Learn.Explore.Actuate.Discover.Laboratories (LEADLabs) are interactive, practical trainings designed to help Leadership Academy participants imagine, ideate, innovate, and implement missional and sustainable concepts. Each experiment exploration is led by a Spiritual Scientist or a Subject Matter Expert (SME). This year’s Spiritual Scientists, SMEs, and their workshops included:

How can I reimagine church as a movement of missional disciples?

with Brandon Wrencher

One of the biggest challenges facing the church is its relevance to the pressing needs and questions of local communities. It is urgent for churches to move beyond the conventional model of staff-centric and self-serving mission and discipleship models. Come learn about the role missional communities can play in unleashing everyday disciples for spiritual formation and missional impact in local communities. This LEADLab is for those who:

  • Are looking for a fresh and decentralized approach to mission and discipleship.
  • Want to see how social justice and activism can be at the center of your church’s mission and discipleship.
  • Want to be inspired by stories of ordinary disciples growing in their faith and impacting their community.
  • Are ready to take away tools and language to share with your church to get started with missional communities.

Rev. Brandon Wrencher is the founding pastor and organizer of the Good Neighbor Movement, a new church start that is a network of contemplative activist groups.

How can I glimpse and prepare for the future of my church?

 with Lorenzo Lebrija

Foresight is the ability to think effectively about how the future might be different, so you can prepare for anything and start to make changes in your own life, in ministry, and in society, for the better. Fast Futures is an introductory-level learning experience that will teach you how to get started with your own creative foresight. This course is for you if:

  • You’re curious about foresight but don’t know anything about it yet!
  • You want to learn a few habits that can help you spot changes faster to act faster and adapt faster.
  • You’re excited to stretch your imagination.
  • You want to take away practical skills you can share with others to help them think faithfully about the future more creatively and optimistically.

Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija is the founding director of the TryTank Experimental Lab for church growth and innovation.

How do I navigate caring for myself, while caring for others in a changing world?

with Joselyn Spence

Self-care is one of the most important acts of a leader. However, it can be challenging to balance when taking care of and leading others, especially during a global pandemic with a variety of concerns on our plates. This is why it is paramount that we fill our cups first, because we are not able to serve well, if we are not well. This interactive learning lab will teach you about the wholeness wheel, assess your self-care needs and provide wellness tools to integrate into your daily life.

This course is for you if:

  • You have experienced burnout and need to make a shift
  • You want to learn self-care tools to help maintain your personal wellness
  • You want to feel holistically healthy so you are prepared to lead well 

Joselyn Spence serves as Director of the Mental Health and Wellness Initiative of the National Benevolent Association (NBA).

Will we ever have a building? Should we have a building in a Post-Pandemic world? And, how do we form a Post-Pandemic Worship Space and Building Theology for New and Established Churches?

with Craig Walls

Craig Walls is a new church planter who comes at these questions from the perspective of faith and a belief that God is always seeking life and new life for the church. This workshop will examine what scripture teaches us about buildings and worship space.  We will also discuss the issue of resources (or lack of resources) and allow time for people to dream about what God might be preparing for their particular ministry context. Our time will be spent visioning what is possible in faith. This course is for you if: 

  • You’ve wondered about what space/building is needed for your current context.
  • You’ve worried that you have the wrong space or can’t afford the right space.
  • You’ve got a big vision but are not sure where to begin.

Rev. Dr. Craig MacLeod Walls joined Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF) in May of 2017 as a Building and Capital Services Advisor consulting on loans, fundraising campaigns, and other services available from DCEF.

How do I launch my new church?

with Terrell L McTyer

You are launching your church plant. You are doing the difficult work of casting vision, raising support, finding a venue space, and gathering people for your core team. You are ready to start having services. What are the pre-launch steps necessary to get off on the right foot? Learn how to ensure your church plant launches well.

Pastor Terrell L McTyer serves as the Minister of New Church Strategies for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.

How trauma-informed is your ministry?

with Christie Love

Over the last decade, a new designation has become popular in the fields of social services, education, counseling, and healthcare… being trauma-informed. These practices have sought to better understand the impact that traumatic experiences both as a child and as an adult can have on a person’s development, health, relationships, worldview, and much more. All churches have people whose journeys have been shaped by traumatic experiences; however, not all faith leaders and faith communities have not been trained to understand trauma and how it can and should shape the sacred spaces. Connect with this workshop to: 

  • Have to assess your own level of being trauma-informed
  • Get an introduction to important aspects of trauma awareness
  • Participate in some thought-provoking discussion questions
  • Receive resources and actions steps to help continue to develop your understanding of trauma in ministry contexts. 

Christie Love is a Pastor and Church Planter who leads The Connecting Grounds Church in Springfield MO, an outreach-focused church that seeks to close the gaps between the call of the gospel and the injustices of our world.

Church is work, so how do I rest?

with Eun Strawser

As leaders, we engage in innovating, strategizing, and planning for the sake of the communities we lead and love. Still, if we’re honest with ourselves, we neither participate in nor lead our congregations into what rest practically looks like in the midst of missional and church work. If we’re not careful, we’ll model the tyranny of good work but bad rest. This LEADLab is for those who want to

  • Understand that resting is a vital part of missional living 
  • See that rest has more to do with God’s active work of spiritual, social, and cultural renewal
  • Experience how to enter into God’s rest personally and communally in the midst of work

Rev. Dr. Eun Strawser is a co-vocational lead pastor of Ma Ke Alo o, leading a collective of missional communities throughout Hawaii who believes in the presence of God, being present with one another and present in the community around us.

How can we create a culture of disciples making disciples that will revitalize our churches?

with John Wentz

Alpha runs in over 170 countries and is translated into over 60 languages, and is run by every major denomination. Are you looking for ways to create communities equipped to invite others to explore faith and wrestle with the big questions of life? Alpha has proven to be an effective way to create “disciple-making disciples” even in the midst of the pandemic. This LEADLab is for those who: 

  • Want to empower the people in your church to share their faith in ways that will lead to a culture of hospitality (loving the stranger), listening, and dependency on God in prayer
  • Need a way to do outreach that leads to life transformation in individuals and creates solid disciples simultaneously
  • Like the idea of a kingdom-oriented, humble approach to disciple-making
  • Need a tool and methodology that works in person or online

John serves as Executive VP of Ministry at Alpha USA and oversees training and church engagement for Alpha International.

How can I use online tools to improve my communication?

with Nadine Compton

Real-time feedback. Connecting with members no matter where they are. Streaming worship services live. Social media has proven to be a vital tool for churches wanting to build and strengthen relationships with their community of faith, especially during the pandemic. But what changes are happening on these platforms, and how can you respond? And are there other resources available in the denomination that can help? This LEADLab is for you if:

  • Your congregation is on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram, but you’re not sure what the next step is
  • You want to be in better touch with regions and general ministries 
  • You’re interested in making your church’s brand more consistent

Nadine is the Creative Writer/Digital Media Specialist for New Church Ministry and DCEF.

How can I plant a church without losing my soul?

with Tim Morey

Most church planters start out with passion, a sense of calling, and a focus on building ministry skills. Such things might get some results, but they are not enough to sustain a healthy ministry―or a healthy life. This course will explore church planters’ biggest challenges and unpack five essential spiritual practices for long-term health and vitality. This course is for you if:

  • You’re interested in developing a plan for your long-term spiritual growth and health.
  • Church planting is exposing unhealed or underdeveloped areas in your life.
  • You’re feeling the wear-and-tear of pastoral ministry.

Tim Morey (DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is founding and lead pastor at Life Covenant Church in Torrance, California, a church-planting coach, and teaches church planting as an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Will my church be able to overcome the pandemic?

 with Joey Cotto

The world has changed and this has generated great challenges for the church. This workshop will answer the following questions: What do the statistics say? What do the experts think about this topic? What should be the priorities and strategies of the church in this new season? This workshop is for you if:

  • You are eager to discover new ways and strategies to rebuild your church post-COVID-19.
  • You are curious about the trends of people in their relationship with the church during the post-pandemic era.
  • You want to know what Christian leaders anticipate about the future of the church in the post-pandemic era

Rev. Jorge R. Cotto is an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Florida.

How do we keep relationships central in church planting and church growth?

with Joy Skjegstad and Heidi Unruh

Personal relationships are vital to growing churches. How can new churches resist the gravitational pull of a culture that values busy-ness and independence, to keep meaningful connections at the heart of everything you do? This workshop presents practical strategies for helping church members build authentic relationships with one another and with people in the community. Encourage church members to really listen to one another, get to know people who are new to your congregation, and reach out to include people on the “fringes” of congregational life. Learn about creative ideas to incorporate relationship-building into the rhythms of church life and outreach. This LEADLab is for those who:

  • Know that “relationships matter” but want practical guidance for how to build and maintain connections
  • Are interested in examples of ministries designed to strengthen relationships
  • Want to reconnect with people who have drifted away during the pandemic
  • Hope to keep relationally-focused ministry in your church’s DNA as you grow

Joy Skjegstad and Heidi Unruh serve churches as coaches, consultants and trainers focused on effective community engagement.

What if a church was entirely digital?

with Mark Lutz

Many of us just went through a year of digital church. If we are honest, most of us hated it. But we also had people show up that never would have come to our physical buildings because we were available online. We returned to our buildings and we kept the broadcast, but we don’t know what to do with people who can’t get to us physically.  Can we faithfully disciple someone online? What is the role of the digital church? Is it Biblical? What if you planted an entirely digital church? This workshop is for you if:

  • You did online church during COVID and don’t know what to do with it now.
  • You know you can reach people online but haven’t worked through the implications of an online church.
  • You want to see your church multiply through church planting but don’t have the resources to plant a physical campus.  

Mark is the Lead Pastor of Lux Digital Church.

How can I get on the road to financial independence?

with Cynthia Newman

Get on the path to achieving your financial goals and dreams. In this session, you will discover a roadmap to help you get direction in managing your personal finances so you can get to your desired destination… FINANCIAL FREEDOM! You want to take this class if:

  • You’d like a GPS to get to your financial destination.
  • You want to avoid potential roadblocks on your way to meeting your financial goals.
  • You want answers to financial questions that you have been afraid to ask.
  • You don’t know anything about money but you are willing to learn!

Cynthia Newman is a minister, investment principal, co-owner of the Newman Group, and has empowered people financially for more than 20 years.

How can I grow my church post-pandemic?

with Rebekah Simon-Peter

Visioning is the action of declaring a positive future, even in the midst of the unknown and the uncertain. Post-Pandemic Visioning will teach you the four-part DARE model to Dream Like Jesus in order to bring creative visions to life. This course is for you if:

  • You’re ready to rise above limiting circumstances
  • You want to figure out how to chart a course for the future
  • You’re curious about how to bring divided people together
  • You’re eager to have a say in how the future goes

Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter is the founder of Creating a Culture of Renewal, a group coaching program that teaches congregational intelligence, leadership smarts, and culture-shifting, as well as the author of Dream Like Jesus and the upcoming Filling the Pews (January 2022).