In the early 2000's, Youth Pastor Kirby St. John (now MN District Youth Director), along with Lead Pastor Denny Curran, had a vision to start a Master's Commission program in Cold Spring at River of Life. Their vision was to create a discipleship center that would train and equip new leaders for ministry in rural areas, whether in the church or secular workforce, while combining experience with the benefits of college education. In light of their vision to specifically reach people in the rural Heartland of America, Pastor Curran named the program "Heartland."
After many years of planning, this vision was turned into a reality with the help of Pastor Adam Haugen who joined the staff in 2008 as the HMC Executive Director to pioneer Heartland Master's Commission (now Heartland Ministry + College). Adam's wife, Amber, who was already on staff at River of Life and had a strong educational background, became the academic dean of HMC. Heartland officially launched in Fall 2009.
HMC in Transition
In 2016, Adam and Amber felt a leading into a more active discipleship role within River of Life Church. For over a year they had been strategically putting pieces in place to ensure the growth of Heartland discipleship program. Adam and Amber decided to step aside as HMC directors effective after the 2017 graduation ceremony.
After much prayer, the leadership of the program was passed to Dillon and McKenzie Patterson. Dillon and McKenzie are alumni who both completed three years in the program. They served as youth pastors for two years before coming back to Cold Spring in 2016 as the HMC Assistant Director and Admissions Coordinator. They fully took over the program in 2017.
Around the same time, Pastor Kirby St. John accepted the position as the MN District Youth Director for the Assemblies of God. Pastor Kyle Curran stepped into the youth pastor position in his place.
In 2018, Heartland stepped away from the Master's Commission organization and rebranded to Heartland Ministry + College.
In 2022, McKenzie Patterson stepped into more of a church-wide administrative role, and Brynn Sauer was hired to oversee Heartland's academic, admissions, and marketing processes. Additionally, River of Life began its fourth building phase, including a brand new 750-person sanctuary, which was completed in May 2023.
Today, Heartland still continues Pastor St. John's vision to raise up Christian leaders equipped for ministry by combining hands-on experience and college education. See our vision and mission.