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Lyksett took roundabout way to Methodist ministry

Although Shelley Lyksett has always attended the Methodist church, she only recently decided to become one of its pastors.

Lyksett is now serving the United Methodist churches in Ellsworth, Diamond Bluff and Hartland as a licensed student pastor. The New Richmond native will continue her studies at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minn., for at least two more years, she said Thursday.

"I spend two days a week there and three days here," she said. She succeeded Pastor Tom Ball, who retired.

The Cottage Grove, Minn., resident said she does a bit of everything for the three churches, ranging from guiding worship services to conducting funerals. But congregation members are encouraged to be involved in the services; in fact, they take over when she's traveling between the three locations on Sunday mornings. She begins at Diamond Bluff at 8 a.m., then heads for the 9 a.m. service at Ellsworth and ends at the 10:15 a.m. Hartland service.

"It's very small and intimate, very family-oriented," she said about why she liked coming here, estimating around 20 people attend a typical service.

Lyksett said she's found this to be a welcoming community. She's pleased there's a ministerial association and plans to participate in it to the extent she can. She said the church values outreach, noting the United Methodist Women regularly visit the nursing home here.

Aware of the former pastor's pending retirement, the congregations let the bishop know they'd be receptive to having a licensed student pastor, she said. The local pastor parish staff, comprised of three members from each congregation, met with her.

"They needed to determine if someone with my gifts and graces would be a good fit," she said, indicating each church has an administrative board of six-to-eight members as well.

Once the congregations wished to have her appointed by the bishop, she came to see the facilities and meet more people, she said. She started her new duties in mid-summer.

As a high school student in New Richmond, Lyksett was active in choir and drama productions, she said. Her parents, Ken and the late Sandra, were employed by the bank there and as a nurse, respectively. She has a sister, Whitney, who lives in Milwaukee.

The future pastor said she set out to be a teacher. She entered the elementary education program at UW-Eau Claire and later switched to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Her first teaching job was in Lyle, Minn., a small town on the border with Iowa where the schools had a total of around 400 students.

After she married husband Keith, who's an engineer at 3M, she left teaching, she said. They lived in Hudson and she took work as youth director at Hudson's United Methodist Church. She originally believed it'd be just temporary.

"The more I worked there, the more I loved it," she said, noting she was in charge of the church's youth fellowship, recruiting and the like. The congregation had approximately 600 members at the time and she stayed for four years.

In 1988, the couple's twin sons, Robert and Jonathan, were born. She said she left the church job to be with the boys. The family eventually moved to Prairie du Chien and New Ulm, Minn., finally arriving in Cottage Grove. By then, the twins were in third grade.

"I thought about going into education with the Methodist church," she said.

She became a Christian education director in Newport, Minn., she said. She then returned to the Hudson church, where she was responsible for Sunday School, fellowship for adults and all educational pursuits.

"It occurred to me I was really called to be a pastor," she said.

There's many ways to be a minister in the Methodist church, she said. She opted to pursue being a licensed local student pastor, often preferred by smaller congregations. She spent two weeks in intensive study at a seminary in Dubuque, Ia., to get her license. She's continuing with her pastoral degree pursuits, already having been at United Theological Seminary for three years.

Lyksett said she feels comfortable in this vicinity because the churches she presently serves are in the same circuit as the one where she previously worked in Hudson. She's acquainted with many of their pastors, whom she can rely on as a support network.

The region is growing and she suspects the three United Methodist churches chose her due to her training in church development and new faith starts, she said. But she agrees with advice she's been given that it's more important to worry as a pastor about your ministry than your membership.

Meantime, she hopes to incorporate a favorite pastime, knitting, into local church activities.

"I plan to get a prayer shawl ministry going in the churches," she said.