Can Ministry Degrees Be Useful Outside of the Church? VP of Innovation Ministers by Cultivating Creative Confidence
There’s a common pipeline for those who enroll in ministry degrees: take Bible courses, be trained to interpret the Bible, learn how to preach the Bible, gain hands-on ministry experience, graduate, intern at a local church, and then become a pastor. But what happens when near the end of your degree in Bible studies, you realize that you don’t actually want to be a pastor?
This was the precise question Jonathan Haag found himself asking in 2011 as a junior at Grace College.
Pursuing Pastoral Ministry
Haag came to Grace in 2008 thanks to a college fair at Carmel High School where the name “Grace” caught his eye. He made a beeline for the table and talked to the admissions counselor about his hope to become a pastor one day. Over the course of that conversation, Haag decided the ministry degrees offered at Grace seemed like a perfect fit for him. In fact, it was the only school he applied to.
So three years later, when Haag came to the realization in his first expository preaching course that preaching was not his calling, it was hard to come to terms with.
“I wasn’t sure what to do with the information at that point,” said Haag. “I was on the track to get a degree in Bible studies and gearing up for church ministry, and it was really hard to pivot away from that.”
But deep down, Haag recalls a fundamental truth was being revealed to him: ministry is not just being a pastor or employed at a church.
Discovering a Love for Innovation
Recognizing the challenge it would be to change majors as a junior, Haag stuck with his ministry degree, but he picked up a course offered through the Gordon Institute for Economic Development over his January term. The week-long course, which took place in Indianapolis, was spent visiting different corporations and hearing from their leaders about good corporate citizenship.
“That class at that time for me was so profound,” Haag reflected. “It was a crash course into being a socially responsible corporate leader.”
Through that course, Haag saw that there were opportunities to use ministry degrees in different vocations. Ministry is not just for the preacher. It’s for businessmen, innovators, and entrepreneurs as well.
While he was making these life-altering discoveries through his coursework, Haag was coming to equally important revelations in the dorm room.
During his senior year, Haag roomed with two other innovative minds in Gamma C. The trio “played entrepreneurs together,” ideating new wacky inventions and business opportunities.
“Nothing we created at the time was successful to last until now,” admits Haag. “But we were learning to be entrepreneurs and having fun together in that room.”
As it turned out, those inventive friendships led all three roommates down a path of curiosity. Haag’s roommates, Andrew Rupp and Matthew Litzinger, went on to become entrepreneurs in their respective fields of chiropractic care and digital development. And Haag now claims the title of VP of Innovation at CICOA, a large nonprofit organization in central Indiana that responds to the needs of older adults, those of any age with disabilities, and the caregivers that serve them.
Putting it All Together
Haag assumed his current position after a long string of roles at CICOA over the past seven years, all of which he was the first to hold. Over time, Haag noticed that there wasn’t a capability to activate innovation occurring in the organization at large. So he began asking questions about how CICOA could work to meet needs when they saw an opportunity.
Thus, the Venture Studio was born. The Venture Studio allows CICOA to create spin-off corporations that meet needs and are purposeful in their design. Haag is responsible for ideating, prototyping, launching, and supporting these initiatives. But his favorite part – building inventive friendships – harkens back to his senior year at Grace.
“It’s that same insane curiosity, that same inventiveness revealed to me in that dorm room, that has served me so well,” says Haag. “Now I have a career where every day I get to be wacky with 400 other people to go invent new things that really help our neighbors.”
Best of all, Haag is able to see his work as ministry each day as he cultivates a culture of trust that encourages his team to think outside of the box and feel safe to say things that might seem absurd.
“To build the creative confidence of my colleagues, to show them they’re valuable, that I care about what they’re thinking – to me, that’s tending soil for the Gospel,” says Haag. “If I can encourage my team members and remind them of their intrinsic worth, things like the Good News are ripe for being planted in that experience.”
And according to Haag, he can’t imagine doing anything else. “I love the journey that I’m on, and it’s rooted in my experience at Grace.”
Ministry degrees don’t always lead to pastorships, but they do lay a foundation to see how every vocation can be leveraged to share the Gospel. We need Christians who know the Word of God and are intentionally living out their faith in all fields. Learn more about our ministry degrees.