“I had feared that my years in the business world were just a distraction.”

Ken Cline had spent over 14 years in business before making the transition to ministry—14 successful years on the management side of a high-end crystal and china company.

But slowly, “I grew spiritually restless.” He began to explore the possibility of going back to school for theological training and even took a few graduate-level classes.

When a staff ministry position opened at his church, he accepted it.

At first, Ken worried that the time he’d spent in business had been a distraction. Had he wasted 14 years, had he taken a long detour from God’s call on his life?

But he soon realized that everything he’d learned in the business world had been equipping him for effective ministry. From recruiting and training management staff to overseeing 23 factory outlets, the business and leadership skills Ken had cultivated had been preparing him for the role of senior pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Saginaw, Michigan.

Although Ken was confident he was supposed to be in ministry in this new season, the transition wasn’t easy. He desired to study and grow in his knowledge of theology and ministry, yet all of his time was devoted to his current position in the church.

“The time demands of ministry and the financial cost of seminary prevented me from continuing my graduate work, which was frustrating to me. But the Lord taught me patience.”

It wasn’t until he was flipping through an issue of Christianity Today that Ken discovered a path toward furthering his education while staying in full-time ministry: Corban University was offering a three-credit class on Romans over the summer. It was only $99, and it was all online. He decided to enroll.

 “The course was challenging and the content was excellent,” Ken remembers, finally gaining the grounding in Scripture and theology he had craved. He decided to continue with Corban and pursue an M.A. in Christian Leadership with an emphasis in non-profit leadership.

At first, getting back into the routine of college was challenging.

“Since I had not taken college classes in many years, the most challenging aspect of the M.A. program was redeveloping my reading, research, and study skills,” says Ken. But the structure of that first Romans class provided the support he needed to brush up and hone his skills. “The class assignments were clear, the material was easy to access, and the professor was just an email away.”

By the end of the summer course, Ken felt confident in the skills he’d need to continue through the M.A. and eventually Corban’s Doctor of Ministry program.

Although Ken completed the entire M.A. online—which provided the flexibility he needed—he never felt the human element was lacking. “There was plenty of opportunity for interaction in the discussion forums.”

His conversations with classmates from other denominations and theological backgrounds were sharpening and refreshing. “Reading about what someone believes is not the same as having a conversation,” he remarks. “I heard the hearts of other disciples of Jesus—their viewpoints, priorities, and concerns. I was able to ask and answer questions.”

While his interactions with fellow students sharpened his discussion and listening skills, Ken’s interaction with Corban’s faculty shaped him in other ways. “I have been challenged to think deeply, ask difficult questions of myself, and apply what I am learning. Each professor that I have interacted with has contributed something unique to my educational experience.”

He remembers Dr. Leroy Goertzen’s classes with particular appreciation: Conflict Management, Growing in the Lord, and Servant Leadership. “In each course, the students had to dig into their souls to identify strengths and weaknesses and opportunities for growth.”

Although Ken found that he could immediately apply what he was learning in his current ministry context in Saginaw, he also began to envision how his degree could help him do more. His vision for Saginaw began to grow.

“My city is considered a traumatized community,” Ken shares. In 2012, Saginaw was chosen by the Michigan Department of Community Health to receive trauma services through Project LAUNCH, a federal initiative to enhance physical and mental health in children. In Saginaw, young people especially have been burdened by trauma—such as losing loved ones to violence—and churches and non-profits have felt the need to step up to help.

But they are not always equipped or trained to do so. This need is one of the reasons Ken is driven to pursue his Doctor of Ministry in Strategic Leadership.

“Corban’s D.Min. in Strategic Leadership provides biblically-informed training for leading and managing in a high-change organizational setting. In my experience, these skills are in high demand in churches and other community organizations that hope to tackle difficult issues in their community while presenting the Gospel.”

Ken has begun to dream bigger: What if he could help create a Ministry Training Center where ministry and non-profit organizations could become better equipped to reach the broken?

One could say the 14 years Ken spent in the crystal and china business was a detour—what could be less similar than selling breakable dinnerware and saving broken people? But the skills that allowed him to lead successful teams in the business world are the same skills he’s using to lead a ministry team, the same skills that will help him equip other leaders in the church and community. Perhaps it wasn’t a 14-year detour, but a 14-year foundation for the rest of God’s call on his life.

Learn more about Corban’s graduate programs