All Believers Are Ministers
"I am most passionate about helping to support, train, and equip pastors and lay persons to be more effective in ministry," says Tim Dolan (DMin '94). For nearly ten years, Dolan has served at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). He presently directs the school's Institute for Clergy and Lay Leadership Development and the new Master of Arts in Theology program.
Whitworth was a perfect fit for Dolan who, in 1998, had just resigned from his senior pastorate at First Presbyterian Church in Port Townsend, Washington, to pursue a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane. "Interestingly enough, the very day my family and I arrived in Spokane, the Whitworth job was listed in the local newspaper. I started working at Whitworth a few months later," he explains.
Dolan helped to launch the school's Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning, which promotes scholarship and formation through four institutes. The Institute for Clergy and Lay Leadership Development, Dolan's area of directorship, offers several certificate programs, a diploma in Lay Pastoral Ministry, a pastor's reading group, and the recently-added Master of Arts in Theology degree.
These training programs, Dolan believes, meet growing needs in the church--especially for the laity. "I have discovered that many laypeople in our churches have a deep desire to be trained and equipped for ministry. Yet so often they feel marginalized in the church, with their gifts for ministry not taken very seriously," he comments. "At a pastors' conference several years ago, I asked a laywoman--who often attends these conferences by herself--why she participates in educational experiences that are designed primarily for pastors." Her response? "I attend because I feel, 'Why should only pastors get all the good stuff?'"
In his work to make the 'good stuff' available to laypeople, Dolan sees many individuals take bold steps into ministry. "We have had several people become lay pastors as a result of the training they received through the Institute for Clergy and Lay Leadership Development," says Dolan. "One layperson, an insurance salesman, took our Certificate in Lay Ministry program in order to become the lay pastor of five small Native American congregations in Idaho. He himself is not Native American, but has a love for the Native American culture and felt a calling to that ministry."
Another recent student at the institute was a real estate agent who also hosted an inspirational call-in radio program in Cincinnati, Ohio. "She decided to participate in our Diploma in Lay Pastoral Ministry program because she constantly was taking calls that had a spiritual dimension, but she did not feel adequately prepared to answer them," Dolan explains. "She found our program on the web and journeyed across the country to Whitworth over two summers to learn how to more effectively respond to the theological questions she was receiving. She was so impacted by the learning and community she experienced in our program that she started a newsletter for class participants called The Journey". Stories like these have helped Dolan "see more clearly that all God's people have been gifted for ministry and need to be released to serve Christ. Ministry is not just the purview of ordained clergy."
Dolan recently joined Fuller's Alumni/ae Council--a role he views as a way of giving back to an institution that has equipped him well. "I had a great experience at the seminary," he says. "I hope God will use me in very concrete ways to faithfully represent the seminary in various settings and be an effective and positive voice for my fellow alumni/ae."