ready to give pastoral ministry a try. She spent the summer at Second Reformed Church of Pella, IA under the direction of Pastors Steve & Sophie Mathonnet-VanderWell. There she got to preach, visit congregants, and see what it would be like to be on a team of pastors. 

Katie Alley talks to children during worship hour

Youth Director Katie Alley talks to the children during the worship hour at Second Reformed Church of Pella, IA.

While the experience confirmed that she didn’t want to be a solo pastor, she knew she wanted to continue preaching—and when she found out the church’s youth minister took a different call, the opportunity opened to come back full-time after graduation.

As Katie settles into her calling, she realizes that the process of trying different things helped her feel more confident when she finally landed. She appreciates the formation for ministry process at WTS that allowed her to find the best fit for her gifts of ministry and then develop those abilities.

Having a team around to encourage, disciple, and speak truth to Katie was important in seminary and continues to be so. In addition to her ministry team at Second Reformed, she keeps in touch with professors and classmates, many of whom are also in their first calls.

Just like her path to pastoral ministry was unexpected, she knows that the work of ministry will be full of twists and turns.

“Some days are filled with trying to write a sermon that’s not coming; some days I’m visiting people,” she says. “I don’t know what new challenge each day will bring, but as my classmates and I start out, I’m really grateful we have a support system to cheer each other on.”

Western Theological Seminary (WTS) is pleased to announce it has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund Churches in Mission. The project aims to learn with and from congregations as they discern God’s movement in their neighborhoods.

Churches in Mission will extend the work of the Formation for Ministry office and will be led by Shari Oosting and Dr. Kyle Small. The seminary will deploy the $1 million grant to invite two cohorts of up to 15 churches each to discover the needs in their community, to clarify congregational mission, and to determine how to join the ongoing work of God in their neighborhoods.

Project Director Shari Oosting recognizes the timeliness of this opportunity, “The context of Christian ministry in the U.S. is changing quickly, and we’re thrilled to dedicate the next five years to listening, discerning, and celebrating local mission projects.” Kyle Small, Director of Research and Learning, sees this as an extension of WTS’s partnership with the church, “We love the church, and we desire to prepare leaders for the church in mission. This generous gift provided by Lilly Endowment is WTS’s opportunity to accompany congregations and prepare leaders to discover and join the Holy Spirit’s movement in and through local communities.”

Middler student Alex Regets finds his dreams coming true sooner than he imagined.

I am someone who never expected to end up in ministry, but God does unexpected things.

I had started out in a pre-law program in college, but early on I felt the call to ministry, so I switched schools and finished my undergrad with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies.

For someone who never expected to end up in ministry, once I was called, I knew what I wanted: rural ministry. I entered seminary with a clear idea of where I wanted to end up. Right from the start, I would tell anyone who’d listen that when all was said and done, I wanted to be the pastor of a small church in the middle of nowhere. I also said that I’d love it if I could just stay there forever.

I wanted to go to the kind of church that often gets overlooked. The kind that gets viewed as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. And I always said that if this small, middle-of-nowhere church could be close to my hometown—well, that would be even better.

When it came time to start looking for a summer Internship after my second year at Western, I figured I’d look for a place that checked all those boxes. What I found was a small Presbyterian church in a rural town of about 4,000, averaging around 20 people each week in attendance, and it was only ten minutes from my hometown of Manteno, IL, the place where my family and my wife’s family still live.

It seemed like a great fit for my internship, but when I looked up the church, I noticed something interesting. They were currently without a pastor. I figured that was a plus, since it would help me get a sense for what the job is really like, but there was something else. Where the listing asked for required experience, this church didn’t say “First Ordained Call,” the way so many others do. Instead, it simply said none.

Suddenly, what started out as a possible landing spot for my summer internship looked like it had the potential to be something more!

After a handful of conversations with the elders of the church, we came to an agreement that I’d serve there for the summer, fulfilling my requirements for the 10-week internship, and if it seemed like a good fit for me and for them, they would make me an offer before it was over.

Well, it was a good fit.

So here I am, serving as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Peotone, Illinois, the sort of church I always said I wanted to work with!

I am finishing up my Master of Divinity degree by switching to Western’s distance learning program. It’s a little unorthodox, and it means jumping through some hoops with the Presbytery to make sure it’s all done “decently and in order,” but I am grateful for the opportunity.

It feels like a great fit in every way, and while my ordination will come a little slower, I’m already getting to experience what it’s like to pastor the church I have always dreamed of.

By Alex Regets