By: Rick Carder
Jan Paron can easily be described as a pastor, educator, author, professor, dean and culture shaper. She is all of these and more. Her extensive background is only part of the story. Feeling a call to ministry, Paron went beyond what was expected. She desired to see a culture shift in the local church and those whom she leads. Her call to ministry was clearly guided by the work of the Holy Spirit. She recalls, “I met Pastor Dan at a Gospel fest fundraiser. Not long afterwards, I visited his church. Before I knew it, the Holy Ghost led me to speak to him about starting a school. About six years later, a small core team and I birthed All Nations Leadership Institute (ANLI).”
Since 1975, Paron has been serving as an educator and in more recent years she has become an expert in developing communities of ministry, helping to shape a culture of diversity and effective ministry in urban settings. Serving as an Assistant Pastor in Alsip, Illinois yet her influence goes beyond her local church setting, on staff at Lighthouse Church of All Nations. Under the ministry of Pastor-Leader, Dan Willis (www.danwillis.org) who is himself an extraordinary leader, Paron worked to develop an educational institution that has trained hundreds of local church leaders. All Nations Leadership Institute (ANLI) provides a four year education training men and women for multicultural church ministry. Paron is not only developing curriculum but also teaching and serving as Dean of the institute.
Paron’s resume is filled with extensive educational credentials. She is not only a graduate of the Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, she also holds degrees from Loyola University of Chicago. Her master’s degree in ministry leadership from Wesley Seminary was completed in 2014. She spoke to her classmates representing both a highly qualified educator but also demonstrating a culture-shaping leader. Paron holds a master’s and PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Loyola. She is certified as a Missional Coach with Bob Whitesel, PhD (churchhealthexpert.wordpress.com), professor and mentor from the Wesley Seminary. Her Pastoral training was completed through the Lighthouse Bible College.
During her interview I inquired with her about some of the most significant questions. Here are here answers to those questions;
I’m interested in knowing about how you felt directed to do the PhD. Can you explain?
Even as a young adult, leadership suggested developing people rather than managing them. I knew I wanted to teach at an early age influenced by helping my mother, also a teacher, set up her classroom throughout grade school. Her daily classroom recollections fascinated me, especially when her eyes lit up recounting success stories of her students getting got it. I played teaching in the backyard and knew my degree intentions during high school. It seemed a natural extension once a teacher to transition into the “principalship” and work towards later involvement in curriculum and instruction at the
district and university levels. After I completed my MEd in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Loyola University of Chicago, I wanted to know more about the field and continued in the doctoral program there. Loyola appealed to me as an urban center with a diverse student body, noted for its emphasis on scholarship, research, and academic excellence.
What is the life verse that has been most meaningful to you and why?
As an assistant pastor in a multicultural church, an ambassador for Christ to reach all tribes and nations for the cause of the Gospel, I look to 1 Corinthians 9:19 as my life verse: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (KJV). For me, this verse encompasses core leadership actions that surround unity of the Church: intentionally ministers to the multitudes; views others with openness; adapts the method, keeps the message; focuses on the call to the all; shows inclusion and impartiality; and uses value communication (Paron, 2016).
One of the greatest cross-cultural missionaries of all times, the apostle Paul continually adapted delivery of the Gospel’s message by contextualizing it to reach the nations with purposeful communication actions giving access to salvation to those who received it. Yet, he adamantly maintained the truths of Scripture. He did so with a bondservant mindset (9:19b) in that he “gave up self-interests and will to advance God’s mission as a slave for the sake of Christ, approaching enslavement with joy, devotion, obedience, yielding and sacrifice” (Paron, 2013). The “hina clause” that follows explains his passionate pursuit with the continuous action “that I might gain the more” (v. 19c). As a “servant to all” (v. 19b) he strived to win over an even great amount for Christ’s favor and fellowship (Thayer, 2009; cf. Mark 9:35).
While supporting the ministry of reconciliation with the multitudes, I must show the same zeal as Paul with a servant’s heart to reach as many as possible for the sake of the Gospel not letting life’s challenges interfere: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (v. 24).
How has your degree from the Wesley Seminary been beneficial to your ministry and/or personal development?
My Wesley Seminary education expanded foundational knowledge in both urban ministry and theology. Without a doubt, I incorporate what I learned into everyday practice, personally and pastorally. More importantly, my professors served as anchors in my own spiritual journey during my time at Wesley and today. Each invested in my life, nurtured my strengths, and helped me grow into my call. I cannot go without mentioning the many friendship I gained and still hold now.
What brings you the greatest joy and how is that fulfilled through the ministry that you lead as a pastor/educator?
All Nations Leadership Institute (ANLI) has an admittance policy that seeks to open access to a wide range of the called to urban, multicultural ministry. Men and women ages 18 and up can enroll in our college. We offer affordable courses with seminary
content in a theory-to-practice format. Students come to us with broad backgrounds insofar as academics, socioeconomics, ethnicity, race, residence, age, and denomination. Some of our students did not finish secondary school, while others have doctoral degrees. ANLI has a recent influx of students in their twenties enrolled in the four-year pastoral track as well as those beginning the program as seventy or eighty. Christ values each one, as does the Institute. After teaching 42 years, the drive to create conditions for student success runs stronger in me than ever. Whenever I teach, I always reflect on what to improve upon in my lessons for better student understanding.
In the ten years of All Nations Leadership Institute’s existence, the teachers trained students to serve as middle-door assistant pastors to a congregation of over 5,000. A high calling taken seriously, the assistant pastors have the responsibility of retaining the parishioners between the middle doors preventing them from leaving through the exit. As one of the assistant pastors myself, I understand the extreme importance of the role. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48 ESV). The ANLI staff nurtures every person as sheep in their flock during the time each attend our school to prepare them for their responsibility ahead. As the dean of All Nations Leadership, knowing staff sowed into the students’ call as leaders and journey into multicultural ministry brings me great satisfaction. At the academic year’s end, I weep with great joy when I watch my students anointed as elders or pastors at the Lighthouse Church of All Nations ordination ceremony; another class passed through our doors and will serve the King bringing His message of the Good News to the nations!
Teaching over 20-courses and authoring more than a dozen published articles. She also writes a blog called PerSpectives12 . Her passion is also focused on the All Nations Leadership Institute. Click on the link to follow about her teaching ministry as well as the upcoming SpiritLife Conference allnationsleadershipinstitute.org.
Written by Rev. Rick Carder, Director of Alumni & Church Engagement at Indiana Wesleyan University.