By Rev. Ryan Otto
In a letter to the United Church Board of Ministerial Assistance, the philanthropic arm of the Pension Boards, the Rev. Ryan Otto, Pastor First Congregational Church, Sioux Falls, SD, shares how the gift of the Next Generation Leadership Initiative has rooted and shaped his approach to life and ministry. Rev. Otto was a participant of NGLI*1, the inaugural cohort.
To the dreamers, visionaries, and leaders of the Next Generation Leadership Initiative of the Pension Boards: Thank you. Please receive my sincere gratitude for your diligent work in the inventive NGLI program, for the faith to take the risk on such a new endeavor, and for your investment in my ministry and in me as a person of faith.
I will attempt to name the gift of the ten-year NGLI program in one word: rootedness.
In the early years of ministry, I would find myself easily thrown askew. Throughout the first four years of the NGLI program, I would eagerly anticipate our cohort gatherings knowing I would learn another level of skills which could transform how I had approached the work so far. I would so look forward to gathering with my NGLI class for the solidarity and insight of trusted friends in ministry. These ministers have become friends with whom I can entrust my unfiltered struggles and my half-formed dreams.
After the first four years of study alongside my cohort, I was given the opportunity to create a plan which reflected my personal learnings, discernment in ministry, and goals for the future. I was able to dream up possibilities without the limitation of taking on a financial burden for further study.
Particularly as a young minister with a growing, young family, I simply would not have had the ability to pursue these arenas of study without the financial support of the NGLI program.
Given this gift, I could set aside worries of what was not possible in order to focus in on what really was possible. My discernment led me to clarity of what was at the heart of my spiritual life and ministry. Throughout the program, I sought to pursue a balance of growing leadership skills alongside taking essential personal time for spiritual retreat.
Because of these experiences, I have been a healthier minister, more grounded in who God has created me to be, more rooted in core truths when the anxieties of people seek to distract from the essence of the church life, and more trusting of my vision and insight because of the skills learned along the way.