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Blessed to serve the Lord: Rev. Dean Trapp's ministry journey

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

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Rev. Dean Trapp. Photo by jlynn studio.

"When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam's sin and God's gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but God's free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ." Romans 5: 12-17, NIV

This passage affirmed Rev. Dean Trapp's call to ministry when he was a junior in high school. He will retire this year after serving 34 years in ministry.

Growing up, Rev. Dean Trapp had Sunday school teachers and his great aunts tell him, "I think someday you are going to be a pastor."

When he was in confirmation at Central United Methodist Church in Milbank, South Dakota, Rev. Sam Graf asked Dean what he wanted to be after high school and college. Dean told him, "I think I want to be an attorney." Graf said, "It would be good to have an attorney who is a Christian. But I think God is calling you into ministry."

Rev. Trapp remembers the exact moment that he knew that God was calling him into pastoral ministry. "I was in my bedroom doing my devotions. I was reading a passage about the differences between Adam and Christ. I felt God say at that moment, 'Dean, I want you to preach this.' I knew I was called," said Pastor Dean.

Throughout his years at Central UMC as a youth and young adult, he sang in the choir and was involved with the youth group. Rev. Dave and Mary Motta led the youth group.

Pastor Dave and Mary took Dean on a tour of Westmar College. Then, he headed to Westmar for a bachelor's degree in religion and sociology.

After graduation from Westmar, Pastor Dean attended St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. "I was challenged by the liberal theology being taught at St. Paul's. At times I felt very uncomfortable. But I was not the only Evangelical student there. I became friends with some of the other Evangelical students. We met together for prayer and Bible Study and mutual support. And that helped me make it through my studies. Being at St. Paul’s and having the experience I did only made me stronger in my faith and helped me realize I was on the right path," he said.

Upon graduation from seminary, Rev. Trapp entered his first appointment at Conde and Andover, South Dakota. "When Susie and I went to visit the church and parsonage, we couldn't get into the parsonage. At the time, they had no Pastor so there was no one living in the parsonage. It was February. It had just snowed 10-12 inches on top of what they already had earlier in the winter. The snow had not been removed all winter. So, they just told us what the parsonage looked like," said Rev. Trapp. "It was a great place to start. We still have some friends that we keep in contact with in those communities."

In 1990, Dean and Susie moved 21 miles north to serve a two-point appointment at the United Methodist Church in Groton and the United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Dakota.

After five years, there was a realignment. Rev. Trapp served the United Methodist Churches in Groton and Conde. "It was great to serve the people of Conde again. It was like we never left," he said.

In 1996, he was appointed to serve the United Methodist congregations in Yankton and Gayville/Volin. In about 2005, Gayville/Volin was realigned to be served by the pastor at Vermillion. But Dean and his family served the Yankton Church for a total of 14 years. "It became known as home to our three children. They spent most of their school years there," said Pastor Dean. "It was a wonderful time for our family and ministry."

Ballpark clergy choir

Pastor Dean Trapp, lower right, sings with three other clergy at the 2018 Festival at the Ballpark. Photo by jlynn studios.

The next stop in Trapp's ministry journey was Sunnycrest United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before moving to Huron to serve at Riverview and Virgil United Methodist Churches.

"Every place we have been in ministry, we have been blessed. I give thanks for that," said Pastor Dean.

He has fond memories of the building project at First UMC in Yankton. "The building wasn't handicap accessible. The offices were not easy to find," said Pastor Dean. "The congregation had seen a turnover of pastors about every four years. After I had been there about seven years, they felt we could begin a building project. A new main entrance and an elevator were installed. It made things accessible. The Fellowship Hall became a gathering spot for true fellowship. It was an inviting space. It was a great move for the ministry of the church."

While serving at Yankton, First UMC expanded from two to three worship services, with the new one being a contemporary service. "It created a new opportunity for some people to get involved in the church. New people from the community came to check out the contemporary service," said Rev. Trapp.

Sharing music has been a part of Pastor Dean's ministry. "In all the places I have served, I have shared the gift of music. I sing in the choir, do special music, and encourage others to share their musical gifts," he said. "I also have been involved in various community music groups and singing with clergy colleagues."

Being with individuals and families when they have the greatest need for prayer has been one of Rev. Trapp's highlights. "Walking with people in their time of need has been a blessing. Visiting with a family as we plan a funeral is a privilege—to hear the stories and bring words of comfort. Building relationships and trust with people as you visit them in the hospital or nursing home is truly a blessing. It has meant a lot to me."

Times of celebration, baptisms, and weddings are another opportunity that Pastor Dean cherishes. "I love the celebrations. For baptisms, I make it a point to meet with the parents for instruction about baptism. It is an opportunity to build relationships. There are a lot of blessings that come your way. I have been blessed."

Here is some advice Rev. Trapp offers to those entering or continuing ministry. "Make sure that your relationship with Jesus Christ is solid. So often, we can get wrapped up in doing things that keep Christ out of the center of our lives. Love the people and serve them. Be open to the ways God is leading. Although you are there to minister to the people, let the people you are serving minister to you, as well. They want to do that."

Rev. Trapp gives thanks for the support of people throughout his ministry journey. Rev. Boyd Blumer was the dean of a camp and nurtured Pastor Dean's call to ministry when he was in the sixth grade. In high school, Dean met and got to know Rev. Eldon Reich. Rev. Reich was the dean of a camp and Dean served as a Junior Counselor for him. Eldon was appointed to First UMC in Aberdeen the same year Dean graduated from seminary and was appointed to Conde and Andover. So, Dean would stop in to see Eldon often. He appreciated the advice and support Eldon gave him as a young clergy person.

He recalls a camp leadership opportunity. Rev. Roger Spahr invited Pastor Dean to be a counselor at Dream Team Camp. The Dream Team Camp was about inspiring campers to explore the dream that God has for their life. It was held at Storm Mountain.   

Dean Granddaughter

Pastor Dean holding his granddaughter. Photo from Facebook.

"We tried to inspire the campers by reliving God's dream for Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. I played Moses, and we would climb to the top of Storm Mountain for the Sermon on the Mount and receive the ten commandments. It was a wonderful experience," recalled Pastor Dean.

In these times of tensions and division Rev. Trapp encourages us not to let disagreements and differences define who we are as children of God. "I think we need to understand and believe that we are all children of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes we don't get along. But, even when we argue and have differences, we are all part of the family of God. We belong together in the Kingdom. We cannot let disagreement define our relationships. We were made in God's image. Let that define us."

In retirement, Dean and Susie will continue to live in Sioux Falls, where they currently live. Dean will continue to work at Walmart as a Customer Host/Greeter. He will go from full-time to part-time, working two days a week, beginning in June.

"We have a granddaughter in Illinois that we want to spend more time spoiling. Our daughter Alyssa is getting married in Colorado Springs in June. So that will take some time," said Pastor Dean.

He was honored to baptize his granddaughter, the daughter of Rev. Justin and Kimberly Iverson. "I was able to baptize our granddaughter on Sunday, Christmas Day. She is a joy in our lives," said Pastor Dean.

As he reflects on his years in ministry, Rev. Trapp shares these words of appreciation. "I am truly thankful for my colleagues in ministry. Being in the ministry has been such a blessing. It has been a joy for my family and me."


Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church 605.996.6552 1331 University Ave. Mitchell SD 57301-0460 US 43.69689310 -98.03291320 122 W. Franklin Avenue Ste 400 Minneapolis MN 55404 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 W University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000