NTS recently interviewed alumni Rev. Devin Mulder (2006, MDiv) and Rev. Aimee Mulder (2006, MDiv) about their calling, their unique ministry roles, and how an education at NTS helped shape their ministry. The Mulders serve as co-pastors of the Muskegon Breakwater Church of the Nazarene in Muskegon, MI.
Tell us about yourselves and your family.
D and A – Whenever our family enters any location, the decibel level increases by level 3. Our three boys Ford (11), Cooper (9), and Tucker (7) are full of life and Cooper currently does three flips in any open space. We love to kayak down the Muskegon river together and right now everyone can pilot their own kayak. We love to go on adventures and we want to be incarnational in the public school that our boys attend. We believe that God gifted our family with our most important disciples, our boys. They are privileged to be a part of our ministry and we look for ways to encourage them in leadership. Aimee loves documentaries, laughing with friends, and riding her Angela Lansbury bike around Muskegon. Devin enjoys the outdoors (fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, biking, hammocking), and cars. Devin currently drives a 1976 Austin Mini Cooper.
Where do you currently serve?
D and A – We currently serve at Muskegon Breakwater Church of the Nazarene in Muskegon, Mi. The church is located less than 5 miles from beautiful Lake Michigan. We are Co-Senior Pastors together. Devin has been bi-vocational, as a package car driver for UPS, since we arrived in Muskegon. However, he will be transitioning out of bi-vocational ministry and Aimee will be transitioning into it as a teacher. We arrived in Muskegon, October 2010 (currently 8 years here).
How did you first sense a call to vocational ministry?
Devin – I was called into ministry during a revival in Xenia, Ohio when I was 15 yrs old. I clearly remember arguing with God about going into the ministry. I had other plans for my life and wanted nothing to do with being a pastor. I laid out a fleece for God with very specific things I needed him to answer. Sure enough, he answered very specifically. At General Assembly in San Antonio, Texas I acknowledge a call into what I thought would be missions. I had plans to volunteer as a missionary in Albania after I graduated from Olivet Nazarene University. I did not want to further my education at NTS. God, however had other plans, and I met Aimee in Nurturing Congregations class. Ed Robinson was leading a discussion about ministry to single adults and Aimee said, “But we don’t want to call them singles because it makes us feel like cheese slices!” I thought, “Who is that?” By the next fall semester, we were married and working on our own co-pastor model of ministry.
Aimee – I went down to the altar at my home church in Houston at age 15 to accept my call to preach. My church gave me preaching time on Sunday nights as I was preparing for ministry. When I interviewed colleges, I felt like God wanted me to go to Olivet Nazarene University but there were no women professors and I did not see women students. I decided to major in English Education and minor in History and Theater. I taught in inner city Houston out of college and felt led to be a volunteer missionary teacher. I taught in creative access country #2 for two years and I had to evacuate quickly after 9-11. It was on the plane ride back to the states that God reminded me of my calling to full-time ministry. I knew I had to prepare for ministry and I reluctantly enrolled in NTS.
What makes your current assignment unique?
Devin – Our current ministry assignment has helped us to cement our calling. We came here from an assignment where the church grew from 20 to over 100 in less than 5 years. We really thought we knew what we were doing. God revealed to us that it had little to do with us and more to do with him. I have had a vision of compassionate ministry in our local city and the neighboring city of Muskegon Heights. After being here 7 years, two guys in our church came to me and asked me about some compassionate ministry ideas. The ideas they had were what I’ve been wanting to do since we arrived. It is amazing how when I stop rushing headlong into things and trying to force my way and instead give it to God in prayer, he brings others along with the same ideas. Living so close to Lake Michigan is awesome as well!
Aimee – I love that God has called us to stay the distance at Breakwater Church of the Nazarene until our boys graduate from high school. Mona Shores High School is directly across from our church and as we were driving away, I thought,” Our boys will graduate from that high school.” Later that night, Devin said that he felt our boys would graduate from the high school across the street from the church. We realized that God gave us the same confirmation independently. This Holy Spirit moment created a commitment in us to Muskegon but also changes the way we relate to our people. We are truly journeying on a spiritual path with our people and I know there will be a day when we marry two young people that we dedicated when they were babies. I love that I knew almost every family at our son’s fifth grade graduation and that we are a part of our community. We are rooted in our calling to be missionaries to the city of Muskegon.
What are some of the unique blessings/challenges of co-pastoring?
D and A – It’s wonderful to model a partnership for our entire congregation in our marriage and leadership. I think this model impacts the entirety of our influence. We love collaborating together and our ideas always have so much more power when we have to work out the details as a team. We both preach and lead board meetings and then we break up the rest between gifts. God uses our talents and abilities in tandem with what is needed. We are thankful to have each other!
One of the hardest realities of co-pastoring is that our people will communicate with one of us and then we forget to communicate with each other. They do expect us to have telepathic tendencies and I wish our requests for written everything would happen! An additional challenge is when “church” people join our body. New Christians accept co-pastoring as the ways things work the best but traditional members have had difficulty understanding what we do.
How have your studies at NTS helped prepare you for faithful and effective ministry?
D and A – NTS is foundational and we do not think we can overstate how much we minister from that foundation every day. We feel fully prepared to be the theologians-in-residence and disciplers of our congregation because of NTS. A seven year old boy asks, “I know Jesus was with God and the Holy Spirit during creation, but who created God?” NTS helps us answer this question by reflecting God as a mystery. Why do we invest in our lives to have the rhythm of Sabbath? NTS helped us realize that we can not pour from an empty cup.
NTS also gave us a support network that never fails and constantly lifts us up when the church breaks our hearts. We were nurtured at NTS but more than that, we were given a large toolbox that we use every minute of our ministerial lives. We are called to incarnational ministry and that combination of endurance and conviction started when we saw each other across a classroom at NTS.