Equipped and Encouraged for Christian Leadership

The Wheaton College Graduate School’s M.A. in Ministry Leadership program provides flexible learning options so that full-time ministry leaders like Vicki Gray M.A. ’25 can earn their degrees while continuing to lead their communities and organizations.

Words: Grant Dutro ’25

Photo courtesy of Vicki Gray.

When Vicki Gray M.A. ’25 first heard about the Wheaton College Graduate School’s ministry leadership program, she had already co-founded a successful church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Gray established Transformation Church with her husband, Derwin Gray, and serves as Executive Director of Spiritual Formation and Staff Health.

Gray, a former registered dietician, and her husband, a former NFL player, converted to Christianity as adults. She found the faith through a coworker and he through a teammate. After growing spiritually in a local Charlotte church, her husband felt a call to pastoral ministry and went to seminary. During that time, Gray started getting involved in her church through the encouragement of others. Her church leaders saw a deep faithfulness to Christ in how Gray approached leadership opportunities.

“I wouldn’t even say then that I necessarily felt the call to ministry and church leadership,” said Gray. “I just served in any way that I was asked.”

Soon after, Gray and her husband began building their own church community. They developed “One Heart at a Time Ministries,” a parachurch ministry that launched immediately after Gray’s husband left the NFL. They then planted Transformation Church in 2010.

“My ministry leadership journey has basically been following Christ, serving where I am asked, and really discovering how God made me,” said Gray. “Loving myself correctly so I can serve him with the gifts he has given me.”

When Gray’s husband spoke at Wheaton’s annual Amplify Conference in 2019, Gray was impressed by what she saw on campus. “I saw so much diversity,” she said. “I saw women in leadership. I saw people of color in leadership.”

Gray desired to go back to school but had not found the time to do so between raising a family and co-founding a church. When she saw banners announcing Wheaton’s new ministry leadership program, she decided to apply as a hybrid student.

“It was perfect,” she affirmed.

With every new class, Gray appreciates the program more and more. Her first course, Personal Development and Leadership, was immediate confirmation that she had found the right path. The class was taught by Dr. Robert L. Gallagher, Professor Emeritus of Intercultural Studies, who Gray highlights as one of many great professors she has studied with so far.

“He has done ministry a long time and knows the importance of caring for souls from the inside out, and not just through checking off tasks,” said Gray. “We lead out of our own relationship with Christ.”

In addition to her professors, Gray praises the broad spectrum of knowledge and skills she’s able to learn and apply through the program’s curriculum.

“It provides a wide diversity of thought within orthodox Christianity,” said Gray. “With the caliber of the things I’m learning, I talk to people in seminary and sometimes I’m like, ‘You didn’t learn that?’ The  program does a great job trying to get a holistic exposure to ministry leadership.” 

The program’s hybrid option, which allows students to complete their degree through a flexible combination of both in-person and remote learning, was key to enabling Gray to enroll. A student can take up to five years to complete the program, and for people like Gray who have full-time careers, this facet is paramount. Gray also highlights the support of academic advisers like Wendy Larson as being key to her work toward a ministry leadership degree.

“Wendy has been amazing in helping me juggle responsibilities,” said Gray. “We went through a difficult time on our church leadership team a couple of years ago, and I had to take a semester off. Wendy helped me move classes around, and I really appreciated that because I would have been devastated if I had to stop the program.”

Gray believes her degree will greatly broaden her skillset as a church leader, even though she does not plan to pursue a higher position at her church with her new credentials.

“What I learn is expanding my capacity in so many ways that I never could have imagined,” said Gray. “There is external leadership capacity, but then there is the breadth and the depth of understanding God’s Word and how that applies to church leadership. What does discipleship look like? What does care look like?” These are questions she has the opportunity to wrestle through with her cohort at Wheaton.

“I just love the passion that I see in Wheaton leadership to continually equip and encourage leaders that are already doing the work of ministry,” she said.