In 1998, Pastor Kirby St. John (now MN District Youth Director) was hired as River of Life’s youth director. During his time at River of Life, St. John took Breakthrough Student Ministries (River of Life's youth program) from 20 to 200 students. In 2004, River of Life church built a state-of-the-art youth facility in order to create an atmosphere where students feel acceptance, love, and are challenged to start or strengthen their walk with God.
In 2001, Pastor Kirby St. John had a vision to start a Master's Commission program in Cold Spring. His 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.
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 here in Cold Spring. 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 before eventually taking over the Director position.
Around this 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.
2022 was a year of development. 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.