Smaller Churches Seminar at The Center for Lifelong Learning

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untitledToday I want to tell you about a great opportunity for your church and leaders. One challenge in smaller churches (especially rural ones) is that much of the training and resources available to churches focuses on ministry in urban and suburban contexts. Also, many people might incorrectly think that mega-churches are the norm. They’re not.

Many church conferences focus on topics that may seem out of the realm of small town  and smaller churches ministry, or offer suggestions that are beyond the scope or budget of a small church’s ministry. That’s why I’m excited to share with you a great training opportunity fromIsrael Galindo Columbia Theological Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning. Dr. Israel Galindo (Columbia’s Associate Dean, Lifelong Learning), has been a guest contributor to this blog, and you can read his article here.

Smaller Churches Seminar Details

In the current landscape of American Christianity, smaller churches are the norm, not the exception. They face the same sorts of blessings and challenges as larger communities of faith, but with fewer resources – human, financial, and material.

This series of three one-day seminars is designed for congregational leaders who welcome 150 or fewer in worship. And by fewer, we know this often means attendance closer to 15 or 20, or 50 or 75, more on a holiday, for a memorial service or wedding. Congregational consultants and former pastors Sarai Rice, John Wimberly and Dan Hotchkiss will lend their experience, energy and creative leadership to the series.


Participants may register for one, two or all three days. Registration discounts are available for early registration and for the three-day bundle. Lunches, refreshments and course materials are included, and at least one of the seminars will offer a complementary evening discussion with dessert.

Seminar 1: November 2

Fearless Change in the Small Congregation – Clarity, Creativity, and Occasionally Conflict

All congregations struggle with change and with the conflict often engendered by even the most insignificant change. Many smaller churches approach change with great creativity and vigor, but in some small congregations even one or two voices opposed to a change can carry inordinate weight and cause excruciating conflict. This course will help leaders of small congregations understand why change is so hard, what they can do to practice and prepare for change, and how to address conflicts that erupt in the face of change.

At the conclusion of the course, participants will be able to

  • Understand the difference between technical and adaptive change
  • Recognize and articulate many barriers to change
  • Explore the wide range of changes that are possible in a small congregation
  • Identify specific changes needed in their congregation
  • Learn how to practice change
  • Prepare to deal with conflict around change in healthy and life-giving ways
Day 1 Course Instructor:

Sarai-Rice-hi-223x300Sarai Rice, formerly a consultant with the Alban Institute, consults with congregations on a variety of issues including planning, program development, and governance, and offers coaching for clergy and groups of lay leaders. She has a passion for work across the lines of faith traditions, especially in areas involving community ministry and social justice, as well as a deep commitment to the notion that human institutions, including congregations, should work well for the people they serve.  In addition to her consulting work, she currently serves as the Executive Director of the Des Moines Area Religious Council, an interfaith non-profit that manages the food pantry network for the Greater Des Moines, Iowa community.

Seminar 2: November 3

Creating a Lean, Effective Organization in Small Churches  

Many congregations struggle under the weight of organizational structures that were created at a time when the congregations were much larger than today. As a result, nominating committees have a difficult time filling vacancies in these large governing structures; members experience burn-out as they serve on multiple committees/boards/teams; and an inordinate amount of time goes into the governance of the congregation.

This course will examine how smaller congregations can create lean, effective organizations so they can better focus on the needs of the members and communities in which they exist. One method to be discussed in depth will be the use of teams. Many congregations have employed the use of teams without really understanding the techniques needed to create and sustain effective teams.

This seminar will equip participants to
  • Understand how larger-than-necessary organizational structures inhibit the ability to utilize limited resources (people, finances, buildings) effectively.
  • Explore various strategies to engage congregational leaders around the topic of creating a leaner, more effective organization/ministry.
  • Describe what a lean organizational structure might look like and accomplish in their context and provide an activity to complete based on their context.
  • Understand best practices for creating and supporting ministry teams.
Day 2 Course Instructor:

Wimberly1For thirty years, John Wimberly served as a pastor of a congregation that moved from family to pastoral to program sizes. After working with the Alban Institute as a congregational consultant, he is currently with the Congregational Consulting Group. John works with congregations in the family, pastoral and program categories. John has a PhD in systematic theology and MBA. He has written two books: The Business of the Church and Mobilizing Congregations: How Teams Can Motivate Members and Get Things Done.

Seminar 3: November 4

Beyond Generosity: Small-Church Fundraising Based on Relationship, Vision, and Competence

Church leaders often try to raise money by encouraging people to become more generous, or to adopt a philosophy of “abundance.” Meanwhile, our most generous potential donors are directing their gifts to other charities that focus on building relationships, projecting an inspiring vision, and building trust in the competence of the institution to carry out its plans. This course will offer a peek into the secular fundraising playbook. Small churches stand to benefit by dropping some of the unproductive trappings of traditional stewardship campaigns and asking for support in a more streamlined and effective way.

By the end of this course participants will:
  • Gain insights into the principal motivations of givers;
  • Identify changes and current trends in charitable giving ;
  • Understand these principles for planning a church stewardship effort:
    • Relationships of mutual respect with donors;
    • A clearly articulated ministry vision;
    • Challenging leaders to set a high standard for giving;
    • Trust in the church’s competence to accomplish goals;
    • A simple, flexible approach focused on asking for money .
  • Explore basic practical fundraising skills, including the following:
    • Writing a case statement;
    • Communicating norms for giving;
    • Defining the “Ask” for individuals and groups, including alternative ways of “asking;”
    • Helping people to ask for gifts.
Day 3 Course instructor:

hotchkissRev. Dan Hotchkiss, a congregational consultant and Unitarian Universalist minister, is the author of Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership, and Ministry and Money: A Guide for Clergy and their Friends, both published by the Alban Institute. For many years an Alban consultant, Dan continues to help congregations with fundraising, growth, strategic planning, and board governance as a member of the Congregational Consulting Group

More Event Info…

Location: Harrington Center 222, on the campus of Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA

Schedule: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM daily; optional evening activities TBA.

Program Fees: Early registration discount extended through October 2!: $375 for all three days, through Oct. 2; $395 for all three days after Oct. 2. Single day registration of $135/day through Oct. 2; full program fee of $155 per day after Oct. 2.

Housing: Harrington Center guest rooms are an additional cost: single or double rooms are available. You will have the option to choose your number of nights during registration.

  • Single: 2 twin beds, 1 occupant : $70.62 per night
  • Double: 2 twin beds, shared occupancy: $44.94 per person per night
  • Queen: 1 queen bed, single or shared occupancy, $79.18 per night.

Meals: Lunch and light refreshments provided with registration. Other meals available in campus dining (cash or check only, please) or off campus.

Additional Information:  You will receive log in information to the course site approximately one month prior to the course. Attendees are encouraged to bring a laptop or tablet to use during the course.


Click below to go to the official event page:


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