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The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

Bethel to Knox: Pastor Caitlyn’s next steps

Campus Pastor Caitlyn Stenerson will be leaving Bethel University at the end of the month to become the senior pastor of a Minneapolis church.
Scott Streble
Campus Pastor Caitlyn Stenerson speaks in Benson Great Hall. She will be leaving Bethel University after working at the university for two years to become the senior pastor of Minneapolis-based Knox Church. While at Bethel her job has included working with United Worship teams, planning chapels and meeting with students.

In 2018 Caitlyn Stenerson won Bethel Seminary’s Omark Preaching Competition. The winner received the honor of preaching in chapel. Stenerson’s win was unprecedented because she had just won the previous year, and no one had ever been awarded twice. The judges, including Campus Pastor for Spiritual Formation and Care Matt Runion, couldn’t deny that she was “clearly better” than the other seminary students competing. 

When Stenerson joined Bethel’s Office of Christian Formation as Associate Campus Pastor for Worship Experience, Runion was excited about the boost of energy she brought to the office. Stenerson’s previous undergraduate professors were excited as well. Professor of Political Science Chris Moore was in attendance during the chapel service where Stenerson gave her Omark sermon and was very impressed.

“She’s an excellent preacher,” Moore said. “[She] translates the joy of Jesus and the joy of salvation.”

Despite only starting at Bethel in 2021, Stenerson will be leaving Bethel University Sept. 29 to start as the senior pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church in Southwest Minneapolis.

“I was just really drawn in by how well they love each other,” Stenerson said.


Stenerson attended Bethel as a PSEO student before starting her freshman year at Carthage College in 2010. But during January of her sophomore year she decided that Bethel was the place she wanted to be. 

“I knew that the Lord was going to grow me the most at Bethel. I knew that an environment like Bethel is what I needed for my spiritual growth. But I was in a season where I think I had very little interest in actually spiritually growing,” Stenerson said. “Going off to college my intention was very much… ‘Lord, if you give me these four years to do what I want to do, I will give you the rest of my life.’”

She graduated in 2014 with a political science degree knowing that she wanted to do ministry one day. Despite her undergraduate background and ministry goals, Stenerson started a career in public relations right after graduating. Seminary was a second career option, maybe for when she turned 40. But that’s when Bethel Seminary started calling. Literally. The Seminary Admissions Office called Stenerson, letting her know that this could be her last chance to get a full-ride by applying for the Kern Scholarship. She thought, Why not?

She was accepted for both the seminary program and the scholarship, so she went to sign her paperwork. One part of the agreement to receive the scholarship was that she was committing to being the senior pastor at a church, but she knew that the chances of becoming a senior pastor were low, and even lower as a woman. 

Now, she finally has the opportunity to fulfill that clause. 


Adjunct Professor of General Education Dan Rotach had been the interim pastor at Knox Church and asked Stenerson to come and be a guest preacher some Sundays during summer 2022. The congregation immediately made her aware that they were searching for a pastor, but she continuously declined them because she liked her place at Bethel. So they stopped asking. 

“It wasn’t until this summer that I just started to feel my heart stirred towards, well, if I were ever a senior pastor of a church, I would want it to be a church like Knox,” Stenerson said. 

And I just kept praying and discerning and being really wise with the Lord and saying, ‘Lord, I don’t have to go. So if you want me to go, then I’ll go.

— Campus Pastor Caitlyn Stenerson

So she reached out again and decided to start the process of becoming Knox Church’s senior pastor. During the informational interview the group asked what kind of church she would want to pastor. She found herself listing the traits of Knox. Intergenerational. Loves people well. Connected with their neighborhood. 

“I just kept praying and discerning and being really wise with the Lord and saying, ‘Lord, I don’t have to go. So if you want me to go, then I’ll go,’” she said.

Stenerson prayed for direction. Soon after in an email to employees Aug. 23, Vice President of Student Experience Miranda Powers announced that Stenerson would be leaving.

Runion will now be the only pastor until the position is rehired. 

Pastor of Mill City Church Stephanie Williams O’Brien preaches a sermon at Chapel Sept. 11. She will be preaching in Chapel Mondays for the rest of the semester. (Bella Haveman)

While Bethel searches for a new member to the pastoral staff, Pastor of Mill City Church and Bethel Seminary professor Stephanie Williams O’Brien will speak at most Monday Chapel services. Associate Athletic Director and seminary student Nick Cocalis will be speaking on Fridays through the end of the semester. Additionally, each United Worship team, who had previously been working with Stenerson, will be assigned a local pastor to work with.

“One of the things I appreciate about Caitlyn is her sense of collaboration … I hope that a church taking her on as a leader, as a senior pastor, would take that approach,” Runion said. “She’s not doing this because she wants to be the only leader … her collaborative spirit is one that I hope that the church will surround her with complementary voices.”

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About the Contributors
Molly Wilson
Molly Wilson, News Editor
Molly Wilson, 21, is a senior journalism and political science double major and math minor. She likes her Retro Boardwalk Owala water bottle, being a student manager of Lucia Chorum and experimenting with her newly pierced ears. [email protected] | 763.242.6904
Bella Haveman
Bella Haveman, Staff Photographer
Bella Haveman, 19, is an art and English double major with an emphasis in creative writing. She enjoys reading, listening to music and exploring new places. She loves traveling to different countries and adding to her fan and earring collection. She is currently trying to discover all the coolest coffee shops in the Twin Cities.  [email protected] | 515-520-4142

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    Anne AugerSep 16, 2023 at 4:38 pm

    Caitlyn is a wonder-filled human being. She is full of love and generosity. She is gifted in many ways and yet humble. I am sure God is very proud of her. I know that I am!❤️❤️