college mcp-logo-header-white mcpherson

Ventures – Courses

Course Descriptions

2019-2020

“God’s Relation to the Natural World and Creation Care”

Saturday, September 28, 2019
Kirk MacGregor
Many philosophers and theologians view God’s relation to the natural world as parallel to the relation between our souls and our bodies. This course will examine this notion and explore its implications for creation care. Putting this notion in conversation with Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), this course will argue that what we do, positively or negatively, to the natural world, we do to Jesus himself.

“Faith Through Action: Effective approaches to solving the climate challenge”

Saturday, October 26, 2019
Sharon Yohn
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
God calls on us to act when our brothers and sisters are in need. The destabilization of our climate is already causing immense human suffering, leaving us with a clear call to action. But how? When faced with a problem this large and complicated, it is hard to feel like our actions are meaningful. In this course we will explore three types of meaningful action you can take and the resources available to support those actions.

  1. Climate advocacy: A problem of this magnitude requires system level changes, and the fastest way to make that happen is through federal policy changes. I’ll share information on current legislation and effective advocacy approaches.
  2. Educate and act in your own congregation: While policy changes at the federal level are critical, individual and community actions help raise awareness while reducing greenhouse gasses. We’ll discuss resources and approaches.
  3. Reduce your negative impact: Improving energy efficiency is good for everyone. It saves money in the long run and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. We’ll share useful resources and ideas.
“We’d Prefer to Avoid That: Conflict in the congregation”

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Melanee Hamilton & Rick Polhamus (On Earth Peace Partnership)
All of us, both individuals and communities of faith, face challenges that can lead to conflict. Too often the choice is made to try and avoid the conflict rather than address the issues in ways that can help resolve and transform the situation. This course will introduce the idea of choosing new responses to conflict in our lives, including both the difficulties and the life-giving benefits. It will provide skills for analyzing and dealing with conflict in healthy ways. The course will also help enhance the participants’ communication in order to better equip them to prevent or minimize future conflicts in their congregations and personal lives. Furthermore, participants will explore the relevance of Matthew 18 in transforming conflict in interpersonal and congregational settings.

“Examining the disconnect between society and the environment”

Saturday, February 29, 2020
Dustin Wilgers
The environment is our home, and we rely heavily on it for all aspects of our lives. Technology is becoming so much a part of our everyday lives that some experience nature simply through images on a screen. Running items across the scanner, or clicking “Buy Now,” has made the purchase of products from foods to electronics to vehicles so easy, it comes often without a second thought—without thought of excess, of where these products come from in the first place, or of the natural and social environments impacted in the making of the products. This course will explore the disconnect between society and the environments on which we are so dependent and don’t even realize it anymore.

“Creation Care and the Gospel of John”

Saturday, March 21, 2020
Dan Ulrich
This course looks to the Gospel of John as a resource for renewing our love for God’s creation and overcoming complacency about the current environmental crisis. We will learn from John’s prologue that Jesus is the embodiment of the divine wisdom that gives light and life to all creation. The prologue can then serve as our guide for reading other portions of John, including stories where Jesus continues to work for the transformation of humanity and the healing of creation.

“Nurturing the spirit of the child without squelching the Spirit”

Saturday, April 18, 2020
Rhonda Pittman Gingrich
Jesus said, “Let the children come.”  In doing so, he invited children to enter into relationship with him and to participate in the practices of the community that gathered around him, thereby shaping their identity in new ways as beloved children of God.  As we seek to nurture the spiritual lives of our children, we can do no less. We will explore the cultural context that shapes the lives of children today (including nature deficit disorder); the innate spiritual capacity of children; spiritual styles and how they are embodied in children; and a variety of specific spiritual practices—individual and corporate—that can be used with children to help them notice and name God’s presence and activity in their lives and in the world around them, deepening their relationship with God. Following up on some of the other courses being offered this year, we will also explore the unique role of nature in nurturing the spiritual lives of children, for as author Ivy Beckwith notes, “it’s through nature that we (adults and children) see the creativity, imagination, and love of God for this world right in front of us.

2018-2019

Fall: “Conflict Transformation”

“The Why and How of Conflict Engagement”

Debbie Roberts
This course will briefly explore the theory and practice of conflict engagement.  Using the expertise of Mennonite, Quaker and Methodists scholars, John Paul Lederach, Parker Palmer, and Tom Porter, we will explore various models of engagement, the importance of spiritual preparation when we are asked to help facilitate conversations between others who are in conflict, and some tools that can assist us in listening and responding in helpful and healing ways.

“Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – Part 1”

Tim Grove
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – Part 1 The science of the past 30 years is painting a clear picture – when kids are exposed to overwhelming, unsupported adversity (abuse, neglect, domestic violence, etc.) there is profound effect for them and for all of us.  This class will introduce the ACE findings, briefly discuss the neurobiology of stress and propose simple solutions that promote hope and healing.  There will also be time at the end of the presentation for a dialogue regarding the implications for Ventures participants.

“Trauma Informed Care (TIC) – Part 2”

Tim Grove
We will briefly review and highlight the ACEs findings and dig deeper into the core concepts of TIC.  We will focus specifically on the core concepts of regulation, relationship & reason to be as critical components of a connected & healthy world.  We will also discuss how response to overwhelming adversity & trauma tends to create dysregulation, relational skepticism & pursuit of purpose that is often superficial and absent of meaning.  The strategies discussed that create regulation, relationship and reason to be are also relevant for managing conflict and other relevant challenges of modern life. (Part 1 not required to take Part 2)

 

Spring: “Welcoming Congregations

“Biblical Hospitality”

Fred Bernhard

“Growing More of an Inclusive Multicultural Church”

Barbara Avent
As the world becomes more diverse, church leaders and lay people will need an understanding of what is inclusivity/multiculturalism. Instruction includes a non-threatening approach to invite and help bring more people, especially People of Color, into the churches or agencies of the Church of the Brethren.  Learning new information can help change the trajectory of people, whereby they see with new lenses of compassion and inclusivity.  Plus participants can learn tips about how current church members can be more welcoming and inclusive.

“Healthy and Safe Congregations”

Kathy Reid
Almost all congregations aspire to welcome the stranger into our midst.  Our tradition, sacred texts, doctrines, teachings and cultural values can be a resource to visitors, members, and the community.  But sometimes those very things we love become a roadblock to others.  This course will look specifically at how congregations can be a safe place for those who are vulnerable.  Based on our Brethren values, what can we do to make sure that all, but especially survivors of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault, feel safe and supported? This course will look at how we can create congregations where everyone’s physical, emotional, or mental safety are important values and embedded in our congregational structures.   We will pay special attention to welcoming and supporting victims, survivors and the vulnerable.

 

2017-2018

Welcoming Muslims: Understanding the Differences between 98% of the World’s Muslims, Islamists, and Jihadists
Navigating Religious Diversity: An Introduction to Interfaith Cooperation
Welcome to Transformation
Congregation in Mission
How the Bible Came to be The Bible
Revitalizing Worship Through the Arts
Congregations Nurturing a Culture of Call

2016-2017

“Congregational Ethics: Patterns of Healthy Communities”

Joshua Brockway
Vital congregations are communities where the expectations are known and valued.  Through our Congregational Ethics polity, the Church of the Brethren has named the key areas of appropriate conduct for our congregations so as to support vibrant and healthy communities of faith. Participants in this webinar will explore the key aspects of our polity through case studies and discussion. This webinar will be helpful for congregations and leaders studying Ethics for Congregations as was recommended by Annual Conference to begin in 2016.

“The Real Deal in Brethren History: What Really Happened Out There, and What Does It Mean For Today?”

Frank Ramirez
Our history defines us… but what if we have it wrong? Most Brethren don’t know the real answers to important questions such as: Who founded the Church of the Brethren? (It wasn’t Alexander Mack.) Who was the first woman to preach among the Brethren? (It wasn’t Sarah Major.) Were the early Brethren all German, singing hymns in German? What really happened at early Brethren Love Feasts? Which Brethren historian was wrong about the past, yet correct about the future? Join us for this fascinating course as Frank Ramirez examines key points in Brethren history, illuminates this webinar with little known stories, and gives us a fresh perspective on how our past can help inform us in the midst of challenges that we Brethren face today.

“Mark’s Messages for the Twenty-First Century Church”

Dan Ulrich
How can followers of Jesus bear faithful witness to God’s reign in the twenty-first-century? Whereas Christians in the US are experiencing losses of privilege, power, and popularity, persecution threatens Christians in many other parts of the world. This workshop will explore how the Gospel of Mark challenged its earliest audiences to be faithful through their experiences of marginality and suffering. We will study the anointing of Jesus (Mark 14:1-11) and other key passages in order to envision life-giving ministries for our own times and contexts

“Christ Is My New Me: A Lenten Exploration”

Steve Crain
Paul said in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19-20). Our goal is to explore the depths of what Paul means, interpreting the passage in its context, pondering how spiritual teachers have understood it, and opening our hearts to its meaning for us, here and now. Christ our new identity, Christ our new life: let’s strive together to be renewed in this fundamental truth.

“The Book of Chronicles and the Church: Theology, Continuity, Innovation, and the Kingdom of God”

Steve Schweitzer
The book of Chronicles contains an alternative vision of Israel’s past, one that promotes innovation while remaining faithful to the people’s heritage. While the book of Kings explains why the people ended up in exile (“how we got into this mess”), the book of Chronicles was written after the exile in the midst of significant cultural shifts to provide a way forward (“where we go from here”). Schweitzer proposes that Chronicles is highly relevant to the Church as it attempts to imagine its future. Participants will explore several central themes in the book and think together about how Chronicles might help the Church to be faithful in the midst of cultural change, and to consider worship and seeking God as the core message for those who participate in God’s Kingdom.

“Beyond Sunday School: Transforming Faith Formation*”

Rhonda Pittman-Gingrich
Sunday school is not obsolete; however, given the reality of declining attendance patterns, it cannot be a stand-alone enterprise when it comes to nurturing the spiritual lives of our children, youth, or adults. We must create communities of practice that nurture and trans/form faith in holistic ways across the lifespan. Participants will explore various ideas and resources to undergird a more holistic approach to faith formation, including lessons from scripture and the concept of spiritual styles.

 

2015-2016

“The Hunger and the Dream (Acts 10) – Part 1 and 2”

Gimbiya Kettering
As Peter travelled, preaching and baptizing, he struggled with the many different cultures and peoples with whom he interacted. Today’s communities, both faith-based and secular, hunger for distinct, familiar identities and yet also dream of being multicultural. What can we achieve when we understand both desires and reconcile them? Participants will explore definitions for intercultural, diversity, multicultural, and cross-cultural and ask why this exploration is important to the ministry of the church.

“Congregational Ethics: Patterns of Healthy Communities”

Joshua Brockway
Vital congregations are communities where the expectations are known and valued. With the revisions to Congregational Ethics polity, the Church of the Brethren named the key areas of appropriate conduct for our congregations so as to support vibrant and healthy communities of faith. Participants in this webinar will explore the key aspects of our polity through case studies and discussion.

“The Road We Travel… a Journey Shared”

Deb and Dale Ziegler
Life is a journey that we all must walk. At times we walk alone; other times we have traveling companions. We will reflect on our journey of loss, grief and healing. Hear the story of grace extended and grace received – what has been challenging and how we have been supported on the journey. Our son, Paul, a 19-year-old college sophomore, full of life, ideas and dreams was killed in 2012 while riding his bike. Paul’s last text before his ride read, “I’m going on a bike ride to be with God.” The road we travel together can be a place where we share the burden. Resources we have found helpful on the journey of grief will be shared.

“From Call to Empty Tomb: An Encounter with Jesus”

Steve Crain
Participants will be invited to enter with their imaginations into four key scenes in the life of Jesus: to hear his call, “Come, follow me,” to sail with him in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, to break bread and drink the cup with him in the upper room, and finally, to journey to the tomb and find it… empty. We will strive together to hear Jesus’ voice, to feel his presence, and to be renewed in his love.

“Cymbals and Silence: The Changing Sounds of Worship and Prayer”

Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm
During the past 30 years, North Americans have witnessed some of the most surprising, powerful, and worrisome trends in worship since the time of the Protestant Reformation. What are these changes? What are we trying to “do” in worship today and why? What are some of the ways that you and your congregation can invite new and faithful practices into your worship services (including diverse practices of public prayer, music, responsive activities, etc.)?

“Technology for Congregations”

Enten Eller
In this Ventures course, we will explore various strategies to improve congregational communication, visibility, and even outreach by leveraging technology solutions that are affordable and appropriate for different contexts. We will touch on conference calls, virtual meetings, phone trees, email strategies, websites, streaming or recorded services and copyright considerations, and many other topics. Of special interest will be an hour devoted to Internet Safety, with guest presenter Brandon Lutz, a school district internet specialist in the greater Philadelphia area. Moreover, time will be set aside for addressing specific questions and concerns that participants bring from their own congregations.

 

2014-2015

“Beyond the Numbers: the Power of Small Places (Think Small)”

Duane Grady
Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “God must love the poor. Why else would he have made so many of them?” The truth of this sentiment would also apply to the small membership church. In the US the majority of churches have a weekly attendance of between 7 and 99 (Duke University). While large churches get plenty of attention, there are advantages and strengths of smaller worshipping communities. Let’s explore how God is moving and is dynamically alive in places where pew space is still available.

In this session, beyond looking at the strengths of small membership churches, persons will explore whether such places have decisive advantages for faith development and teaching the wisdom of Jesus.  We can learn from the perspective of some larger churches who have decided to reduce the size of their programs because they felt they were not able to build relationships that were leading to a lasting faith commitment.  A key question to consider is what is Jesus’ definition of success?  And how does this view of success interplay with radical obedience?

But we need to be realistic and recognize that being small has some disadvantages and never ending challenges.  When a group is constantly threatened by the loss of leadership or of a family moving to another location, there are stresses which take a toll. It does not serve us well to ignore these realities, nor must we be overwhelmed by them.  A careful reading of the New Testament will remind us that these circumstances are not new.  Perhaps we can allow Christ to help us imagine the small church in new ways.

“Laughing at Jonah and Sustaining Ourselves”

Duane Grady
No matter the size of a congregation, leadership takes a toll. Starting with the humorous biblical tale of Jonah, let us find ways of sustaining our energy, vision and creativity to serve God’s people. A key element of this work is to believe in God’s calling as an act of mercy as we set aside tendencies to feel limited, burdened, disappointed or even punished.

As we study and learn from the message of Jonah, let us be resolved to laugh at ourselves and to use the dynamics of prayer for serving the Lord with gladness for the long haul. We can learn from successful pastors who struggle with feelings of failure and wishing they were someplace else.  Within the experience of Jonah, God’s people can find specific wisdom for managing their lives and sustaining their spiritual energy.  The key is aligning our circumstances with the will of God for our lives.  In failing to do this, we will never find satisfaction in what we do, no matter how much others praise or celebrate our endeavors.

“A Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness: Engaging Social Justice Movements”

Carol Wise
Jesus and his followers initiated a movement that shook the foundations of the Roman Empire and the religious establishments of their time, changing the course of history forever. What did justice mean to Jesus? How was it embodied in his life? Is this still relevant today? In addition to considering these questions, this workshop will also explore the dynamics of modern social justice movements, the difference between restorative and retributive justice, and very practical ways that we can practice justice making within our lives and congregations.

“Starting with the Basics: Language, Sex and Gender”

Carol Wise
Do you know the difference between sex and gender? What does it mean to have a sexual orientation? Is that the same as having a gender identity? If not, how are they related? What do the letters lgbtq mean? What does it mean to “come out?” If you find yourself confused or overwhelmed by the current conversation related to human sexuality, you are not alone. This session is designed to help unpack some of the complicated concepts and hopefully empower participants to have a more informed and respectful conversation.

“Innovation on a Timeline: Embracing Your Creativity Angels”

Jd. Bowman
Just as everyone has an Intellectual Quotient (IQ) and an Emotional Quotient (EQ), we all have a Creativity Quotient (CQ). Do you remember what it was like to be four years old and color with abandon? At the precise moment that we are old enough to learn how to harness our individual creativity, we enter a school system that downplays our creativity and praises conformity in test answers and standards of learning. Each of us has an amazing wealth of God-given creativity, but many of us have forgotten how to listen to that voice telling us to color outside the lines. This workshop aims at rekindling your inner creator – and discusses how to harness that creativity on a tight schedule.

“Come to the Table, but Bring Your Crayons”

Jd. Bowman
Embracing your own creativity might be challenging enough, but embracing the “creativity” of others might be downright impossible! Raising our individual levels of creativity can also raise our levels of empathy. And when you have creativity and empathy together, the conditions are right for Collaboration – a necessary tool in small congregations. How can you help a small group become creative and innovative? How can you lead creativity without having a particular outcome in mind? How do you accept everyone’s crayons when some of our friends are clearly “colorblind?”

“Reading the Bible for Spiritual Growth”

Bob Bowman
For many people, reading the Bible is neither inspirational nor satisfying. This course will explore ways to read and understand the Bible for personal and spiritual growth. Issues such as the inspiration or authority of the Bible and doctrinal positions will be ignored so we can focus on reading techniques and appreciation of the variety of styles within the Bible.

“Reading Church History for Spiritual Growth”

Bob Bowman
This will be a short introduction to the first 500 years of the history of Christianity with a focus on the spiritual resources of the early church. Special attention will be given to the diversity of styles of spirituality that developed in the third century and those that developed beyond the Roman Empire.

 

2013-2014

“Making Sense of Church Finances”

Deb Oskin
How can your congregation safely handle money? How do you find people to do the various jobs? What do you do if something goes wrong? Do you know how to prepare a treasurer’s report? How to read one? What information does the whole congregation need? Who needs to know what? How much detail? What goes into end-of-year statements? What is mission-based budgeting? How is it different from incremental budgeting? Hear about a small congregation that re-imagined how to do church, focusing on discernment, discipleship, and mission!

“Clergy & Non-clergy Employees in the Small Congregation”

Deb Oskin
How do you handle the payment of the people your congregation employs? What are accountable and non-accountable reimbursement plans? What are the differences between clergy and non-clergy employees? Learn more about housing allowances, parsonages, withholding, clergy tax rules and how they affect contract discussions, reporting on pay stubs and W-2s, and why a W-2 is needed rather than a 1099?

“Spiritual Direction & a Life of Prayer”

Josh Brockway
Think about prayer. How did Jesus Pray. Is prayer solitary? Does it need a community? Do you know what a spiritual friend is? A spiritual director? Are you interested in the practice of spiritual direction? How essential is it? Would you like to know about networks of spiritual directors, especially in the Church of the Brethren?

“Are You a Person of Prayer?”

Josh Brockway
Think about the ways you pray. Is prayer the center of your devotional life? Is it something more? Are you uncomfortable when you’re asked to pray at meals, during worship, at public events? Do you feel defeated when the Apostle Paul tells you to “pray without ceasing”? Think about prayer as both speaking and listening. Would you like to learn to pray scripture? What about writing as a practice of prayer?

“Deaconing in Small Congregations”

Donna Kline
Is your pastor part-time with too much to do? Does much of the care-giving in your congregation fall on the members? Do you want to offer support but don’t feel you are “good enough”? What do you think of when you think of deacons—support, discipleship, hospitality, health, healing? What does scripture say? How can your small congregation do better at “deaconing”? Is your congregation without a deacon program and you want to start one? What resources can you draw on? How can you be successful with limited time and leadership?

“The Gift of Grief”

Donna Kline
Have you been at a loss for what to say when someone is grieving? Have memories of your own griefs made it hard to know how to respond? Do you want to be able to offer a quiet, safe space? What should you say and not say? What are the small acts of caring that mean so much? Are you tempted to want to make the pain go away and why is trying to do so not helpful? Why is sharing and being with others so important? When is silence and solitude also important? How can grief, which is painful, become a gift?