An Interview with Dr. Kristine Stache

Stache has served Wartburg Seminary for 14 years in various roles on the faculty and in administration. She took on the role of Interim President beginning January 1, 2020.

How has your sense of call at WTS changed over the last 14 years?

I have to chuckle as I think about this question. When I started at Wartburg way back, I believed Wartburg was calling me to a job with a particular title that I would have as long as I was at Wartburg. In reality I have had multiple titles doing a vast number of things. I used to think of myself as the organizations’ chameleon, changing to do whatever needed to be done. In hindsight, I am so grateful for that. It gave me the opportunity to learn about different aspects of the organization and the partners we work with. What a blessing it has been.

“As a leader I need to be the ultimate learner—listening, reflecting, and anticipating so I can paint a picture of where we are headed.” – Dr. Kristine Stache

How would you describe your approach to leadership?

For someone who teaches leadership at Wartburg, I should have a pat answer to this question, but I don’t. I don’t have an approach to leadership as much as I have learned through the years to bring myself to my leadership and not try to be some idealized kind of a leader dictated by someone else. As a leader I need to be the ultimate learner—listening, reflecting, and anticipating so I can paint a picture of where we are headed. Having said that, none of those things happen in isolation. It happens when we work together and learn through our own decisions and actions—the successes and the failures.

What keeps you up at night? What makes you excited to get up and go to work in the morning?

My mind has a hard time shutting down, so it takes me a while to fall asleep at night. My brain reviews every minute of the whole day and processes it at full speed. Once I do fall asleep I sleep well and wake up ready for the day. I love coming to the castle each day. It is a place that challenges me. It slows me down and keeps me moving. This community has shaped me in ways that I can’t begin to describe. The best part though is that I feel it has shaped me for the world, not for the castle. What we do here is not for us. That brings me energy and gives me hope.

Most recently you were the architect in developing our current strategic plan. How is WTS uniquely positioned to serve the ELCA and the wider church today?

The strategic plan emerged out of hundreds of hours of listening, experimenting, learning, and discerning. It isn’t some pie in the sky dream. It’s connected deeply to both the DNA of Wartburg and what we are learning from our many partners in the world.  Deep listening isn’t an event, it’s an ongoing practice, which means our plan needs to be able to adjust course as we learn.

You, your husband Alan, and family are longtime “Dubuquers.” What do you love about living here?

The Dubuque community is never satisfied with the status quo. It would be so easy for this community nestled in the bluffs on the Mississippi River to be who it always has been, but it doesn’t. Through the years I have seen priorities lifted up in this city around sustainability, inclusivity, and revitalization. Sometimes I think Dubuque’s slogan should read, “we still have more to learn”—how fitting for an organization like Wartburg to be located in a city like this.

How can seminaries respond to the changing needs of the church?

To be honest, I think it’s time for seminaries to stop responding to the needs of the church. I know that sounds harsh, but stay with me for a minute. God is already at work in the world, bringing about change. That’s what it means to believe in God as creator-God is still creating! It’s time for seminaries to partner with the church, and discern—dare I say—anticipate those needs together, to catch up to what the Spirit is already doing. Instead of responding to the change, maybe we focus on leading the change.