A Brief History:
In the mid-1960s, a group of denomination leaders from across the Midwest began to plan for a Ministry Development Center to serve their unique constituencies—persons in pastoral leadership. In 1968 the Midwest Career Development Service was legally incorporated and its first service center opened in Columbus, Ohio soon thereafter. Almost immediately Center staff became heavily involved not only in direct service to pastors seeking career guidance and counseling but also with judicatory and denominational staff in providing consultation and training to pastors around issues of personal and professional growth and development.
Midwest opened its second office in Chicago in 1971; a third office in Kansas City, Kansas, followed in 1990. In 1998, the Midwest Career Development Service became Midwest Ministry Development Service to more clearly reflect its mission to minister to persons in ministry. In 2002, the Southwest Ministry Development Service in Dallas, Texas joined with Midwest, forming the Ministry Development Network.
From its inception, the Ministry Development Network has concentrated its efforts in three distinct yet interrelated areas of service: supporting pastors, assessing candidates for ministry, and providing educational resources. Our core programs are designed to assist pastors and church leaders including lay leaders, missionaries and church planters throughout their calls to ministry. Services include assessment, career and retirement planning, personal and professional guidance, counseling and crisis intervention. Participants are encouraged to involve spouses and other family members whenever appropriate.
Topics such as professional boundaries, leadership styles, conflict management, working in ministry teams, the church leader’s family, self-care and retirement are addressed from the perspective of the ministry development centers’ more than forty years of specialized work with those in ministry. The Ministry Development Network has conducted research into the impact of personality and psychological well-being on overall success in ministry. With data that encompasses four decades of work with persons in church leadership, MDN has sponsored a number of research initiatives and also has made its data available to other researchers in the field.
Now in its fifth decade, the Ministry Development Network continues to seek out new opportunities to minister to persons in ministry. Most recently, major initiatives have included:
• Seminary based vocational guidance
• Lay Minister assessment and training in African/American congregations
• Bi-lingual and multi-cultural services
• A regional mentoring/coaching and support network for persons in ministry
• A longitudinal study of long term adjustment to local church ministry
Ecumenical in staff representation and judicatories served, Midwest strives to meet the vocational assessment needs and address the stresses and struggles of clergy and other professional church workers in innovative and creative ways that reflect the evolving church of today. Denominational support and individual contributions help the Centers to maintain this vital work for the health and vitality of the church, its members and its leadership.