AMP helped confirm her calling

First-year Accelerated Ministry Program student Bailey Erickson of Mason City was an assisting minister at Wartburg College’s Ash Wednesday service in February.
First-year Accelerated Ministry Program student Bailey Erickson of Mason City was an assisting minister at Wartburg College’s Ash Wednesday service in February.

By Stephanie Robbins Boeding ’99

When looking back now, first-year Accelerated Ministry Program student Bailey Erickson can see clearly the nudges that pointed her to a path in Lutheran ministry.

Spending summers at a Lutheran Bible camp, short mission trips in middle school, and an immersive mission experience to Hungary in high school all helped Erickson see herself pursuing ministry as a career. Then, an older friend of hers from Mason City Trinity Lutheran was the first to mention the Accelerated Ministry Program at Wartburg, where he would be part of the first cohort.

But the cost of a four-year undergraduate degree plus seminary after that gave her pause; she planned to go to a local junior college before deciding her next step.

“It was in my senior year that I really thought about doing the program,” said Erickson. Her church youth director, Marcy Colvin, was retiring and joked that Erickson should replace her as Trinity Lutheran’s future youth director. Colvin had heard about Wartburg’s new program and told Erickson about the strong scholarship support available to lower the cost of her education.

Erickson talked with the Rev. Brian Beckstrom, director of Wartburg’s Accelerated Ministry Program (AMP), about completing the bachelor’s and master’s degrees needed to become an ordained pastor in six years instead of eight through the accelerated program. She applied and was admitted, and then was awarded several scholarships to further cut down the cost of her degree at Wartburg College.

“I got quite a few scholarships, from Knights Priority Scholarship Day, and the AMP program, and even support from my church from home,” she said. “What is most appealing is the shortened time in getting two degrees, because I know it usually takes a long time. Doing it in six years is so appealing, because I can get doing what I want to do faster.”

At a recent Accelerated Ministry Program group activity, students each stamped a word they could focus on to help build community. First-year student Bailey Erickson chose “love.” Special activities and mentoring are one of the hallmarks of the Wartburg accelerated program.
At a recent Accelerated Ministry Program group activity, students each stamped a word they could focus on to help build community. First-year student Bailey Erickson chose “love.” Special activities and mentoring are one of the hallmarks of the Wartburg accelerated program.

Ever since taking a tour, the Wartburg campus in Waverly has felt like home to Erickson. “I’ve met my best friends at Wartburg, and not all in this program,” she said. In her classes, she enjoys learning about Christianity and other religions. “Learning about ministry is what brings me joy. There’s affirmation that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

She also has opportunities to assist with worship at weekday chapel services, plays guitar with the Sanctuary worship band, and sings with Kantorei, a chamber choir.

She and her fellow AMP students bond through classes, eating together, and exploring their calling to ministry with faculty and staff mentors. At a recent AMP group gathering led by Accelerated Ministry Program Associate Samantha Pfab ’20, the students discussed what they hoped for in this AMP community. They then named one word they could focus on to help build this community and stamped that word on a keychain they can carry around with them.

Following her three years at Wartburg College, Erickson will transition to an internship with a congregation and take seminary classes through Wartburg Theological Seminary’s collaborative learning platform. She hopes the internship will give her a chance to experience age groups she hasn’t worked with before. “I hope they accept me into their community,” she said. “I’m excited about it, but at the same time I’m a little scared about it. I’m excited to get a better feel of how I would do things at my own church someday.”

When thinking of where God is calling her to serve after earning her two degrees, her heart is led to her mission trip to Hungary. “Right now, I see myself doing mission work: being a pastor in places affected by natural disaster or helping with work that needs to be done,” she says.

To help future students take advantage of AMP, Erickson emphasizes the role that adults have in helping young people realize their calling. “When young people hear from someone else that they have something, that they can be something in the church, that external call is really important,” Erickson said.

Pastors, youth leaders, and lay people in the church can support God’s calling by affirming the talents for ministry in young people and by referring them to the Wartburg program at www.wartburg.edu/ministry.