Dan Wysong might have been a hospital CEO by now. He might have been a Wall Street trader or an investment banker. In fact, Wysong could have logically pursued any number of careers with his degree in business finance, except for the one he picked.
“I had a lot of great offers before I graduated,” he said. “Florida Hospital accepted me to their CEO fast track program, and Anderson Consulting offered me a job anywhere in America I wanted to go. I thought maybe I would trade on Wall Street for ten years and then retire and teach business.”
And that is exactly what he planned to do, until he got a phone call from an unforeseen source bearing an unexpected message. Max Torkelson, president of the Upper-Columbia Conference, called Wysong six months before he was due to graduate with an offer to be a pastor.
“My grandfather was a pastor. My dad and uncle and cousin are all pastors,” Wysong said. “I did not want to be a pastor.”
But his willingness to follow God’s calling overrode his aversion to the profession. When Torkelson encouraged him to send out résumés to churches, Wysong hesitantly agreed. “I told God, ‘If you want me to be a pastor, I’ll do it, but I won’t try hard to seek it out. You’ll have to make it clear.’”
After he received four job offers within a week, Wysong found God’s will to be eminently clear.
“Because of the incredibly unlikely nature of getting four calls to be a pastor as a business finance major, I decided to do it,” he said. “I’ve been pastoring ever since.”
His unlikely career began as assistant pastor in Kirkland, Wash., five months before he officially graduated from Union College. Wysong never looked back.
“At its best, church is one of the greatest things there is,” he said. “It’s better than enhancing the bottom line for stockholders. What’s going on with the soul is more important than how much money Apple made this year.”
And so Wysong dove into his new life with the same tenacity that defined his success as a business student. After a year as assistant pastor, he went back to school, this time to the seminary at Andrews University. When he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree, Wysong returned to Kirkland as associate pastor.
For the next seven years, his role as associate pastor took him to Piedmont Park church in
Nebraska and Carmichael, Calif., before he was offered the position of senior pastor in Chico, Calif., in 2012. Ready for the challenge, Wysong accepted. He soon learned the challenge was not to be taken lightly.
“The transition between associate pastoring and senior pastoring has been one of the toughest experiences of my life. You think you have it all figured out until it’s your job,” he said. “The emotional weight is easy to underestimate.”
But the emotional component is one of the biggest reasons Wysong is still a pastor.
“Pastors get to become deep friends with a lot of different people. I have the unique privilege to be with people at their most real and raw, and I don’t take that lightly.”
When the emotional weight does start to threaten his health, Wysong finds respite in the house he built with his family last year, including the property that is often home to deer, bobcat and bear.
“My health and balance is connected to nature,” he said. “I can be running on trails a mile from my house and run for an hour without seeing anyone. If I’d have gone into the business world, I’m sure I’d have more money, but I wouldn’t have the richness of the pastoral life.”
Through it all Wysong remembers to be grateful. He thanks God for directing his path; he thanks his family for supporting him; he thanks Union College for helping him build a strong spiritual foundation.
“In my travels, I have never found an institution I believe in more than Union College. It is a community that values individuals simply for being sons and daughters of God. They don’t try to be a spiritual school. They just are a spiritual school.”
And if there is one thing Wysong has learned in his journey through life, it is to keep listening.
“Listening to yourself and to God is most important,” he said. “Listen for what makes you come alive. You will make the world best by being your truest self, by finding what you love and moving toward it. It takes courage to get out and go, but you can only steer a car that is moving.”
Ultimately, Wysong has no regrets about his unexpected path after college.
“There’s no way I would have the wisdom or life experiences I have if I hadn’t become a pastor,” he said. “I love God and I’m thankful for the direction my life has gone.”
By Michael Rohm ’14