Learning to multiply

By Gabriela (Gaby) Garver

Wesleyan Higher Education is ramping up efforts to equip the church, whether lay leaders or clergy, to make disciples.

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Multiplication is at the heart of The Wesleyan Church's vision strategy to becoming a transforming presence in every ZIP code, and that's why Wesleyan education is ramping up efforts to equip the church, from lay leaders to full-time pastors, to make disciples.

Achieving that vision strategy will take all hands on deck,” said Russ Gunsalus, executive director of Education and Clergy Development.

Nontraditional educational pathways have allowed those called into ministry from the marketplace to be equipped, thanks to their “flexibility, portability and affordability,” Gunsalus noted.

“Each institution is unique but united in their mission.”

Likewise, young Wesleyan graduates are going on to plant new ministries. Here’s a glimpse of how Wesleyan educational institutions are preparing students for church multiplication:

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Houghton College

Students receive instruction from professors who have real-life church planting experience. Houghton regularly sends students and athletes off campus to support growing ministries — locally, across the country and abroad. Students are also encouraged to plug into a local church during their college years, forming habits and gifts that support multiplication, and Houghton has seen many of its graduates go on to plant new ministries.

More info about Houghton College at

Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU)

KERN, a five-year “high school to master’s degree” ministry program, has served as a seedbed for innovative, entrepreneurial planters. In the program’s fifth year, students take a course in Church Health and Mission that is often taught by a church planter, such as Dr. Charles Arn. Most recently, KERN students Marcus DePeal and Andy Riemersma planted a ministry at nearby Ball State University, a state educational institution.

IWU is also looking to form church planting cohorts, in which a group of students from a variety of majors might team up to plant a church together after graduation.

KERN ministry program at Indiana Wesleyan University at

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Kingswood University

Church multiplication students typically visit four plants during their second year and are required to participate in a four-month, on-site internship. Students also interact with church planters on campus, including guest speakers and denominational leaders who provide opportunities to get connected with cutting-edge ministries. A new “Marketplace Ministry” degree program for those who anticipate serving bi-vocationally has been launched.

Perhaps Kingswood’s most creative preparation effort is a church-plant version of “Shark Tank,” in which students put together mock church planting proposals that are judged and rewarded by a team of experienced church leaders.

Degree programs at Kingswood University at

Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU)

For the past decade, OKWU has been supporting young churches through its Church Plant Partnership, a ministry that matches students from all degree programs to church plants across the country.

Three students were recently sent to fill needs at Overflow Church, a multi-faceted ministry in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Sheresa, a finance student, assisted with running thrift shops; Brandon, a ministry major, helped lead youth programs; and Dalynn, an education major, helped create a community literacy program.

“By incorporating students with different skill sets, we have the opportunity to look at churches’ needs and provide the connection to students who can best help their ministries grow,” said Ben Rotz, associate vice president of Student Development.

This year, OKWU is launching a missions group to train and send students to serve nationally and internationally to build healthy churches and communities.

More info about Oklahoma Wesleyan University at

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Southern Wesleyan University (SWU)

In the past year, under the direction of Dr. Mike Tapper and Rev. Mark Wilson, Southern Wesleyan has ramped up its church multiplication ministries — forging partnerships with multiplying pastors and churches, welcoming planters into the classroom as guest lecturers and taking students off campus to visit church plants.

SWU also launched Quest, a program to help high school students discern God’s calling for their lives, which includes weekend trips to local, missional churches.

A new program called 3-1 launches this fall: three years of classroom academics followed by a full year residency in disciple-multiplying partner churches.

SWU Quest program at

SWU 3-1 program at

Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University

Wesley Seminary’s church planting and multiplication specialization is blossoming as it broadens its focus to better serve those in ministry.

“Our hope is that those who are thinking about going into multiplication ministry will have an understanding of what’s required and those who are already doing it will bring their experience in a way that energizes the whole group,” said Dr. Abson Joseph, academic dean.

Some courses function as a lab — allowing students to discuss problem-based scenarios that can then be applied to real-life ministries — and others are completely on-site. One course takes students to various church plants in Indianapolis for hands-on learning.

The seminary also participates in the Exponential Conference, a nationwide gathering that equips multipliers and introduces students to bi-vocational ministry.

Regardless of their specialization, all Wesley Seminary students are equipped to engage in ministry multiplication through discipleship, whether as a lay person, bi-vocational leader or full-time pastor. The seminary’s newest specialization, intercultural studies, focuses on multiplication across cultures.

More info about Wesley Seminary at

“In the past, it has been difficult for a student right out of college to plant a church,” said Dr. Ken Schenck of Indiana Wesleyan University, “but The Wesleyan Church increasingly has the support systems in place.”

Wesleyan Higher Education

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“Our educational institutions are an integral part of The Wesleyan Church raising awareness of the need for and God’s call to make disciples,” said Gunsalus. “Lives are being impacted because of the faithfulness of faculty, staff and students to include multiplication in their curriculum. For generations, lives have been changed by our schools. May God continue to reach future generations through the truth that is taught at Wesley Seminary, Houghton, Indiana Wesleyan, Kingswood, Oklahoma Wesleyan and Southern Wesleyan. Each institution is unique but united in their mission.”