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Ventures in Christian Discipleship

Equipping lay people of all ages and education levels with skills and understandings for faithful and dynamic Christian living, action, and leadership with special emphasis on small congregations.

2020-2021 Courses

“Self-Compassion for a Change… Making better choices for a more balanced breath for all”
Saturday, September 19, 2020 9:00AM to Noon CDT
Presenter: Erin Matteson

Discover the value of self-compassion and practices that contribute to a healthier personal, congregational, and global way of being.

Course Description and Presenter Information
As people of faith we are called not to be selfish. Yet we are also called not to be self-less. Integrating scripture, theology, work from a variety of authors, art, guided meditation and more, we will explore why ministerial leaders and laity alike don’t typically practice self-compassion well, why we not only need but are called to this as we live, and practices to help us deepen such a commitment. Authors Joyce Rupp, Christina Feldman, Kristin Neff, Tara Brach, Brené Brown among others, artists, poets and musicians help us deepen and widen the model and call of Jesus as they offer inspirational and challenging companionship on the journey of being more self-compassionate Followers of the Way. Come explore healthy understandings and a more faithful practice of self-compassion toward creating and living a healthier personal life, congregational lives, and ultimately contributing to a healthier global way of being together in the midst of rapid changes that are constant in all dimensions of living.

Erin Matteson:
Erin Matteson is ordained in the Church of the Brethren and currently engaged in a ministry of focused spiritual formation work as a spiritual director, retreat leader, writer and speaker. She has a passion for creating safe space for deep listening and compassionate companionship with individuals and groups of various sizes for the deepening of faith, healing, learning and community. Her denominational work currently includes curriculum writing for Brethren Press, serving on the Spiritual Directors Network Committee and as a Circuit Rider for the CoB program, Part-time Pastor, Full-Time Church. Previously Erin served for nearly twenty-five years as a pastor in the CoB and in various other leadership capacities such as Moderator of the Pacific Southwest District and Music Coordinator, as a Worship Coordinator and preacher for Annual Conference. She received a B.M. from Millikin University, an M.Div. from Bethany Theological Seminary, certification as a spiritual director from Mercy Center in Burlingame, California, and has attended numerous events with Joyce Rupp including the four-day Boundless Compassion Retreat and a facilitator training where she became a certified teacher of the program. She has two daughters and lives in Modesto, CA with her life partner, Russ. Erin loves spending time with creation gardening, at the ocean or in the woods, walking or running, and watching the Chicago Cubs play baseball whenever she can.

“Understanding Transitions: Gender in our Christian Context”
Saturday, October 17, 2020 9:00AM to Noon CDT
Presenter: Eleanor Hubbard

A safe space to consider questions, concerns, and issues about the transgender experience and explore together what it means to be a good Christian neighbor to the transgender community.

Course Description and Presenter Information
Many Christians have questions about what it means to be transgender, and how it is possible to faithfully include transgender people in our communities. Together in this course we will come to understand transgender people whether transgender, cis-gender (non-transgender), or non-binary (a person who lives outside the binary male/female system).  It is important to know the terminology to increase understanding.  Can we be good Christian neighbors to the transgender community and understand better how the transition process can be a faithful experience? Can we avoid causing harm to our Christian transgender neighbors by trying to understand them? How do we use scripture as our guide in communing with them? This course will be a safe space to explore with other Christians your questions, concerns, and issues about the transgender experience and explore together what it means to be a good Christian neighbor to the transgender community.

Eleanor Hubbard:
Eleanor A. (Draper) Hubbard is a graduate of McPherson College (1962) and has her MA and Ph.D. in Sociology (1993) from the University of Colorado in Boulder.  Her areas of expertise are gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, social class and race.  Her first love is teaching and has taught at every grade from elementary school (in the Peace Corps) through college. In Boulder, Eleanor created and taught the course Whiteness Studies, looking at identity and social structure from the perspective of a white racial category.  She also has a training and consulting firm, DiversityWorks and has worked with for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, doing presentations and trainings on diversity in the workplace.  Her husband Dennis (also a 1962 graduate of McPherson College) and she have two daughters, Kirsten and Natasha, and two grandchildren, Calvin and Ellie.  They are also faithful members of Cairn Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lafayette, CO.

“Leading at the Speed of Change”
Saturday, November 21, 2020 9:00AM to Noon CDT
Presenter: Stan Dueck

Exploring the challenges and possibilities that change provides to congregations and how to move forward in these changes as a church.

Course Description and Presenter Information
We are in a time of tremendous and persistent change. We are facing changes not only in our congregations but also in our families, workplaces, schools, and communities. The list goes on. We hear this is a time of shifting paradigms. The assumptions we base our daily behavior are changing in complex and confusing ways because of these encompassing paradigm shifts.

Many congregations feel turned upside down as leaders and members search for meaning and a way to provide faithful leadership to the church. The time and environment are changing at a rate that requires us to continually learn, unlearn, and relearn our purpose of ministry and reinvent the congregation to meet the needs that face us.

Churches tend to resist change because of the comfort of past success, practices, and traditions. Many churches want to see more people meet and follow Jesus. Unfortunately, they find it hard to change, let go of old methods and procedures, and take a different approach.

We can be resistant to anything unfamiliar, seeing the unknown as a threat. Change can create a magnitude of confusion which people are unprepared to absorb, making them ill-equipped to meet the unexpected. Leading change is not always comfortable. However, it is a skill that can be learned. The session will explore the following:

  1. Change and congregations
  2. What’s going on that creates resistance.
  3. Nimble leadership and resilient congregation.
  4. Beginning the journey

Stan Dueck:
Stan Dueck is an ordained minister serving as the Director of Organizational Leadership with Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren. He is a consultant, coach, mentor, teacher, and strategic advisor with a passion for cultivating healthy congregations and building the capacity of leaders.

Stan is a graduate of Fresno Pacific College, Lancaster Theological Seminary, and the College of Executive Coaching. He is a certified leadership and personal coach with the International Coaching Federation, WBECS, Multiple Health Systems, and Marshall Goldsmith’s Global Leadership and Stakeholder Centered Coaching.

Stan resides in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with his wife Julie and daughter Courtney.

“The Gift of Multivocational Ministry”
Saturday, February 20, 2021 9:00AM to Noon CDT
Presenter: Dana Cassell

Exploring the gift of Multivocational ministry and its possibilities for shared ministry today.

Course Description and Presenter Information
In the Church of the Brethren, more than 3/4 of congregations are served by multivocational (part-time) pastors. That statistic might sound discouraging, but multivocational ministry is actually a gift and grace, for both ministers and congregations. This course will highlight current realities, encouraging possibilities and theological roots of shared ministry for today.

Dana Cassell:
Dana Cassell serves part-time as pastor of the Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, North Carolina and part-time as the Manager for the Church of the Brethren’s “Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church” program. She loves the Blue Ridge mountains, baking, reading, and her tiny dog named Franny.

“Reformations Past and Present”
Saturday, March 13, 2021 9:00AM to Noon CDT
Presenter: Bobbi Dykema

As the contemporary church experiences seismic shifts, learn about historic times of extreme change, or reformations, which continue to shape the current and future church.

Course Description and Presenter Information
In church historian Phyllis Tickle’s book The Great Emergence, Tickle quotes Anglican bishop the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer as saying that “about every 500 years, the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale.” Past such “rummage sales”: the shift into monastic Christian spirituality with the fall of the Roman Empire around the year 500, the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox churches and Western Christianity around the year 1000, and the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, have all contributed mightily to our current understanding and practice of the Christian faith, which itself is undergoing upheaval in the present time. What can we learn from these past reformations, and what can we observe already about the current time of change, that will help us to navigate? This course will examine the history of the three earlier times of reformation, and lift up what scholars are observing about the present shifts, with an eye toward equipping church folks to listen faithfully to and live out the Spirit’s calling of the church of the future.

Bobbi Dykema:
Bobbi Dykema is currently serving in pastorates with First Church of the Brethren in Springfield, Illinois, and the Living Stream online CoB. She also serves on the steering committee of the Womaen’s Caucus. Bobbi completed her master’s degree at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and a PhD in Art and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, with a dissertation on early Lutheran woodcuts. She has written a number of scholarly articles on the visual culture of the Protestant Reformation, including most recently one on Protestant Visual Art for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion and the Arts, as well as a recent bible study on compassion in Messenger. Bobbi has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at Strayer University, Hamline University, Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry, and Pacific School of Religion. She lives in Springfield with her husband, Tim Bender, and their cats, Simon Zelotes (named for the disciple) and Saskia (named for Rembrandt’s wife).

“The Ministry of Jesus, Ubuntu and Cultural Competency for These Times”
Part 1: Tuesday, May 4 and Part 2: Tuesday, May 11, 2021. 6pm to 8pm CDT
Presenter: LaDonna Sanders Nkosi

This course explores biblical examples, the ministry of Jesus, and current texts to provide helpful skill building in increasing our cultural competency, respectful multicultural engagement practices, and beloved community building.

Course Description and Presenter Information
As followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility to foster communities and relationships of respect that honor and welcome people from across various cultures and backgrounds. This course explores biblical examples, the ministry of Jesus, and current texts to provide helpful skill building in increasing our cultural competency, respectful multicultural engagement practices, and beloved community building as described by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Kingian Nonviolence and Philosophy.

Participants are asked to read at least the first three chapters of the book Everyday Ubuntu: Living Better the African Way by Mungi Ngomane and to keep a cross-cultural skill-building journal as a part of the course. A copy of the book can be found through Brethren Press:, your favorite book retailer, local library, or audiobook provider. Poetry, video, journaling, reflections and conversations together will be key components as participants explore and build their cultural competencies as followers of Jesus in these times.

LaDonna Sanders Nkosi:
Rev. LaDonna Nkosi is a public poet, global traveller and cross-cultural community builder who is the Senior Leader of the Gathering Chicago and the Gathering Global Network.  She is the Director of Intercultural Ministries with the Church of the Brethren and speaks widely on cross-cultural community building, healing racism and mutually respectful ministry partnerships in global and US contexts.  She is currently a doctoral candidate and Wright Scholar in African Centered Ministries, Religion and Theology at McCormick Theological Seminary.

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All course times are 9am-noon Central Time unless indicated otherwise.
There is a suggested $25 donation per course.

Archive of Courses | Access to Previous Recordings

About the Courses

Registering online is the preferred method.  There is no charge for courses; however, a suggested donation is invited.

Ventures courses, while not for college credit, offer high-quality instruction. The goal of the program is to empower lay people, especially in smaller congregations, to more effectively carry out the work of discipleship, following in Jesus’ footsteps to transform ourselves and the world. You are invited to journey with others on this new pathway sponsored by McPherson College.

Technology Requirements for Live Courses: If you can surf the web, you will be able to participate in our online courses! For the best experience, we recommend that you have a computer with high-speed internet connection and external powered speakers. We encourage several people to share a computer to participate in a course together! No camera or microphone needed for most courses.