Two years ago, Dr. Philip Ryken moved from the pulpit of Tenth Presbyterian Church to assume the presidency of Wheaton College, the iconic evangelical institution. For my weekly interview series for Leadership Journal, I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Ryken and ask him about this transition. This was his response:
To be clear, I am still engaged in gospel ministry. From the beginning of my conversations with Wheaton's Presidential Selection Committee, I made it clear that the only kind of college president I could be is one who viewed the presidency as a form of pastoral ministry. My calling and ordination are for life.
That said, I have left behind pastoral ministry in the local church—at least for the foreseeable future. Probably the biggest adjustment is moving from a multi-generational community to one that is dominated by college students. I grew up with college students and have always enjoyed working with this age group, so the students are a joy. I do miss the special bond that a pastor has with the children of the church, however, and the exceptional privilege of performing baptisms, which is rare for me now.
There is also some difference in the immediacy of the leadership I offer. In a local church setting, the pastor has an opportunity to speak to the whole community every week and to set vision for ministry through preaching. When I preach at Wheaton, it is mainly to students, with some faculty and staff sprinkled in. And I don't preach every week, so I have to take maximum advantage of my opportunities. Also, the structure of a college is more hierarchical than a church, so the influence I can exercise in the daily work of the college is more indirect.
When I think of the adjustment from Tenth Church to Wheaton College, what stands out the most is moving from the city to the suburbs. All of us miss the dynamic pace of urban life, and the amazing diversity of people we lived and worshiped with in Philadelphia. But we also embrace the opportunities we have in Wheaton to give students a vision for the wider world and to connect the campus to Chicago.
You can read the rest of the interview with Dr. Ryken here