by Amanda Larkins
Terry McGonigal will move to a newly-formed position as director of the office for church engagement, following two decades of experience as Dean for Spiritual Life. The position was created using a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Fund in order to invest energy into cultivating a strong connection between churches and the Whitworth community, McGonigal said.
The main responsibility for the director of the office for church engagement is to expand a network of Whitworth advocates through partnerships with churches, McGonigal said.
McGonigal said he will focus on how Whitworth can strengthen the church when he moves into his new position.
“[The] first year will be majorly development work and it is possible there will not be as much delivery,” McGonigal said. “It is work towards a solid foundation.”
One example of future plans within the position is establishing regional hubs, where Whitworth can send groups of students to work with local churches in their youth ministry programs for the upcoming summer and summers in the future, McGonigal said.
He is currently searching for students to fill 10 spots in the Tacoma and Everett areas this year.
The goal for the project is to grow consistently, hopefully gaining 15 internship positions every summer, McGonigal said.
The connections will benefit both students and the church partners, including students gaining ministry experience and churches getting to know Whitworth through the students, McGonigal said.
A search committee is interviewing candidates to fill McGonigal’s vacated position. Candidates should desire to serve the Whitworth community with energy, intelligence, imagination and love, according to the university’s application for the dean of Spiritual Life.
Professor of Theology Jerry Sittser was part of the grant writing and proposal process alongside McGonigal and President Beck Taylor. McGonigal knows a lot of people and believes deeply in working in partnership toward kingdom goals, Sittser said.
There are few people who love the church more, understand how institutions work, and want to see the work of Christ furthered, he said.
McGonigal said his main goal throughout this process has been to emphasize the importance of existing church connections and the future connections that could be made.
McGonigal began working as dean for spiritual life in 1994 after he was encouraged to apply by a friend, Professor of Communications Ron Pyle.
“Terry is skilled at facilitating relational connections between persons who may differ from each other, between Whitworth and God’s church, and between our university and the rest of the world, ” Pyle said.
In his current position, he strives to be part of a team that is central to the spiritual life of the Whitworth community, McGonigal said.
“There are more around 2,300 students and 500 employees, and with that every day comes with new joys, tragedies and challenges,” McGonigal said.
McGonigal said his calling is to be in the midst of the Whitworth community along with his team.