college mcp-logo-header-white mcpherson

Ventures Course Archive

Course Descriptions


“Middle Knowledge: How Can Humans Have Free Will If God Knows Everything?”

Kirk MacGregor – Saturday, September 17, 2022
The question of whether divine foreknowledge can be reconciled with human freedom has occupied Christian thought since the fifth century. In the Protestant tradition, three distinct but seemingly unsatisfactory answers have been proposed. Luther and Calvin argued that God’s foreknowledge and sovereignty preclude human freedom, which directly contradicts our experience. Arminius and Wesley argued that human freedom demands a conception of time which ostensibly rules out God’s ex nihilo creation of the universe. In contemporary theology, open theists argue that human freedom precludes God’s foreknowledge of human free decisions, which ostensibly denies divine omniscience and makes God something less than a maximally great being. However, an important answer from the sixteenth century has been overlooked in Protestant circles until its rediscovery among contemporary philosophers of religion. This answer was offered by the Spanish philosophical theologian Luis de Molina, a Catholic reformer who barely escaped papal ex-communication but whose Catholicism caused Protestants to rule out his views in advance. This course explains Molina’s theory of middle knowledge, which likely grew out of the reflections of the Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmaier. Dr. MacGregor, a leading middle knowledge expert, shows how middle knowledge furnishes a stunning reconciliation of divine omniscience and human freedom. Moreover, he shows how middle knowledge reconciles human freedom with God’s providence and predestination, offers an innovative solution to the problem of evil, and makes possible the early Brethren hope of universal salvation.

Kirk R. MacGregor (Ph.D., University of Iowa) is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Department Chair at McPherson College. He is the author of seven books, including Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, and Contemporary Theology: An Introduction. He has written over thirty peer-reviewed journal articles, appearing in such forums as the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Harvard Theological Review, Philosophia Christi, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Heythrop Journal, Church History and Religious Culture, Bibliotheca Sacra, Religious Studies and Theology, and the Westminster Theological Journal.

“Human Trafficking: A Call for the Church to Respond”

Vivik Solanky – Saturday, November 12, 2022
In the post-modern world, there is a misconception that human trafficking no longer exists. But, in fact, hundreds of people are trafficked locally and globally, where they are abused, threatened, and exploited for commercial purposes.

Among several types of trafficking, sex trafficking and cyber trafficking occur the most in the United States. As followers of Christ, we should not remain negligent and let young girls and women suffer at the hands of traffickers. Therefore, it is important to learn what human trafficking is, how and why it happens. The focus of the course will be to discuss biblical, theological, and practical approaches to help survivors of human trafficking.

Vivek A. Solanky is pastor of the Yellow Creek Church of the Brethren in Goshen, IN. Vivek is married to his wife Shefali for 12 years, and they are blessed with a 6 year old handsome son, Josiah. Both Vivek and Shafali are natives of India and are third generation member of the Church of the Brethren-India.Vivek completed an MA in Brethren Studies in 2012 and M. Div in 2021 from Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, IN.

Besides pastoral ministry, Vivek has a passion and a call to help people suffering in human trafficking. His goal is to raise awareness about human trafficking and encourage the Church of the Brethren to take initiative in this ministry.

“Strategies for Leading Positive Change in Congregations”

Greg Davidson Laszakovits -March 6 & 7, 2023
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 ”

Barbara Daté – Saturday, April 15, 2023
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.

Black Panther films as Metaphor: Lessons about Race, Colonialism, Violence, and Identity in Wakanda”

Dr. Steven Schweitzer – June 5, 2023
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.





Series: “Change”

“Self-Compassion for a Change… Making better choices for a more balanced breath for all”

Erin Matteson – Saturday, September 19, 2020
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”

Eleanor Hubbard – Saturday, October 17, 2020
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”

Stan Dueck – Saturday, November 21, 2020
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”

Dana Cassell – Saturday, February 20, 2021
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”

Bobbi Dykema – Saturday, March 13, 2021
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”

LaDonna Sanders Nkosi – Tuesdays, May 4 and May 11, 2021. 6:00pm to 8:00pm CDT
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.




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

Kirk MacGregor – Saturday, September 28, 2019
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”

Sharon Yohn – Saturday, October 26, 2019
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”

Melanee Hamilton & Rick Polhamus (On Earth Peace Partnership) – Saturday, November 9, 2019
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”

Dustin Wilgers – Saturday, February 29, 2020
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”

Dan Ulrich – Saturday, March 21, 2020
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”

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich – Saturday, April 18, 2020
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.

“Brethren in the Age of Pandemic: A century ago and today

Frank Ramirez – Tuesday, July 7, 2020
This isn’t the first rodeo for the Brethren, when it comes to closing churches and changing habits in the face of a global pandemic. What happened to the Brethren a century ago, and what lessons can we learn as we redefine what it means for us to be the church? This special hour and a half Ventures course will explore the history of Brethren in times of pandemic.

Frank Ramirez is the pastor of the Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Indiana. He is a prolific writer, well known for his feature “Out of Context” in the Guide For Biblical Studies. He and his wife Jennie share three adult children and six grandchildren.




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.



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


“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.



“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.



“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.



“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?