School for Lay Ministry Learning Community

Transform Your Ministry in Just One Year with Theologically-Sound Training & Leadership Development

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Unleash Your Leadership Potential with the School for Lay Ministry Learning Community

From preaching and teaching to providing pastoral care or designing worship, faith leaders, like you, serve their congregations in various roles. Often, you do so without the theological background or seminary degrees your colleagues may have. With the School for Lay Ministry, you'll embark on a transformative year-long journey empowering you to lead with excellence, recognizing the vital role you play in a lay-led, clergy-support ministry model.

I'm Ready to Enroll

The material was awesome and I loved the presenter. I am already using some of the things I learned and ideas I received.

Who Should Join the School for Lay Ministry?

Do any of these describe you:

  • You’ve recently been asked to or have taken up a leadership role in your congregation,
  • You’ve been entrusted with giving sermons, teaching Sunday School, or leading adult education,
  • You desire to be a faithful disciple who can help form other disciples,
  • or, you simply yearn to deepen your faith?

Then the School for Lay Ministry is tailor-made for you!

Whether you hold a formal position within your congregation or simply have a burning passion for leadership, our School for Lay Ministry provides a unique opportunity for peer-based learning while emphasizing your pivotal role as pastoral caregivers.


What Will You Learn?

Throughout the year, you'll embark on an enriching journey covering a wide range of topics, including:

  • Crafting impactful sermons from basic exegesis to the hermeneutical circle.
  • Mastering pastoral ministry and effective congregational leadership.
  • Navigating spirituality in the digital age.
  • Delivering compassionate and meaningful funeral sermons.
  • Exploring biblical chronology, from the Pentateuch to the matriarchs and patriarchs.
  • Discovering the intricacies of Church history, American Christianity, and rural ministry.

And that's just the beginning! We're proud to share that our School for Lay Ministry is entering its 12th year, building upon the success of 2022, with several past students achieving ordination as a testament to its effectiveness.

Most importantly...

you'll emerge from the School for Lay Ministry as a well-rounded disciple and leader ready to impact your congregation and community loving and leading in the way of Jesus. Connect with God on a deeper level and learn innovative ways to share the story of Jesus, all within a supportive community. Together, we'll cultivate relationships that offer unwavering support as you champion justice and adapt ministry models for the modern world.

How Does It Work?

Each month, you'll take courses online, then meet together with your cohort and community facilitator to process what you've learned and put it into practice.


Step 1: Learn at Your Pace with On-Demand Lessons

Courses are available on-demand so that you can fit them into your schedule

  • Access our on-demand video courses at your convenience.
  • Each month, explore the course materials, jotting down your questions, insights, and challenges to discuss with your cohort.

Step 2: Monthly Cohort Meetings

Calls are from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. Central on the first Saturday of each month

  • Join live monthly meetings to collaborate with your cohort and our experienced facilitator to process online learning and apply insights.
  • Can't make a meeting? No worries! We record each session for later viewing.

Woman at laptop doing an online Bible study with others over Zoom.

Step 3: Embrace Growth as You Serve

Put what you're learning into practice and get support from your cohort

  • Apply your newfound knowledge to your ministry context.
  • Receive unwavering support from your cohort throughout the year, fostering growth in faith, confidence, and leadership.

Here's What You'll Learn...


Lesson 1

• Introductions
• Syllabus
• Expectations/Group Covenant
• Building Community


Lesson 2

• Hermeneutics
• Exegesis
• Preaching: What is a Sermon
• The Focus and Function of a Sermon


Lesson 3

• Spirituality and the Digital Culture
• Spiritual Practices
• Discernment


Lesson 4

• Introduction to Rural Ministry
• The Art of Leadership in the Rural Parish
• Impact of Demographics and Economic Realities
• People and Place: Sociological Dynamics
• Biblical and Theological Connections
• The Future Revisioning and Redevelopment


Lesson 5

• Pastoral Ministry
• The Vocation of All God’s People
• Preaching at Funerals/Challenging Funerals
• Preaching at Weddings/Liturgical Calendar
• Family Dynamics


Lesson 6

• Ministry to Older Adults
• Caregivers/End-of-Life
• Small Vital Congregations: Signs of Vitality
• Foundations for Healthy Congregations
• Hermeneutical Circle and Pastoral Practices
• Halfway reflections


Lesson 7

• Biblical Chronology: Old Testament
• The Pentateuch
• Creation/Two Accounts of Creation
• Matriarchs, Patriarchs, and Covenant
• Moses and Jesus
• Ten Commandments


Lesson 8

• The Second Temple Period
• The Exile
• The Historical Jesus
• The Gospel of Mark
• The Gospel of Matthew


Lesson 9

• Luke: The Acts of the Apostles
• The Gospel of John
• Pastoral Letters
• Revelation


Lesson 10

• Congregational Leadership Issues
• Dealing with Conflict/Difficult Conversations
• Strategic Planning: Mission, Vision Work
• Discernment


Lesson 11

• Church History
• Emergence of the Church
• Development of Mediterranean Christianity
• Creeds and Councils: Dealing with Heresies-Orthodoxy
• Augustine-Africa Monasticism
• Eastern Orthodoxy


Lesson 12

• The Emergence of Protestantism: The Reformation
• The English Reformation
• The Catholic Reformation
• Revivalism and American Christianity
• Christianity and the Industrial Era
• Christianity and the 20th Century


Lesson 13

• Faithful Innovation and Adaptive Challenges
• Cultivating a Culture of Innovation
• Overview of Innovation Practices
• Spirit-Led Ministry
• Reflection on the Experience of the Experience of the School of Ministry
• Saying Goodbye: Closing Liturgy


Bonus On-Demand Lessons

• Love for Lutherans: Basics of Lutheran Theology
• Nothing but Love
• Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
• God’s Crazy Love
• A Word About Love
• Your First Love
• Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling
• Loving, Dying, Living

Enroll Now

Enroll now and receive:

  • On-demand video courses tailored to your schedule.
  • Monthly live meetings with a supportive cohort.
    • Calls will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. CT on the following dates:
      • October 14th, 2023
      • November 4th, 2023
      • December 2nd, 2023
      • January 6th, 2024
      • February 2nd, 2024
      • March 2nd, 2024
      • April 13th, 2024
      • May 4th, 2024
      • June 1st, 2024
      • July 13th, 2024
      • August 3rd, 2024
      • September 7th, 2024
      • October 5th, 2024
  • A private, online group space for personal and leadership growth.
  • Expert guidance from Rev. Marianne Ell.
  • Bonus lessons covering church history, Lutheranism, and more. Explore them at your own pace.

Single Payment

Multiple Payments


$55/month for 12 months

I'm Ready to Enroll

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes! Due to popular request, we plan to offer the School for Lay Ministry regularly. Keep an eye on your inbox for when we announce our next dates.

All calls are recorded and available for later viewing.

Whether you're a lay leader who has taken on additional responsibilities at church, or an everyday Jesus follower who wants to dive deeper in your discipleship and leadership, the School for Lay Ministry is for you.

This is a 12-month learning community with one monthly live call of 3 hours. In-between live calls, students will study materials and videos provided as their schedules allow.

The School for Lay Ministry is open to all denominations!

Meet Your Instructor

profile photo of Rev. Marianne Ell
Marianne Ell, M.Div, Director for Discipleship

The Rev. Marianne Ell has spent all of her 32 years in ministry serving in small and rural congregations, as well as in Chaplaincy positions in both a hospital and a retirement community. Her passion is in developing leaders and equipping them for the ministries to which God is calling them. Rev. Ell enjoys helping communities discover opportunities for mission and exploring possibilities for vitality. She received her Master of Divinity Degree from The Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX, and is currently working on a Masters in Organizational Leadership. Marianne and her husband live on a farm in Wittman, Maryland and have two sons and a daughter. She enjoys the outdoors and living near the water, grilling out with family and friends, traveling, exercising, and mowing grass (because she can see the lines). She is looking forward to building relationships in this learning community.