Vibrant Faith MasterClasses

Moving Ministry Leaders from knowledge to Action

We’re living out our calling to ministry in a time of rapid change. We know we need to be nimble, but how do we keep up with new realities and put the latest research into action? Bridging the gap between learning and action is what Vibrant Faith MasterClasses are all about.

Over the course of two 90-minute interactive online sessions, MasterClass Instructors distill new learnings into training experiences that make it easy for participants like you to learn, practice, and use new tools to fuel ministry reinvention.

A MasterClass Includes:

  • Two 90-minute, interactive sessions led by an expert Instructor
  • An office hour with the Instructor after the second session—to ask deeper questions and dialogue about the topic.
  • Access to a community of collegial support- Coming Soon!

What You Gain from a MasterClass:

  • New paradigm-shifting insights into a topic.
  • A clear path to implement what you’re learning, with a toolkit of action steps
  • Renewed energy and momentum for ministry reinvention
  • New colleagues in ministry who share your same concerns and are driven by your same hopes.

Our Course Catalog

Christina Embree
Wednesday, February 21, 2024  | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST
Wednesday, February 28, 2024  | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST

Age segregation in society has been widely researched and shown to have a significant impact on our general communal wellbeing. Applying this research to churches has been challenging, due to the scope and scale of the sociological work. A recent case study of ten multi-denominational churches applied the research through the lens of four constructs of age segregation. The results offer us an opportunity to identify parallel structures that hinder or heighten age integration. The impact that connecting generations in relationships has on spiritual formation and generational discipleship has practical and timely insights for churches today.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024  | 
12 - 1:30 PM EST
Wednesday, March 13, 2024 | 
12 - 1:30 PM EST

Most people feel like they don’t know how to engage another person’s story well. They feel inept, clumsy, overwhelmed, and/or they don’t know what to say and what not to say.
This online training will provide an introduction to the art and science of StoryWork. The good news is that engaging another person’s story is a skill that can be learned. It is not a magical ability that some people have and some people don’t. There are certain principles that apply—principles that can be learned—that’s the science part. And then there are techniques that need to be caught by watching others do it—that’s the art part. In this training, I will teach the principles and techniques of effective story engagement. In Session 2 of this course, Dr. Nancy Going and Rick Lawrence will lead participants through a hands-on process for embedding StoryWork in your congregation.

Rev. Dr. Mark Slaughter
Wednesday, May 1, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST
Wednesday, May 8, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST

Are you a ministry leader who is concerned about the mental, emotional, or spiritual health of your congregants? Do you often hear from anxious parents and grandparents in your church, and wonder how you might offer more meaningful spiritual support to the individuals and families impacted by the rapid pace of change and the overwhelming complexities of life and faith in this digital age? If so, this is the right course for you! Together, we will survey the riches of the Christian liturgical tradition, exploring how these time-tested practices can promote spiritual grit and emotional stability today, especially for congregants who describe the current cultural climate as chaotic, disorienting, or dreadful. This highly interactive course will introduce you to a wide range of theologically faithful, trauma-informed, and ecumenically-sourced liturgical resources, equipping you with the ancient spiritual rhythms and contemporary faith practices you will need to build resilience in the hearts and minds of your congregants. You will also learn how to adapt existing liturgies for your local context, cooperating with the Spirit as you invite your people to cultivate clarity, challenge complacency, call forth courage, and convey the compassion and comfort of Christ.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST
Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST

Learn to manage leadership anxiety in your personal and professional life, using principles and practices from Bowen Systems Theory along with insights gleaned from the books Managing Leadership Anxiety and A Failure of Nerve. We’ll address where anxiety shows up in our lives and ministry settings, and how we might rethink our approaches for dealing with and diminishing anxiety in the future. Our time together will include small group discussions, a panel discussion, and several strategies for managing anxiety within yourself, among your leaders, and within your faith community. Participants will receive a list of tools and resources they can use and share with their leaders.

Wednesday, September 4, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST
Wednesday, September 11, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST

Do you seek to engage or re-engage families on the periphery of your congregation, or have stopped attending altogether? Are the engaged families in your faith community thriving? In a rapidly changing world, church leaders face the profound challenge of establishing and nurturing meaningful connections with parents and families. This MasterClass explores practical ways for ministry leaders to attract, support, and accompany parents in their congregation.

Key Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding the modern family dynamic: Acknowledge the challenges faced by today’s families, including single parents, blended families, and those navigating unique circumstances.
  • Equipping parents: Learn how to empower parents with the tools and knowledge they need to be spiritual guides and mentors for their children. Discover effective ways to help parents integrate faith into their daily lives and pass it on to the next generation.
  • Accompanying parents on their journey: Understand the importance of walking alongside parents as they navigate the joys and trials of parenthood. Discover how to provide emotional and spiritual support, fostering a sense of community and belonging.
  • Addressing the needs of families who’ve stopped coming: Gain insights into why some families have disengaged and learn how to reach out to them with care and sensitivity.

This MasterClass is ideal for pastors, church leaders, youth ministers, children’s ministry leaders, family ministry directors, and anyone passionate about strengthening families.

Rick Lawrence
Wednesday, September 25, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST
Wednesday, October 2, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST

Author and longtime New York Times columnist David Brooks says: “There is one skill that lies at the heart of any healthy person, family, school, community organization, or society: the ability to see someone else deeply and make them feel seen—to accurately know another person, to let them feel valued, heard, and understood.” But the truth is, this is not a “natural” ability for most people, including church people. We know from current research into the state of U.S. congregations that many, many people sitting in our sanctuaries are lonely, sometimes dangerously lonely. They are unseen, even in communities of faith that have a mission to connect people in nurturing, faith-forming relationships. So, if we want to create an ecosystem of deeper connections, we’ll need to lean in to the Ministry of Presence—the Jesus-centered art and skill of pursuing people in a way that “unlocks” them. I’ll draw from decades of experience practicing the Ministry of Presence in groups of teenagers and adults, along with the “best practices” of others who are training leaders to seed environments of thriving connection.

Dr. Gary David Stratton
Wednesday, October 9, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST
Wednesday, October 16, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST

“Gradually, very gradually, we saw the great mountain sides and glaciers… until far higher in the sky than imagination had dared suggest the white summit of Everest appeared.” – George Mallory, 1924 Everest Climbing Leader. Discipleship and faith-formation are not unlike Mallory’s quest to climb the world’s tallest mountain. In this course we’ll use what Mallory learned about summitting Everest as a parable that can help us embrace how Jesus trained his first students, and how we can do the same with the people we serve. The lack of Christlikeness in contemporary Christianity stems from our inability to imagine the impossible heights to which Jesus calls us―becoming the kind of person who can love God and neighbor with everything within us. Drawing upon the teachings and example of Jesus and insights from the lives of some of history’s greatest spiritual climbers, we’ll map out eight “expedition camps” through which Jesus guides every person seeking to become a disciple.

Dr. Nancy Going
Wednesday, December 4, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST
Wednesday, December 11, 2024 | 
12 - 1:00 PM EST

We know that parenting is a uniquely challenging job these days. And past support systems have fragmented or disappeared. The church community, which once served as a relational hub for young families, has been usurped by a myriad of conflicting options. The church knows the crucial role parents play in nurturing a lifelong faith in their kids, but has sometimes struggled to offer the kind of help parents really need. Parents’ needs and longings have shifted, and the church has been struggling to understand those shifts and respond. Meanwhile, the steep declines in church membership and attendance are ultimately driven by parents of school-age children. The parents involved in the 20 churches that are part of Vibrant Faith’s 4th-Soil Parenting project, a partnership with the Lilly Endowment, are using innovative tools and strategies to explore their own spiritual lives, then learn to better influence their kids toward spiritual growth. I’ll pull back the curtain on what’s working in this project, and what we’re learning about the church’s role in supporting home-centered faith formation.

Meet Our Instructors

Adam Young

Adam Young is a therapist who focuses on trauma and abuse. He’s the host of popular podcast The Place We Find Ourselves. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife Caroline and two children, a daughter (15) and a son (12). Adam is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with a Master’s degree in Social Work (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Divinity (Emory University). He is also certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Adam is an Allender Center Fellow, and enjoys mountain biking, skiing, soccer, and windsurfing.

Christina Embree

Christina Embree is the founder and director of ReFocus Ministry. She holds a doctorate in spiritual formation with a focus on age segregation and intergenerational ministry and a Masters degree in ministry focused on Children, Youth, and Family Ministry. In addition to coaching churches of multiple denominations and traditions all around the globe, Christina serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship for the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ and as Next Gen pastor at Open Door Church in Lexington, Kentucky. She is widely recognized as a speaker and author in the areas of generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and family ministry. As the mother of three, she is familiar with the challenges of faith at home and pastoral ministry. She, along with her husband Luke, share a love for the church, their community, and the global work of peace and restoration through Jesus.

Denise Utter

For more than 30 years, Denise Utter has embraced her vocation in the fields of education and ministry, these last six years focusing her energy and passion on coaching individuals, teams, cohorts, congregations, and non-profit organizations; primarily in the areas of leadership in ministry, team transitions, life transitions, change management, and ministry with families. She loves working with church leaders and their teams, reimagining faith formation, navigating team transitions, life transitions, change management, and ministry with families. She is a trained coach in Vibrant Faith’s International Coaching Federation-certified program, is currently preparing for the ICF’s ACC Level test, and has aspirations for reaching the PCC Level in the near future. In addition to her coaching credentials, Denise holds a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Education. Her commitment to ministry is evident through her roles on nonprofit organization boards and on advisory councils for religious orders.

Dr. Gary David Stratton

Dr. Gary David Stratton (BA, Wheaton College; MA, PhD, Talbot School of Theology) is a leading expert in the spiritual formation of both young people and adults. A Senior Fellow for the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), Gary cofounded the Future of Hope Youth Theology Institute and the award-winning website TwoHandedWarriors.com. Gary and his wife, Dr. Sue Stratton, have served as church planters, youth pastors, campus ministers, administrators, and professors at 12 schools in the United States and China. Gary is currently Professor of Spiritual Formation and Cultural Leadership and Dean of School of Arts and Sciences at Johnson University.

Dr. Nancy Going

Nancy is Vibrant Faith’s Director of Research and Resource Development—she was the organization’s Executive Director for six years. She’s one of the directors of Vibrant Faith’s Thriving Congregations Initiative and Fourth-Soil Parenting Project, both funded and guided by the Lilly Foundation. She has spent her career in ministry leadership with youth, and she still loves working with kids as a volunteer any chance she gets. Nancy came on board the Vibrant Faith team in 2014 after teaching and providing leadership at Luther Seminary in the Children Youth and Family Ministry Masters Degree Distributed Learning Program. She has authored articles, curriculum, and contributed to books. Nancy lives in Nashville with her husband Art, an Anglican priest. They have launched two new families from their children. You can connect with Nancy at ngoing@vibrantfaith.org

Jim LaDoux

Jim LaDoux lives in Burnsville, MN and is on the Vibrant Faith leadership team since 2003. He currently oversees our coaching program. Jim has been a coach since 1992. He has a Master of Management Arts specializing in organizational development and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach) in Training. Jim has been part of church staff for Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations. In his spare time, Jim likes to travel, go hiking, and biking. Jim is author of Surface To Soul: Coaching Spiritual Vitality in Congregations, and he created the Vibrant Faith Coaching School Manual.

Rev. Dr. Lisa Waites

Rev. Dr. Lisa Waites founded her company, Servant Song Music & Ministry, in 1998. She’s spent the last 25 years composing and recording award-winning inspirational Christian music and contemporary hymns, writing liturgies for churches of many different denominations, and leading worship across Canada and around the world, while also preaching and teaching the gospel. As an ecumenical chaplain, an ordained minister, an adjunct seminary instructor, and a seasoned pastoral caregiver, Lisa is passionate about equipping other ministry leaders to craft and deliver creative worship arts, liturgical resources, and Christian hospitality, provoking profound, positive change in their congregational contexts. Lisa lives with medical disabilities, so she now uses her extensive education and her diverse ministry and musical experiences to mentor others, offering leadership coaching, spiritual direction, worship arts, sessional teaching, disability awareness, and pulpit supply appointments, as her health allows.

Rev. Dr. Mark Slaughter

Rev. Dr. Mark Slaughter serves as the Minister of Worship Arts at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN. Before moving to Minnesota, he served as the Minister of Music and Worship at First Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky. He has also served in churches in Virginia and Tennessee. In addition to his 35+ years of ministry, he received a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, Master of Divinity and Church Music from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Music from Belmont University. Mark is a “calculated adventurist” who loves to have his eyes wide open and his mind filled with new experiences. Mary Jo (Jody) Slaughter has been his partner in most of these adventures, and his wife for 32 years. They have two young-adult children, Wesley and Mary Katherine.

Rick Lawrence

Rick is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith, and an award-winning author, journalist, cultural researcher, editor, and national speaker. He creates and leads interactive training for church and cultural leaders, parents, and teenagers and creates interactive online training courses. He’s authored hundreds of magazine articles and is the author, co-author, or editor of 40 books and curriculums. He’s the general editor of the #1 bestselling Jesus-Centered Bible, the recently released devotional Jesus-Centered Daily, and his latest book (co-authored with Dr. Daniel Emina) titled The Suicide Solution. His latest book, Editing Jesus: Confronting the Distorted Faith of the American Church, will be published in Spring 2024. He created and hosts the popular podcast Paying Ridiculous Attention to Jesus, now in its eigth year. Rick is married to Beverly Rose and has two daughters, Lucy Rose and Emma Grace.

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