“We are not afraid to say that we are United Methodist. We’re not afraid to embrace the spirit in which Charles and John Wesley started this church. It was a courageous and bold decision to say ‘yes.’ We believe that through acts of service and intentional acts of prayer and learning, we created opportunities for students to come to know Christ. We don’t shy away from that.” Dr. Amy Novak, president Dakota Wesleyan University
Since 1885, Dakota Wesleyan University, a United Methodist University, has been reaching out to people in unique ways. Partnerships have fostered the United Methodist connection through internships, starting a United Methodist Church, service to the mission field and learning opportunities.
Each year selected students participate in a ministry internship, the Elisha project. The Elisha Project is an internship program that allows the opportunity for students to explore, discern their call and discuss with mentors and peers where God is calling them.
“We recognized that leadership is developed when you are practicing it. We are trying to give our students the opportunity to practice becoming a leader,” said Novak.
Lily Jones and Bryce Blank, 2017-18 Elisha interns, experience what it is like to work with various aspects of ministry. They spend time working with Fusion church and DWU campus ministry.
“The Elisha internship has allowed me to get hands-on experience and discover if the ministry is right for me,” said Blank. “It is great to be able to work in a church setting like Fusion and also campus ministry.”
Thanael Certa-Werner, a junior at Dakota Wesleyan exploring ministry, works in the Dakotas Conference office as an intern. He works with the Director of Ministries office helping to reach out to churches with resources. He enjoys the opportunity to learn about churches throughout North and South Dakota.
Fusion, a United Methodist congregation has been formed on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University. Weekly worship began in September of 2012 and Fusion blossomed into a chartered United Methodist Church. More than 150 people now worship weekly at the DWU Sherman Center.
Novak, states that Fusion is an integral part of the DWU community. “Fusion has played a pivotal role in reaching people who previously did not have a faith community. Our students, faculty, and staff have all valued and benefited from the partnership. The growth of this church on our campus speaks to the vital link between the university and the church as we seek to work collaboratively to develop bold, spiritual leaders for the transformation of the world.”
Service is just what DWU is all about. Service happens at all levels in the community, across the region and the globe. Students give back in numerous ways: traveling to Peru, Mexico, urban areas, Native American reservations and serving the Mitchell community. Every student organization and team at DWU commits to at least one service activity each semester. The entire campus leaves the classroom and volunteers all over Mitchell one day each spring. By serving others, sdevelop relationships that are intergenerational, cross-cultural and powerful.
President Novak describes service as natural part of the campus. “Service at DWU is all about what John Wesley said, ‘Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can and all of the times you can.’ That is manifested in who we are as an institution and everything we do. It’s just in our DNA.”
DWU is creating the spiritual leaders of tomorrow. A degree in Christian leadership at the undergraduate level allows students to develop skills and think broadly about ways they might serve the church.
Novak said, “In the past five years we have had more than 25 students go to seminary. I think that speaks to the kind of work we are doing at Dakota Wesleyan in equipping students for leadership roles and exploration of their call.”
At the graduate level, the university, in partnership with the Dakotas-Minnesota Lilly Initiative, is piloting a Nonprofit Church Leadership Certificate. The certificate program is designed to provide clergy with learning and competency development in leadership and financial stewardship for the 21st century. Read the details here.
“There is a lot of synergy between The United Methodist Church and Dakota Wesleyan. The certificate program is just another example. We recognize that pastors have often been prepared theologically for their role in the church but may not have had a chance to develop specific leadership skills,” said Novak.