For many United students, the journey to seminary begins with the encouragement of a pastor, mentor, colleague or friend.
Master of Divinity student Tony Miltenberger was already serving as Director of Adult Discipleship at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, OH, when he began to recognize a call to pastoral ministry. A community of United alumni/ae, namely Rev. David Hood ’08 and Rev. Dr. Mike Slaughter ’90, pointed him toward seminary to explore his call. Rev. Terry Heck ’90 and Rev. Dan Gildner ’11 also helped answer his questions and set realistic expectations.
I was just surrounded by a lot of people who cared enough about my call and my future to not let me settle,” Tony explained. “They said, ‘Don’t shortcut your education. Don’t shortcut the process.’
Rev. Hood, Rev. Dr. Slaughter and the Ginghamsburg team made it clear that his education was a priority. They helped him finish his bachelor’s degree online, and then encouraged him to pursue a seminary education.
“They really emphasized the importance of the education and the process,” Tony said. “Seminary is about refining that pastoral call and becoming educated about what that means in its entirety.”
Convinced that the seminary model of preparing pastors was the right course for him, Tony’s biggest challenge became how to manage it all. Now, as lead pastor of Centerville United Methodist Church in Centerville, OH, a husband and father to three young children, Tony lives in that tension, deciding day-to-day whether he needs to prioritize seminary, the needs of his church or his family.
The flexibility of United’s hybrid programs has helped. The options to take some courses on campus, some as intensives and others online have allowed Tony to receive a strong education and fully experience the community at United, while balancing work, family and school.
“The professors at United are amazing—both in their grace and understanding of the situation that working adults are in, and in their knowledge of the subject matter,” Tony said.
Tony plans to pursue ordination as an elder in The United Methodist Church, but right now he’s taking it one class at a time and focusing on his education. His experience in United’s Master of Divinity program is taking him in the right direction.
“It’s giving me a much greater context to the larger church, to learn and be a part of something much bigger,” he said. “It’s really easy to feel like you’re on an island in ministry. Some days I wonder if I am the only person that’s had to deal with this before. But when I go to seminary it’s always a great reminder that the church has been moving and changing long before I got here and will continue long after I leave.”
For those considering seminary at United, Tony shares, “You won’t regret the decision to start the
journey. Don’t feel pressure that you have to complete it in the recommended time. Do what you need to do to maintain balance. But the journey is worth it.”