Dale Steele: The Minnesota Pastor with Alaskan, Sled-Dog-Racing Roots
By Mykaela Alvey
Dale Steele, a name not uncommon to many in the Church of God movement, is the pastor of First Church of God in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The chairperson of the leadership team of the Church of God in Minnesota has been in ministry for many years, but there is a lot to discover about Pastor Steele that you might not know.
When he’s not behind the pulpit, you’ll probably find Dale Steele outside. “I love to be outdoors,” he reflects. “I hike, canoe, tent camp in the wilderness, fish, cross-country ski, follow dog sled racing at a distance, and carve.”
Pastor Steele’s interests certainly are vast and intriguing. How is it that he found himself involved in sled-dog racing? “I was born in Anchorage, Alaska,” he explains. “One of my earliest memories is watching a dog team race past my window, competing in the World Champion Sled Dog Race—known as “the Rondy” for short—when I was maybe three years old. I was hooked!” Despite living elsewhere for a time, he and his wife Sharon found their way back to Anchorage in the late 1980s to pastor the church where he grew up. “It wasn’t long before I reconnected with friends involved in the sled-dog world, both sprint racing (the Rondy and shorter races) and distance racing (the Iditarod). We only actually raced in sprint races. Our kennel was always small, no more than seven dogs at one time. But we were always competitive.”
Now residing in Minnesota, Dale says Anchorage and Minnesota are largely the same, except for Minnesota’s lack of mountains, of course. “I love to play in the snow in the woods, and on the lakes and rivers,” he continues. “So, if I can’t be in Alaska, northern Minnesota is a pretty good second choice!” Pastor Steele and his wife have been married for thirty-six years and met at the School of Theology at Anderson University. “We don’t have children, but in the years when most folks are raising children, we raised and raced eleven sled dogs, and had two Scottish terriers and, now, a Puli as house.” No one could deny the incredibly adventures they shared.
Pastor Steele has a deep heritage with the Church of God that he says partly “goes back to Western Canada.” He explains, “My mother grew up in Plum Coulee, Manitoba, and met my father—a product of the Home Missions work of the Church of God in Palmer, Alaska—at Pacific Bible College (now Warner Pacific University).”
The deep connection was the starting point for Dale’s long history and connection to Church of God, which he is continually passionate about. “I appreciate our (Church of God) commitment to a common theology, a common understanding of the Word that undergirds our fellowship and shapes our ministry. And I really appreciate the opportunity to pick up the phone and know there is someone on the other end who loves me, cares about the ministry I am involved in, and who is willing to pray with and for me.” This passion carries into his optimism for the continued direction of the Church of God movement.
Dale Steele is optimistic about the Church of God in Minnesota because of the new energy he senses. “We have five congregations of the Church of God in Minnesota,” he explains. “All of them are small, yet we had close to 230 participants register for our Family Camp the past couple of non-COVID years. Nearly half of those are under 18 years of age. There is a lot of energy as we gather every year.”
He sees so much possibility “in the young families and youth who attend.” And the fellowship continue to grow. A new Church of God plant has just started in Deer River, Minnesota, by a family who “grew up and has deep ties to the area.”
Concerning his congregation and local community, Pastor Dale Steele is full of hope. “I pray that we will truly become disciples of Jesus, and radical lovers of each other and the folks in our community that God brings into our lives. I pray that Jesus and his kingdom will become the true focus of our living—energy, resources, and influence. We live, like most of the rest of our culture, among broken families and the product of broken families—broken people with little healthy identity or understanding of how God intended human life to be lived well. I pray that we will become a church family in which those around us see a difference—in which those around us see possibilities for what life can become when it’s surrendered to the lordship of Christ.”
Dale’s deep prayer for his congregation and his community challenges all of us. “I pray that we will more and more become an expression of God’s family that enables folks to grow up into mature Christ-followers, influencing the lives of our larger community.”
The Church of God is a beautifully diverse movement of “Jesus people,” such as Pastor Dale Steele, boldly living out the love of God in their communities and beyond. Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
*Feature (top) photo: Sharon and Dale Steele.