College to take sabbatical from Pastoral Ministries program for discernment process

Pastoral Ministries students study together in this photo from 2013.

A review process of the Hesston College Pastoral Ministries program by a specially appointed planning committee has recommended that the college take a one-year sabbatical from the program to assess how the college can best meet the changing leadership needs of Mennonite Church USA and the broader church.

The Hesston College Board of Directors accepted the planning committee’s assessment report, which described the program as unsustainable in its current form and recommended that the college take a one-year respite from recruiting students.

Since 1985, the Pastoral Ministries program has operated as a two-year residential program with a focus centered on adult learners seeking a new career path and for whom seminary was not an option. Low program enrollment over the past several years prompted college administrators and board members to question the existing program’s long-term viability in light of shifting church needs.

“We are trying to determine the best way for Hesston College to contribute to the pastoral and lay leadership needs of Mennonite Church USA,” said Howard Keim, Hesston College president. “As a result of this careful process, we have accepted the need for transformation in our approach to meeting these needs and are moving in a direction that will allow us to shape a program that will serve the church well.”

The sabbatical will allow for a discernment process in which the college can explore changes and leadership needs in the church and position itself to prepare leaders to meet those needs.

The planning committee included people with insight on Mennonite Church USA’s pastoral needs and knowledge of the college’s program. Members include: Dave Boshart, executive conference minister for the Central Plains Conference of Mennonite Church USA; Dee Custar, 1998 program graduate and pastor of Salem Mennonite Church (Waldron, Mich.); Karen Dalke, 2009 program graduate and pastor of Des Moines (Iowa) Mennonite Church; Michele Hershberger, Bible and ministry faculty member; Kenzie Intemann, 2013 program graduate and youth program director at Camp Amigo (Cassopolis, Mich.); Tim Lichti, pastoral ministries program director; Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, Hesston College vice president of Admissions and Financial Aid; Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency; Howard Wagler, 1992 program graduate and pastor of Journey Mennonite Church (South Hutchinson, Kan.); and Norm Yoder, Hesston College Board of Directors member.

Lichti’s service with the college will conclude at the end of the academic year. He has served as program director since February 2010. The college will staff the program based on discernment of the program’s future scope and direction.

“We are grateful for Tim’s care for the students and the needs of the broader church, as well as his contributions as part of the planning committee,” said Keim.