Educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God's changing world.

Courses and Events

Landscapes of Renewal

Certificate in Spiritual Formation

Starting: 10/22/2015
Ending: 10/25/2015

Scholars have only recently appreciated how the natural landscape of ancient Palestine helped to shape the language of Scripture. Through guided study, open discussion, and meditative practice, we will as pilgrims explore these ancient landscapes with an eye toward discerning the underlying values and hopes that shaped them for what they are. We will learn how to "see" the biblical text, to encounter the text visually, and in so doing begin to shape our own landscapes of renewal and hope for today.

Leader: Bill Brown

Location: Montreat Conference Center

Details and Registration

Growing Into Tomorrow…Today (PCUSA Board of Pensions Retirement Planning Seminar) Housing and Meals Registration

Starting: 10/27/2015
Ending: 10/28/2015

Planning for retirement can be challenging. This free-two day seminar is for members of the PCUSA Board of Pensions and guests planning to retire within the next fifteen years. Look beyond finances to inform, educate, and inspire a journey toward wholeness in retirement. Seminar attendees will:

  • Identify key questions for discernment;
  • Assess their finances, options for saving before retirement, and reasonable expectations for retirement living;
  • Define and discuss retirement healthcare and housing options; and
  • Create their next steps in life balance, relationships, housing, health and finances


The seminar will be led by a Board of Pensions Education Specialist and retirement planning consultants. Seating is limited to 30 participants. Registration for this seminar will open in July 2015. For questions, please contact Board University at or 800-773-7752, extension 7223.

NOTE: Following registration through the Board of Pensions, participants will receive detailed instructions about how to register for housing and meals.

Instructors: Board of Pensions Education Team 

Change, Organization and Generosity in Smaller Congregations - Registration Discounts Extended!

(Smaller Churches Seminar Series 2015)

Starting: 11/2/2015
Ending: 11/4/2015

In the current landscape of American Christianity, smaller-sized congregations 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. 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 extended discussion with dessert.

Details and Registration

Ignatian Spirituality

Certificate in Spiritual Formation

Starting: 11/9/2015
Ending: 11/13/2015

This is a retreat experience introducing the posture, elements and purpose of the Ignatian Exercises.  We will acquaint ourselves with the person of Ignatius, explore the ‘Principle and Foundation’ of his spiritual exercises, experience the rhythm of ‘the weeks’ and engage the practice of particular exercises: silence, colloquy, discernment and contemplation. This is an experiential learning context for persons to get a ‘taste’ of the exercises and discern if the exercises are a path they feel called to fully engage.  

Location: Columbia Theological Seminary

Instructor: Jim Dant

Details and Registration

Leadership in Ministry Workshop (Atlanta)

Starting: 11/16/2015
Ending: 11/18/2015

Dates:     Session I - Nov. 16-18, 2015
               Session II – March 7-9, 2016

The Center for Lifelong Learning will host a second cohort for Leadership in Ministry (LIM) workshops beginning in the fall of 2015. Participants will learn how the concepts of family emotional process can be applied to their own ministry contexts and explore the theological implications of these concepts. This program is comprised of two three-day sessions (fall and spring). Each session follows the themes of Dr. Edwin Friedman’s book, Generation to Generation, with one day devoted to each of the minister’s three interlocking families: the minister’s own personal family (nuclear and extended), congregation member families and the congregation as a family. 

The Program fee of $550 includes all program fees, refreshments and six meals for each session (dinner Monday through lunch Wednesday). 

Details and Registration

Flint River III: Our Stories, Ourselves (Bowen Family Systems in Literature and Life)

A Workshop with Ronald W. Richardson for the Flint River Presbytery

Starting: 11/18/2015
Ending: 11/20/2015

The subjective exercise of writing fiction, whether as prose or poetry, can help enlighten us in a more objective way about our own life and ministry. Authors of this work may offer a perspective we have not thought of before. It is also useful to think of our own lives as stories. We are the authors of these stories. Unlike any novel or poem written by others, we are free to change that story and create a new, maybe happier ending. Using two suggested resource books for additional insight, we will continue what we began in our last meeting with our family of origin presentation and our case studies. This event is made possible by a partnership between the Center for Lifelong Learning and the Presbytery. 

Leader: Ron Richardson

Simply Advent, a half-day Retreat

Starting: 11/21/2015
Ending: 11/21/2015

Join us as we pause, pray, reflect, and ground ourselves in the love and grace of God to begin the Advent season. Deedra Rich, Baptist pastor, spiritual director and former Associate Director of Spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary, will lead us in a half day prayer retreat reflecting on simplicity and simple spiritual practices during advent. The retreat will include times of communal prayer and conversation as well as time for individuals to pause before God and set intentions for the upcoming holy season. 

Leader: Deedra Rich

Details and Registration

Grounded: Exploring the Sense of the Sacred within Us and the World

January Seminars 2016

Starting: 1/19/2016
Ending: 1/21/2016

Much ink is spilled on the digital and written page about the state of religion in the 21st Century. Our vocabulary is peppered with terms such as the Nones, the Dones, and the Spiritual but Not Religious. But what if what appears to be a decline actually signals a major transformation in how people understand and experience God?

Join leading commentator on religion, politics, and culture Diana Butler Bass and members of the Columbia Theological Seminary faculty in exploring the contours of what Bass terms a spiritual revolution. Our sense of the sacred is changing, but God continues to be at work in the world, leading us to a more grounded, integrative, and experiential theology.

Details and Registration

Metaphors, Imagination, and the Art of the Psalms

Certificate in Spiritual Formation

Starting: 1/28/2016
Ending: 1/31/2016

The Psalter contains some of the most artful and evocative language in all of Scripture. Chief among its poetic features is the frequent use of metaphors to describe the contours of faith and the character of God. From the transplanted tree of Psalm 1 to the watchful shepherd of Psalm 23 to the sun-soaked Torah of Psalm 119, the Psalter stirs our theological imaginations and prompts us to understand God, the world, and ourselves in ever new and creative ways. In this course we will explore the metaphorical landscape of the Psalter and reflect on how this artful language functions to nurture our spirituality, and infuse our lives and ministries with imagination. Giving special attention to the intersection of the Psalter’s literary imagery with ancient and contemporary visual art, participants will have the opportunity to create and share their own metaphors about God and faith.

Instructor: Ryan Bonfiglio 

Details and Registration

Spirituality in the Smartphone Age

Starting: 2/16/2016
Ending: 2/18/2016

Some commentators praise the power of technology to help us organize and connect. Others say the Internet is decimating our attention spans and weakening our relationships in real life. The truth is somewhere in between. This workshop will give participants a theological grounding to navigate the joys and perils of this continually-evolving digital age, and practical wisdom to apply in the context of their ministry settings. This program is for pastors, Christian educators, and other church leaders charged with helping congregations think critically and live faithfully as 21st century followers of Jesus.

Instructor: MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Details and Registration

Compass Points Certificate Courses: Biblical and Theological Foundations

Starting: 2/21/2016
Ending: 2/24/2016

This course will explore biblical foundations, methods of interpretation and resources for scriptural study within the unique context of camp and conference ministry. Participants will be introduced to the basics of theology, an overview of historical creeds, and how theology shapes the practice of ministry in our camp and conference centers.

Leaders:  Martha Moore-Keish and Mardee Rightmyer.

Details and Registration

Compass Points Certificate Course: Program Design and Implementation

Starting: 2/24/2016
Ending: 2/27/2016

Course content will include an overview of human growth and developmental in relation to Christian education. Learners will encounter a variety of models of teaching, as well as methods of curriculum and program development, interpretation, implementation, and evaluation in a camp and conference setting. Participants will explore camp, conference and retreat models and how they are an extension of a ministry’s mission statement.

Leaders: Kathy Dawson and Joel Winchip

Details and Registration

Immersion Experience: An Invitation to a Deeper Spiritual Life

Certificate in Spiritual Formation

Starting: 2/25/2016
Ending: 2/28/2016

Discover the key ideas and foundational practices for the grand adventure of a deeper spiritual life! During this Thursday evening - Sunday afternoon course, you will explore the origins of the Christian spiritual tradition, while learning the formative elements of Biblical, monastic, and Christian spirituality from the Reformation onward. The schedule includes time for personal reflection through guided journaling — an exercise for exploring your own unique journey with the living God. You will also get to know fellow participants in small group and one-on-one settings, which will support your practical application of the knowledge acquired throughout the course 

Instructors: CTS Faculty

Details and Registration

Finance for Churches

Starting: 2/29/2016
Ending: 3/2/2016

This program is for congregational leaders--lay, staff, clergy--who provide leadership in the congregation’s financial ministry. This course addresses the needs of congregational leaders to understand and provide effective and efficient ways to implement church finances to support the ministries of the congregation. The focus of this course is practical knowledge and best practices related to church finance. An early registration discount is available through November 1, 2015. 

Instructor: Steve Law, Principle, at Financial Leadership for Churches

Details and Registration

Sacred Survival: Engaging African American Spirituality

Certificate in Spiritual Formation

Starting: 3/31/2016
Ending: 4/3/2016

Deep within the African American community are rich spiritual traditions born of a legacy of survival, suffering, courage, and creativity. Through a distinct spirituality and rich cultural heritage, African Americans have made their own history and developed their spirituality as a result of the encounter of a particular people with their God. In this course we will engage lived-experiences, stories, songs and rituals, and trace questions of African American spirituality as a source of survival, healing and hope for oppressed communities. We will explore the historic presence of African American spirituality, as well as the ways in which we understand its impact and presence in today’s society.

Instructor:  Khalia Williams                                    

Details and Registration

Reading Contemporary Confessions from a Global Perspective

(an online course)

Starting: 4/4/2016
Ending: 5/6/2016

This five-week online course offers an opportunity to those who work in congregational or other ministry settings to review four contemporary confessions and the purpose and function of confessional statements in the life of a church. As we read these different theological documents from four different parts of the world, and through the interactive online discussion with the course leader and our peers, we will strive to deepen our understanding of these statements in conversation with other confessions of our traditions and our own contexts of ministry. 

Leader: Margit Ernst-Habib

Details and Registration

Spiritual Formation and Older Adults

(Older Adult Ministry Certificate Course)

Starting: 4/11/2016
Ending: 4/13/2016

The last third of life presents some of life’s great spiritual challenges. This course explores the journey of aging as a series of stable periods and transitions, each with spiritual, theological and ethical issues—aging and frailty, taking responsibility, finding meaning, being in relationships, leaving a legacy, facing diminishment and death.

Instructor: Henry C. Simmons, PhD

Details and Registration

Theological Reflections and Affirmations during Older Adulthood

(Older Adult Ministry Certificate Course)

Starting: 4/14/2016
Ending: 4/16/2016

This course will explore a number of theological concepts, with a particular focus on how these relate to older adulthood, including the following: heaven; resurrection; the realm of God’s rule; guilt and forgiveness; bereavement; the nature of body/soul; cremation vs. burial or donation of body to science; organ donation; medical ethics related to end-of-life issues; aging as God’s plan for human life; and the church as a caring and supporting community. Using Scripture, creeds and confessions and drawing upon the assigned readings in Christian Doctrine (revised edition), we will reflect theologically on our present, and past, understanding of these concepts. 

Instructor: Rev. Marvin Simmers, Ed.D.

Details and Registration

Wisdom of the Christian Mystics

Certificate in Spiritual Formation

Starting: 4/21/2016
Ending: 4/24/2016

The Christian mystics are men and women from every generation who enjoyed a profound sense of God’s presence — even “union” with God — in their lives. Over the centuries, the mystics have included men and women, clergy and lay, Catholic and Protestant, rich and poor, educated and ordinary. What they share in common is their love of God and whole-hearted approach to living the Gospel in their daily lives.

What can we learn from these heroes of the faith? Do the great mystics have anything to say to us today?

This course will introduce you to some of the greatest Christian mystics, from well-known figures like Francis of Assisi and Julian of Norwich to lesser known (but important) individuals like John Cassian and Jan Ruusbroec. We’ll look at some of their key writings, reflect on the major themes and principles of Christian mysticism, explore how their teachings on prayer can be applied in our lives today, and discuss how we can apply their wisdom to Christian discipleship here in the third millennium. 

Instructor:  Carl McColman       

Location: Montreat Conference Center

Details and Registration

Can They See Your Church? Evangelism in the Visual Age (Thompson Scholars 2016)

Starting: 4/26/2016
Ending: 4/29/2016

This is the visual age. The number one activity on the web is the posting of pictures and video. This workshop will empower leaders to rethink how we do evangelism in the visual age. The conversation and strategies will be deeply rooted theologically and sociologically as to why and how we might best engage the visual generation. Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins, the Peachtree Associate professor of evangelism and church growth at Columbia Theological Seminary, socio-theologian, photographer and visual storyteller, will lead this event along with the Rev. Dr. Keith Anderson, pastor of Dublin Lutheran Church near Philadelphia and the author of The Digital Cathedral Networked Ministry in a Wireless World (required reading for the seminar).

This is an application-based program. Qualified applicants will be accepted until we reach maximum enrollment. For an application form, click here. The application deadline is January 4, 2016. Applicants will be notified of their status by the end of January. Preference will be given to applicants who have not participated in previous Thompson Scholar seminars. For additional information, including a link to the application, click HERE.

Attuning Yourself to the Sacred Within: A Contemplative Retreat

Starting: 5/2/2016
Ending: 5/6/2016

You are invited to set aside the rigor of daily life, to rest and attend to the presence of God within. This week-long retreat will include times of silence and solitude, plenary sessions with experienced leaders, contemplative spiritual practices, and gentle conversation in small groups. Whether you are a long-time practitioner of contemplative prayer or a curious seeker, this retreat is an opportunity to rest, renew and grow in the contemplative life.

Leaders:  Deedra Rich and Ben Campbell Johnson

Location:  Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman Alabama

Details and Registration

Thriving As a Church Ministry Staff Associate

An Online Course

Starting: 5/2/2016
Ending: 6/3/2016

This five week online course will focus on the role and function of the pastoral associate staff in the congregational context. Being an effective children’s, youth, or program minister requires more than just expertise about one’s ministry specialization. Because most children’s and youth ministers work in the congregational setting as associates, they must understand staff relationships, staff functions, teamwork, personal professional skills, and relational intelligence in dealing with pastors, staff members, and congregational members.  Early registration discount deadline is March 1, 2016. Register early! 

Instructors: Israel Galindo

Details and Registration

Being the Beloved Community: Welcoming Children of All Abilities to Church

Starting: 5/9/2016
Ending: 5/12/2016

Where to start? What questions should we be asking? What can we do at church and in our communities when the needs arise? These and other questions will be considered during this conference, which will explore the theological and practical dimensions of this ministry. Participants will learn that every church can do something to transform relationships and practices. Dr. Bethany McKinney-Fox (M.Div. ’06), director of Student Services at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Mark Crenshaw, MTS, director of Interdisciplinary Training at Georgia State University and former Executive Director of  the Interfaith Disability Network, will keynote. Barbara Newman, Director of Church Services, Teacher Consultant, and author for the CLC Network, will present workshops on autism and on inclusive worship.  A total of eight workshops, four plenary sessions and a panel discussion will complete the conference schedule. 

Details and Registration 

Hospitality as Spiritual Practice: The Welcoming Voice of the Book of Ruth

Certificate in Spiritual Formation

Starting: 6/12/2016
Ending: 6/15/2016

The practice of hospitality involves far more than tasty casseroles and readied guest rooms.  In fact, the ability to live hospitably with the people around us – friends and strangers – is a result of developing a deeper sense of the meaning and practice of hospitality in our lives.

The Old Testament book of Ruth has certainly been misplaced in the Christian Bible and too often ignored in Christian thought. If read in its historical and original literary context, however, it serves as a pivotal book for all people of faith.  Our prayerful study of the Book of Ruth will introduce us to the deep discipline of hospitality – hospitality to far more than just a visitor in our home.  The hospitality embedded in Ruth’s story encourages us to open our arms and hearts to: life on life’s terms, God on God’s terms, grace beyond imagination and the inevitable evolution of faith and faith practice. 

Leaders: Jim Dant and Debra Weir 

Location: First Baptist Church, Greenville, SC 

Details and Registration

Registration 4-8 weeks prior to each course is encouraged, as pre-course preparation and reading may be required.  Courses may be canceled or postponed if sufficient numbers of participants are not enrolled 3-6 weeks prior to the start date of the event.