Online Workshop
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A winter offering of Discerning God's Leading will begin on Thursday, February 17. Check out the offering and sign up now.


New course offerings will be posted soon. Click the "Notify me" button to receive an email when a course is opened.

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.


Collaborative Sponsorship

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.


Flexible Design

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. 

Online Instruction

Students meet in online cohorts to discuss materials and share projects. Presentations and course materials are accessed online through Wartburg's Castle Commons.


Practical Tools and Resources for the Journey

As the president and member of a small rural church, the question I often heard was "How is our congregation going to survive?"  Although we shared a pastor with another church, it still did not seem sustainable. Our congregation with three other congregations was blessed with a knowledgeable leader who gave us practical tools and resources to help us formulate our journey. You, too, can be that knowledgeable leader for your congregation! These courses will help you in your leadership of a congregation in transition. 

Joan J. Bidne, Trinity Lutheran


Through this course, participants will:

  • Learn to use tools and methods to identify factors in the local congregation and community that impact ministry sustainability today and into the future;

  • Discover ways to determine the mission, hopes, and dreams of the congregation;

  • Explore the spectrum of faithful possibilities open to congregations facing sustainability challenges;

  • Be able to identify outside resources that can assist in addressing sustainability challenges; and

  • Gain confidence and capacity as a leader to engage congregational sustainability challenges.


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.​

Course Schedule - The 2022 schedule will be released soon


Cost: $225

Dialog Works practices "graceconomics." You will be invoiced the full amount but asked to pay the amount you are able to afford.


Those completing the course will be awarded 2.0 CEUs from Dialog Works and Wartburg Theological Seminary. 



The Rev. Peter Soli

Project Director & Instructor

Peter is founder of Dialog Works and leads the Looking Inward and the Looking Forward units. Learn more about Peter here.


The Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen

Lead Instructor

Mark is on faculty at Wartburg Seminary and leads the Looking Outward and the Big picture units. Learn more about Mark here.

Discerning God's Leading, Discovering a Shared Future

I’ve served on the synod staff in the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin for 21 years. While the world has changed tremendously during that time, one thing has remained constant. How can we work together to equip leaders of small congregations facing sustainability issues? The Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen and the Rev. Peter Soli have teamed up to do exactly that. I’ve worked with them both, and whole-heartedly encourage you to join them in “Engaging God’s Future.”

Greg Kaufmann

Assistant to the Bishop at Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA


Through this course, participants will:​

  • Learn and practice participatory techniques and processes to guide congregations in discerning future options for their mission and ministry

  • Enhance their listening skills to nourish conversation that attends to concerns of individuals, the narrative of the faith community, and the leading of God

  • Better understand the nature of consensus and how to build it in the context of a discernment conversation

  • Gain proficiency and confidence in managing conflict, dealing with difficult personalities, and refocusing the energy of disagreement in healthy and helpful ways

  • Be introduced to additional tools and resources to assist them in the journey of discernment; and

  • Ultimately, become more competent and confident in leading congregations in discerning their future. 


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.

Course Schedule

This course will be offered online beginning Thursday, February 17th, and continue through April 7th. There will be no class on March 17th,


Cost: $225

Dialog Works practices "graceconomics." You will be invoiced the full amount but asked to pay the amount you are able to afford.


Those completing the course will be awarded 2.0 CEUs from Dialog Works and Wartburg Theological Seminary. 



The Rev. Dr. David Anderson-Hooker, , PhD, JD, MDiv

President and Principal Consultant - CounterStories Consulting, LLC

David's expertise is in narrative mediation. He will lead the units on loosening the grip of conflict. 


The Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen


Mark is on faculty at Wartburg Seminary. Learn more about Mark here.


The Rev. Peter Soli

Project Director and Instructor

Peter is founder of Dialog Works and the Director of the Engaging God's Future training. Learn more about Peter here.


Two additional courses are currently being developed
and will be available in the spring and summer of 2022.

A New Chapter in Ministry

Strategies for Sustaining or Revitalizing Ministry

     Participants will be introduced to strategies for sustaining or revitalizing ministry, such as forming geographical parishes, shared ministries, ministry cooperatives, and other creative adaptations.

Ending with Grace

When a Congregation Decides to Close

     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 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.