Ministering Amid the Rocky Mountains
Assemblies of God Wyoming District Superintendent Alan Schaberg faces some unique challenges in leading the Fellowship in the least populated state in the union. One of Schaberg’s primary goals is to try to keep pastors from feeling isolated in the state with the lowest population density in the continental U.S.
The rural, rugged terrain certainly poses a challenge. The 40 AG lead pastors in the state may be an hour’s drive — or more — from their nearest colleague.
“It takes a long time to travel over mountain ranges,” Schaberg says.
Wyoming is the smallest of the 47 geographic districts in the AG. In fact, among all 67 districts, only the German District has fewer congregations. Wyoming also has the fewest adherents among the AG’s geographic districts, 4,244.
Wyoming, although the 10th largest state in land area, has just 584,000 people. The largest city, Cheyenne, has a population of only 62,000. Schaberg’s district office is in the more centrally located city of Casper. He is the only full-time employee. Schaberg relies a great deal on volunteer help, including his wife, Coleen, who serves as administrative assistant as well as district women’s ministries director.
Schaberg, 52, has been superintendent since 2012, after serving as pastor in Buffalo, a town of 4,500 in the northern part of the state.
While isolation — both geographical and professional — is a test freshly hired pastors face, Schaberg says Wyoming has the additional hurdle of longtime residents accepting newcomers as members of the community.
“There is an independent, Western spirit here,” says Schaberg, an Iowa native who has lived in Wyoming since 1998. “To be effective in ministry you have to plant yourself, you have to love Wyoming, and you have to be tough enough to last.”
Consequently, Schaberg has implemented gatherings in which AG pastors can be more supportive of each other. He says 80 percent of pastors in the district are bivocational, or at least working an additional job to make ends meet.
“My focus is to try to create healthy pastors, which leads to healthy churches,” Schaberg says. “We’ve been working on ways to be more relational.”
Schaberg recently organized the district’s first ministerial retreat as well as the first retreat for preacher’s kids. Certainly Schaberg feels at home in the state.
“It’s just a joy to serve in Wyoming,” Schaberg says. “There is something special about the culture.”