Recent NWU Grad One of 40 in Nation to Receive Ministerial Fellowship

Justin Iverson knows when he’s a minister someday, Sunday school and church service won’t be the same as it was growing up in his South Dakota United Methodist congregation.

Justin Iverson“Sunday fellowship is dwindling,” said Iverson, who graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in May with a psychology degree. “Things are reshaping. It’s not like it used to be.”

Before stepping foot in the seminary, Iverson has some ideas on what could help churches grow. He thinks Sunday school classes will no longer be grouped by age; he thinks church services will likely need to go to the people rather than the people going to the church.

But he’s searching for more ideas. He’s likely to find some when he attends the Fund for Theological Education’s Conference on Excellence in Ministry. He’s attending the conference as part of a fellowship awarded to only 40 students in the nation.

“I was completely surprised,” Iverson said of learning he received the fellowship.

The Fund for Theological Education provides 40 congregational fellowships, which are intended to provide substantial aid to first year seminarians. Iverson admits he never heard of the fellowship until last spring when his religion professor Rita Lester encouraged him to apply.

This fall Iverson will attend Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Once he becomes an ordained minister, he hopes to serve in his home state of South Dakota.

“I thought about the ministry for a long time,” he said. “It was a struggle between God and I. I originally thought I’d go pre-med but chemistry and I do not get along.”

Iverson credits his youth leader for encouraging him to consider the ministry. He pursued that interest through his undergraduate studies, studying psychology, participating in service trips and serving as a youth leader at a United Methodist church in nearby Waverly.

“Participating in the Give Me Your Hand service trip to New York cemented things for me,” he said. “I realized how much I enjoy the mission side of this work.”

Iverson will spend a week this summer at Boston University’s School of Theology where he will attend the Excellence in Ministry Conference. He’s looking forward to meeting and learning from distinguished theologians, pastors and church leaders and hearing firsthand what their thoughts are on the future of the church.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Iverson. “And I’m very excited to see where this takes me.”

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