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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.

2022-2023 Courses

“Strategies for Leading Positive Change in Congregations”
Monday & Tuesday, March 6 & 7, 2023
6:00pm – 7:30pm CST
Presenter: Greg Davidson Laszakovits, Leadership Coach and Congregational/Organizational Consultant for GDL Insight
Course Description and Presenter Information

It’s been said that “The only place we cannot expect change is from a vending machine.”  That quote is a great example as vending machines go cashless.

Congregational leaders (lay and pastoral) are under increasing pressure as our world changes at an increasingly rapid rate and our congregations decline.  It is no longer controversial to say that the established church has not met the world’s changes with enough creativity or fluidity to sustain itself.  Moreover, the spiritual and relational health of our congregations also suffer due to toxic systems and personalities we know not how to transform.

Believing the Jesus message is timeless, how do our congregations and institutions adapt to bring the message to this time and place?  How do congregational leaders — responsible for the health and vitality of their congregations — lead change in such a way that does not burn bridges but instead makes a positive impact and builds up the congregation in spirit?

In this two-part course participants will learn two strategic models for leading positive change in the life of their congregation.  Lawson’s Architecture, pioneered in the US Civil Rights movement, provides a framework for moving a group of people through a change, even when they are resistant.  The Marathon Training Model shows how we initiate change all-the-while building an organization’s capacity to continue to change.  We will look at case studies, and have time to offer our examples and challenges from our own ministry settings and strategize as time allows.

Warning: this session offers no quick fixes, simple solutions, or “5-steps for a congregational turn-around” program.  Grounded, intelligent, passionate leaders ready to dig in will benefit.

Greg Davidson Laszakovits
As a trusted coach, speaker, and leader, Greg gives his best so that others can share theirs. He has an Executive Leadership Certificate from Cornell University and a Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation. 25+ years of experience in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds taught Greg what focused and purposeful leadership looks like. And his ongoing journey as a partner in racial justice teaches him daily that transformation is possible and that we must all keep growing.

“Deep Compassionate Listening ”
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Noon to 3:00pm CDT
Presenter: Barbara Daté, Educator, Organizational Consultant, Intercultural Ministry Advisory Council
Course Description and Presenter Information

We are at a juncture where many relationships within families, our congregations, communities and neighborhoods are conflicted and we all feel tensions.  We wonder what our options are when we feel caught in the middle or feel misunderstood or relationships get frayed or broken.

The good news is that there are many options! Even better, if we increase the tools we have available in our toolboxes to use and use them, it can make a big difference!  The platinum tool is deep compassionate listening and the best news is that even 3-year-olds can be taught to use it.

This skill development workshop will explore some understanding of human behavior in a mini-lecture, a description of “micro-paraphrasing”, illustrated with vignettes what conversations look like with no skills used and then examine what it sounds like with skills and finally analyze the difference.

We will also provide some individual written practice, some easy interactive dyadic practice of a simple short topic and finally spend the last hour working in small groups (Triads) with each person practicing via sharing, using the micro-paraphrasing skill and scribing followed by intensive analysis of the skill practice. We will close with a debrief of what was observed, learned and cover any final puzzlements.

Barbara Daté is “Hapa” (Hawaiian for “half”) Japanese-American (Sansei) and almost half English with a Great-Great-Great-Great Gilliam grandmother who was free but from a slave family. Barbara contributes expertise in individual and cultural differences and deep compassionate listening that evolved from a curriculum research team of a dozen graduate students mentored by Drs. Gilmore and Fraleigh. Barbara holds an Interdisciplinary Master’s Degree in Interpersonal and Small Group Communication and Conflict Resolution, as well as a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, specializing in Prosocial, Proactive Behavior (University of Oregon).

For more than a decade Barbara worked with the Center for Dialogue & Resolution ( She is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, OFOR and Under a Northern Sky (with Canadian indigenous leaders). Barbara spends about half her time in consultation work and half her time teaching. Playing the cello in a dozen orchestras in North America, Mau’i and Salzburg has blessed Barbara. Barbara’s HQ has been in Kalapuya Ilihi (the lands of the Kalapuya from the Cascade Mountains down through the Southern Willamette Valley out to the Pacific Ocean). She is expanding her home to include Madison, Wisconsin. Barbara is a member of the Springfield, Oregon Church of the Brethren and the new Madtown Brethren Fellowship in Madison.

“Beyond Burned Out to Boundaries and Balance”

*This course has been cancelled. Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

Black Panther films as Metaphor: Lessons about Race, Colonialism, Violence, and Identity in Wakanda”
Monday, June 5, 2023
7:00 – 9:00pm CDT
Presenter: Dr. Steven Schweitzer, Academic Dean, Bethany Theological Seminary
Course Description and Presenter Information

The MCU film Black Panther (2018) engages in complex topics such as race, colonialism, violence/nonviolence, and issues of identity in explicit and surprising ways. The sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), continues to explore these themes. The two films provide a helpful metaphor and entry point for such theological questions being raised both in the wider culture and within the church.

Steve Schweitzer is Academic Dean and Professor at Bethany Theological Seminary. Steve completed his PhD at the University of Notre Dame (2005), taught Old Testament at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and then came to Bethany in 2009. He teaches a seminar on Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah and a course on Science Fiction and Theology. His book, Reading Utopia in Chronicles (2007), essays, and articles address a wide range of topics related to this Old Testament book. Steve and his wife, Jill, have 3 children. They attended Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Indiana for nine years before coming to Bethany. They currently attend Cedar Grove Church of the Brethren in the Southern Ohio/Kentucky district.


Spring 2023 Course Registration


All course times are 9 am-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.