Ventures in Christian Discipleship

Equipping lay people of all ages and education levels with skills and understandings for faithful and dynamic Christian living, action, and leadership with special emphasis on small congregations.

2023-2024 Courses

“Divine Creativity and Holy Imagination: Cultivating a Creative Church (2-part course)”

Tuesdays, February 13 and February 20, 2024
7:30 – 9:00 pm Central

Presenter: Liz Ullery Swenson, pastor at WildWood Gathering
.3 CEU credit

Course Description and Presenter Information

Before we know anything else about God, we know of God’s creativity. God created day and night, water and land, fish and birds, calling them good. God created humanity in God’s own creative image, and in doing so, imbued us with the capacity for creativity and imagination.

How are our faith communities fostering that sacred creativity and holy imagination? How do we create opportunities for open-ended exploration, integrated artistic reflection and a spiritual practice that is tactile? Theologian Sallie McFague invites us to marvel in the wonder of the Divine presence in all things, “We might begin to recognize the extraordinariness of the ordinary. We would begin to delight in creation, not as the work of an eternal deity, but as a sacrament of the living God.” Through God’s holy and creative imagination, all of creation is alive with the ever-creating breath of God, and we are invited to be co-creators.

In our time together we will explore the possibilities for cultivating space for creativity and imagination in our daily lives and on Sunday morning. How might our prayers change if we prayed with finger paint or sidewalk chalk? What if we worshiped God with our hands in rich soil? Have we created spaces to encounter a colorful God?

Created in the image of the Divine Creator, every person contains the capacity for creativity and imagination, whether you are an experienced artist, social media content creator, gifted quilter, or haven’t doodled since elementary school. This is an opportunity to expand our idea of what it means to be a creative person.

Rev. Liz Ullery Swenson lives at the intersection of spirituality and creativity. As the planting-pastor with WildWood Gathering she is cultivating and reimagining faith community. Starting in 2016 WildWood is creating safe spiritual space for those on the margins. She has a Bachelor in Theater Arts, a Masters of Library Science and Masters of Divinity. She is an overly ambitious gardener, mama to her five-year-old daughter, and spends too much time on social media.

“Introduction to Afrofuturism and Theology”

Tuesday, April 2, 2024
6:30 – 8:30 pm Central

Presenter: Tamisha Tyler, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture, and Theopoetics, Bethany Theological Seminary
.2 CEU credit

Course Description and Presenter Information

Afrofuturism is described as the intersection between science fiction, black culture, technology, the future, and liberation. Connecting a variety of genres including art, technology, literature, and science, Afrofuturism is also filled with religious and theological themes. This course will explore the world of Afrofuturism, paying attention to the theological themes throughout. Afrofuturism creates worlds that answer the questions, “what does a future that centers Black folk look like? What future conditions must exist for Black people to thrive?” The focus of this class is to dig into the theological themes that make up that world.

Tamisha A. Tyler (she/her/hers) is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture, and Theopoetics at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Her research interests include Theopoetics, Theology and the arts, Afrofuturism, Black popular culture, and Science Fiction. Her dissertation, Articulating Sensibilities: Methodologies in Theopoetics in Conversation with Octavia E. Butler, explores Butler’s work in the Parable Series as an embodied, artistic, and theopoetic response to the theological, economic, and ecological upheaval in Butler’s dystopian world. She is part of the Level Ground artist collective in Los Angeles, Calif. and her work can be seen in Feminism in Religion’s blog, and Fuller Magazine. Her latest project explores religion in the literary world of Octavia Butler.

“Becoming a More Loving and Inclusive Church (2-part course)”

Tuesday, May 7 and Thursday, May 9, 2024
7:00 – 8:30 pm Central

Presenter: Tim McElwee, Church of the Brethren Minister and 2023 Annual Conference Moderator
.3 CEU credit

Course Description and Presenter Information

My conviction is that when we, as members of the church, refuse to see and affirm every sister and brother—no matter their sexual orientation—as equals in the eyes of God, we do violence to them and we harm ourselves.

Regarding matters of human sexuality, the Church of the Brethren was not of one mind in 1983 when Annual Conference narrowly adopted our major statement on this issue. We are not of one mind more than 40 years later. Can we set aside our disagreements about matters of human sexuality and, with mutual respect, truly love one another? What impedes us from loving more inclusively? Are we protecting positions of power and privilege? Do we fear change? To become more loving and faithful disciples of Christ, are we willing to take on the task of bearing divine love and risk the possibility of unknown challenges? Are we willing to reflect God’s gift of unconditional love and yield to Jesus’s call of inclusive love?

In this session Tim will lead a discussion of these and related questions.

Tim McElwee joined the Warrensburg (MO) Church of the Brethren at age 16 and later served on the denominational staff as director of what is now known as the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. At Manchester University he served four years as campus pastor, eight years as a fundraiser, five years on the faculty as director of the Peace Studies Institute, and one year as administrator of the academic affairs department.

He served as the 2023 Annual Conference moderator, and as immediate past moderator, he is a member of Standing Committee. He was an ordained Church of the Brethren minister for 12 years and was a part-time chaplain at Timbercrest Retirement Community where he served a term on the board of directors. He has also served on the Eder Financial board, two terms on the SERRV board and currently serves on the board of directors for New Community Project.

Tim holds a BA in peace studies and religion/philosophy from Manchester, an M.Div from Bethany Theological Seminary, and an MA and Ph.D. in international relations from Purdue University.


Course Registration


All course times are 9 am-noon Central Time unless indicated otherwise.
There is a suggested $25 donation per course.

Archive of Courses | Access to Previous Recordings

About the Courses

Registering online is the preferred method.  There is no charge for courses; however, a suggested donation is invited.

Ventures courses, while not for college credit, offer high-quality instruction. The goal of the program is to empower lay people, especially in smaller congregations, to more effectively carry out the work of discipleship, following in Jesus’ footsteps to transform ourselves and the world. You are invited to journey with others on this new pathway sponsored by McPherson College.

Technology Requirements for Live Courses: If you can surf the web, you will be able to participate in our online courses! For the best experience, we recommend that you have a computer with high-speed internet connection and external powered speakers. We encourage several people to share a computer to participate in a course together! No camera or microphone needed for most courses.