Seeger Chapel steeple against an orange sunset

Milligan’s MLP Program welcomes five ministry coaches

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, TN (Aug. 28, 2019) – Five dynamic ministry practitioners from across the United States have been selected as ministry coaches to serve as mentors and instructors in Milligan’s new Ministry Leadership Program. The ministry coaches include Rick Rusaw, Melissa Sandel, Mike and Jodi Hickerson, and Austin Gohn.

“The power of having ministry practitioners teaching and investing in students will pay big dividends in raising up new leaders for the church,” shared Dr. Ron Kastens, director of the Ministry Leadership Program. “The ministers selected to launch this part of our ministry program are overflowing with a love for the church and for students. Hearing from people in the midst of ministry – the joys and struggles – will be an immeasurable benefit to Milligan students preparing for ministry.”

Rusaw led LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado, as the lead pastor for 28 years. He recently transitioned from his role at LifeBridge to serving as the CEO of Spire, a ministry platform designed for leaders who inspire a movement of healthy, growing churches. Rusaw is the author of numerous books including “The Externally Focused Church,” “Living a Life on Loan” and “The Neighboring Church.” He is married to Diane and they have three children.

Sandel has served as director of ministries and a senior leader at West Side Christian Church in Springfield, Illinois, since 2004. In her role, Sandel supervises a staff of fifty and provides leadership development, strategic planning, oversight of campaigns and construction projects, and church-wide communications. She holds a Master of Divinity from Lincoln Christian University. She and her husband, Chris, have two children, Jack and Aly.

Together, Mike and Jodi Hickerson lead ministry at Mission Church in Ventura, California, a church they planted in 2011. Mike currently serves as the lead pastor and Jodi is a teaching pastor and the programming director. Early in their careers, Mike and Jodi had the privilege of serving at Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky; Willow Creek Community Church in Crystal Lake, Illinois; and Heartland Community Church in Rockford, Illinois. They have three daughters, Hayden, Bryce and Tyler.

Gohn serves as the young adult minister at Bellevue Christian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has written for several blogs and publications and most recently published the book, “A Restless Age: How Saint Augustine Helps You Make Sense of Your Twenties.” Gohn received his Master of Divinity from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

Ministry coaches will alternate each year between teaching a course at Milligan and hosting students within their ministry contexts. Both components are designed to equip Milligan’s next generation of ministry leaders with early exposure to hands-on experiences, a broader community and different contexts for ministry.

For more information on Milligan’s Ministry Leadership Program, visit

Posted by on August 28, 2019.