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Small congregations have been viable for centuries. Today, especially because of COVID-19, many are struggling to sustain their ministry and vitality. These congregations show many of the symptoms of grief — denial, anger, fear of loss, yearning for what was, blame, and discouragement. They are often conflicted, and their future is not clear. These factors combine to present unique challenges to leaders.
Dialog Works and Wartburg Seminary along with leaders from seven mid- western ELCA synods have collaborated to offer "Engaging God’s Future," four courses designed to build the courage, confidence, and capacity of leaders.
Each course is a stand-alone, with no pre-requisites*. A leader who completes all four courses and a final project will receive certification as a Small Church Specialist.
(*A New Chapter in Ministry requires permission from the instructor or completion of Discerning God's Leading.)
Students meet in online cohorts to discuss materials and share projects. Presentations and course materials are accessed online through Dialog Works Classroom Notebooks.
Overview and course page links
Participants in the Practical Tools course will be offered methods to assess the congregation’s current situation using hard data as well as the congregation’s energy and spirit. Using these tools, participants will be equipped to lead congregations in considering the spectrum of faithful options available to them, including holy closure and a range of other possibilities. In addition, participants will be introduced to help available from outside consultants, lawyers, facilitators, synod, and churchwide specialists.
Participants will learn and develop skills for entering a congregation and leading a discernment process. Participants will become familiar with leadership tools, focused conversations, consensus building, and how to use disagreement to lead to a mutually preferred future.
Building on the first two courses of Engaging God's Future, participants will learn how to concretely implement a vision for new strategies or forms for missions aimed at sustaining and revitalizing congregational ministry. This course highlights numerous possible missional formations such as geographical parishes, shared ministries, ministry cooperatives, as well as other creative adaptations and a process to bring them to reality.
Closing a congregation is involved and often painful. This course will help in assessing whether and deciding when a congregation might close. Participants will be introduced to the practicalities of closure (including legal aspects) and best practices for accompanying grieving members as they remember their legacy and bring an end to their ministry.
Specialized Ministry Certification
Dialog Works and Wartburg Seminary will be offering a Small Congregation Specialist certification to those who complete all four courses in "Engaging God's Future."
Those who wish to be certified will be asked to submit a project to qualify. Project requirements will be available upon request.