The Kern Family FoundationWartburg Theological Seminary has received a $497,115 grant from The Kern Family Foundation to streamline preparation for pastoral ministry for first career ministerial students in partnership with Wartburg College. The grant allows for implementation of a fully integrated Bachelor of Arts/Master of Divinity degree program to provide leadership, theological education and spiritual formation embedded in congregational contexts.

Louise N. Johnson, Wartburg Seminary president, explains, “The generosity of the Kern Foundation and the partnership of Wartburg College offer us an extraordinary opportunity to press into our calling to form young faith leaders, who can proclaim words of hope, healing, forgiveness, mercy, grace to a world desperately longing to hear and to know the living God.”

This new program will include three years of undergraduate education at Wartburg College with at least one semester interfacing with Wartburg Seminary. For this semester, students will participate in theological education through the digital learning platforms offered by Wartburg Seminary. The final three years (which includes a year to complete an internship required by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) will be located in a collaborative congregational context. The Collaborative Learning Model of Wartburg Seminary is an innovative approach to delivering theological education in congregational contexts. Students are taught and formed both by seminary faculty and by trained supervisors and mentors in the local congregational context.

“Extending the invitation to young people for service as pastors is one of our most urgent callings in passing down the faith from one generation to the next. The Accelerated Bachelor and Master of Divinity degrees program, a collaboration between Wartburg College and Wartburg Theological Seminary, draws on the historic commitments shared by our schools and provides an innovative, contextual, and financially responsible path for their education and formation. The fruit of this project will help transform our church in faithfulness to the mission of the Gospel in our time,” says Craig Nessan, academic dean at Wartburg Seminary.

Wartburg College and Wartburg Seminary share a long history and collaborative working relationship that began with the mission outreach of Pastor Wilhelm Loehe in Neuendettelsau, Germany, in the 1850s. The values of this shared ethos come to expression in the respective histories of the two educational institutions.

“For decades, Wartburg College has been sending graduates on to Wartburg Seminary to become pastors and lay leaders in the Church. Consequently, we rejoice at the opportunity to work closely with our sister school on this exciting, innovative project to accelerate that path for students called to serve in these ways,” noted Darrel D. Colson, Wartburg College president, “I’m grateful to the Kern Foundation for the support that will make this venture successful.”

The admissions offices of Wartburg College and Wartburg Seminary will be trained to work in collaboration with congregations, youth ministries, camps and the Wartburg College High School Leadership Summit to actively recruit students for this program with the goal of accepting a minimum of 10 students, aged 18-21, into each cohort no later than the second year of the BA program, having discerned a call and worked to fulfill necessary requirements along the way. Students would participate in cohort groups, and related activities, once they have been accepted into the program.

“We are grateful for the privilege of partners old and new with whom we will travel this road. And we are praying for those young people whom God is calling to respond to the call to be church leaders and for the wisdom to accompany them well,” says Johnson.

About The Kern Family Foundation
The Kern Family Foundation is a Wisconsin-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1998 by Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern through the partial sale of their business, Generac Power Systems. Dedicated to ensuring that the rising generation has access to the opportunities that made their success possible, the Kerns focus on systemic change, rather than charity, by funding broad impact, long-term programs. More information can be found on their website,

About Wartburg College
Wartburg College is a four-year liberal arts college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Wartburg College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is dedicated to challenging and nurturing students for lives of leadership and service as a spirited expression of their faith and learning.

About Wartburg Theological Seminary
Wartburg Theological Seminary is one of seven theological schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Wartburg is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission and educates women and men to serve the church’s mission as ordained and lay leaders. Established in Dubuque, Iowa in 1854, Wartburg Theological Seminary is in its 164th academic year.