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Congregational Vitality: Stories and Learning

CV Training Event Training Tracks – Baltimore – August 2019

Congregational Vitality Training Event: August 21-23, 2019

Held at Christ Lutheran Church, Baltimore, Maryland

……….UPDATED June 19, 2019……….



Watch this video, from the Las Vegas CV Training Event last February, to gain valuable insight from several DEMs and other colleagues:

View the Bishop Panel from the Las Vegas event:


DEM Gathering:

August 19-20 | Monday – Tuesday, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm

Register by Friday July 12, 2019.

USE THIS LINK: DEM Gathering Registration Link

Please read ALL the Travel & Logistics information first, and then call Pam at Direct Travel, at 800-543-8016, to book your flight, using code 30-143, DEM Gathering.


Training Offered at CV Training Event:

August 21-23 | Wednesday – Thursday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm AND Friday, 8:00 am – 2:30 pm


No Registration Fee for NEW (2019) mission developers (and other approved leaders) and accompanying DEMs.  |  Housing is included (double occupancy, up to 3 nights).

USE THIS LINK: No-Fee Registration – Fee for Single Room Link

  • PART 1 TRAINING: For new developers (2019) and their accompanying DEMs. To bring any previous leaders who have not been trained, please consult with Rev. Ruben Duran or Rev. Anna-Kari Johnson.
  • PART 2 TRAINING: Returning developers and lay leaders who need part 2 training are welcome, but please consult with Rev. Ruben Duran or Rev. Anna-Kari Johnson before registering.
  • FOR SEMINARIANS: Contact Rev. Rob James to plan student participation before registering.
  • ALL OTHERS: Returning leaders (developers from previous years) and other ministry leaders are welcome, but please consult with Rev. Ruben Duran or Rev. Anna-Kari Johnson before registering.

Three types of mission development training tracks: SELECT ONE OPTION FROM A, or B, or C


  • African National Churches
  • Asian Churches
  • Church Launch — Basic principles and best practices, including nuts and bolts and practical tools in developing a new ministry.
  • Churches Starting Churches — For those who are planting out of an existing church, OR, for those who want to explore what’s involved in starting a satellite or second site. DEMs can invite pastors (not just mission developers) from their synods to attend, in consultation with Rev. Ruben Duran.
  • Multicultural Churches
  • Postmodern Churches
  • Poverty / Homeless Justice Ministries – Developing ministries among and with marginalized communities.
  • REDIL / Latinx Ministry (New Starts and Existing Churches) training by REDIL (Red Ecumenica para el Desarollo de Iglesias Latinas — Ecumenical Network for the Development of Latino Churches.)
  • We plan to bring back the Prison Congregations track in February 2020.


We welcome DEMs to bring one pastor and two lay leaders for this track. Please call or text Rev. Anna-Kari Johnson for more details, at 773-990-0814. No fee for registration or double-occupancy housing (up to three nights), but participants must cover flight and other travel expenses.


Leaders will gather to work on developing or further developing the following cohorts and curriculum:

  • African Descent Cohort
  • American Indian – Alaska Native Cohort
  • Arab – Middle Eastern Cohort
  • Recovery and Reentry Cohort



Registration Fee: $200  |  Housing Fees: double occupancy: $85/person per night; single occupancy: $170/person per night

USE THIS LINK: Regular Paid Registration Link

Note to DEMs: If you are accompanying one or more mission developers, you may use the “Mission Development” (no-fee) link at the top of this page instead of this link.

  • DESCRIPTION: This is a special training track for those involved in leading a congregational process toward revitalization (formerly known as redevelopment). The Vital Congregations Cohort will be a dedicated track for these leaders and their accompanying DEMs. Participants will receive specialized training with a team of experienced practitioners who will share principles, best practices and tools. Nancy Nyland, DEM for the Indiana – Kentucky Synod, will support this team. DEMs: If you have a leader currently engaged in, or about to begin a revitalization process, we encourage you to attend this training with your leader(s). Space will be limited to the first 25 leaders (and their partner DEMs) who register.



Registration Fee: $200  |  Housing Fees: double occupancy: $85/person per night; single occupancy: $170/person per night

USE THIS LINK: Regular Paid Registration Link

Note to DEMs: If you are accompanying one or more mission developers, you may use the “Mission Development” (no-fee) link at the top of this page instead of this link.

  • DESCRIPTION: A Synodical Vitality Focus Group will gather to begin work toward creating a synod support system for congregational renewal. Seven synods have been invited to help develop an experiential training process, and we want you to be aware that this exciting planning is going on, led by Pastor Dave Daubert and DEM Richard Jorgensen, Lower Susquehanna Synod. We hope to offer this training for all synods in February 2020.



Registration Fee: $200  |  Housing Fees: double occupancy: $85/person per night; single occupancy: $170/person per night

USE THIS LINK: Regular Paid Registration Link

  • DESCRIPTION: DEM Collaborative Conversations are designed for DEMs who are not accompanying a mission developer or a leader in the Vital Congregations Cohort, and who are not part of the Synodical Vitality Focus Group.

Synod Vitality Strategy Planning Conversation

Join Keith Zeh, DEM for the Northwestern Minnesota Synod, and Maristela Freiberg, DEM for the New Jersey Synod, to learn and discuss key concepts and best practices for setting up the framework for a synod vitality team and strategies. Conversation will cover the Synod Vitality Team Training topics presented at the Seattle and Las Vegas CV Training Events and more. Meeting times for this track will follow the training track schedule listed in the Agenda. This is not team training, but rather a collaborative time for DEMs only, who will begin to work on a plan over the 2.5 days of training.

This Conversation will include the following components:

  • Listening to each participating DEM as they tell and describe: their synod context, what they are noticing and wondering about synod vitality strategy planning, as well as naming the strengths, opportunities, hopes and challenges going forward.
  • Answering questions and providing guidance on: What is a synod vitality strategy? Why have a synod vitality strategy? What are key components to developing and actualizing a synod vitality strategy? How to assemble a synod strategy planning team or table. What resources are available to the synod? What are some of the key learnings and practices resulting from other synod vitality strategies? How to prepare for bringing a synod vitality team for training at the February 2020 event (location to be announced soon).
  • Takeaways will include: an action plan reflecting the DEM’s next steps, ongoing collegiality among the participants via Zoom conversations, and availability of ongoing coaching and mentoring.
  • Maristela and Keith bring considerable firsthand experience and lessons learned in developing and implementing synod vitality strategies. They enter this collaborative conversation to share and encourage as well as to learn from those who participate.

Additional Conversation Opportunities

DEMs who are not participating in the Synod Vitality Strategy Planning Conversation may choose to create their own DEM Collaborative Conversations following the training track schedule on the Agenda. This time is yours to connect with other DEMs, churchwide staff, and other national church leaders to talk, share and consult for maximum benefit.


Pre-Event Training:


August 19-20 | Monday, 1:00-5:00 pm AND Tuesday, 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Registration Fee: $70  |  Housing Fees: double occupancy: $85/person per night; single occupancy: $170/person per night

USE THIS LINK: Boundaries Training Link

Note to DEMs: Please share this link with your mission developers who need to take Boundaries Training. Note that the Boundaries Training link will NOT be included in other links. Participants must use the Boundaries Training link. You will need to send it to them.


  • Boundaries Training is required every 24 months for all mission developers who have not completed this
    8-hour training in their home synods.
  • Contact Terri Novak, administrative coordinator, Congregational Vitality, to send in previously earned Boundaries Training certifications.
  • Plan to arrive in the morning of Monday, August 19, to attend Boundaries Training, which begins at 1:00 pm Monday, August 19.



August 20 | Tuesday, 2:00-5:00 pm

No Registration Fee for mission developers registered for this CV Training Event.

Housing is included (double occupancy, 1 night).

For NEW and approved newer mission developers (contact Anna-Kari Johnson).

USE THIS LINK: Mission Developer Intensive Learning Experience Link

Note to DEMs: Please share the link with your mission developers who need to take this Mission Developer Intensive Learning Experience. Note that the Mission Developer Intensive Learning Experience link will NOT be included in other links. Participants must use the Mission Developer Intensive Learning Experience link. You will need to send it to them.

  • DESCRIPTION: New mission developers will explore their sense of guiding purpose — identify and understand their “why”; and learn the basics of how to carry out ministry as a developer in their mission contexts, including mission developer expectations, toolkit, best practices, networks, coaching and more!


Additional Pre-Event Training:


August 16-17 | Friday, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm AND Saturday, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm

  • DESCRIPTION: Behavioral interview training will be offered at Christ Lutheran Church on Friday, August 16, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm (lunch and dinner included), and Saturday, August 17, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm (lunch will be provided). All trainers, training materials and meals (as noted) will be provided.



August 19-20 | Monday & Tuesday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

USE THIS LINK: Coach Launch Link

  • DESCRIPTION: Coaching is a skill of using deep listening and powerful questions as you journey with others to empower them to live more fully into their vocations in life. Coaching is a posture that helps you move forward (even through the most difficult things), builds on learning from relationship and is a powerful catalyst for congregational vitality. This course will introduce you to coaching basics and provides an opportunity to practice these skills. Upon completion, you will have a framework to begin using these tools in formal and informal coaching relationships and you will be a Level 1 Coach in the ELCA.
  • Please contact Jill Beverlin, ELCA Coaching Coordinator, for criteria and availability, 773-380-2692.



August 21 | Wednesday, 8:30 am – 1:30 pm

  • This Coaching Lab experience is for individuals interested in training to become Care for Creation Coaches, providing an experience in restoring creation resources and an opportunity to deepen coaching skills to become a Level 2 coach in the ELCA.
  • This is for people who are NOT participating in the Congregational Vitality Training Event. Stewardship/discipleship/mission developer-redeveloper lab training will not be offered at the CV Training Event.
  • Please contact Keith Mundy for criteria and availability, 773-380-5045.


Questions and Contacts:

  • For registration questions or problems, contact Kholoud Khoury (773-380-2830), or Philip Rivera (773-380-2553).
  • For overall event logistical questions, contact Kris Mainellis (773-380-2749).
  • For content/training questions, contact Anna-Kari Johnson at 773-990-0814, Rob James at 815-721-0079, or Ruben Duran at 630-440-8591, or the contact person listed.



by Kris A. Mainellis, Program Director for Communication and Events, Congregational Vitality

Overcoming challenges in El Cenizo

The Rev. Mariana Mendez knows how to make the most of difficult situations. Mendez and ministry partners at Misión Luterana Agua Viva work to share God’s love in spite of, or perhaps because of, the challenges of life in El Cenizo, Texas. Located 20 miles south of Laredo, this small, rural city of a little more than 3,000 people is situated just four blocks from the banks of the Rio Grande River. The river serves as the border between the United States and Mexico.

Incorporated in 1989, El Cenizo’s history is framed by its origin as one of hundreds of south Texas colonias established in the 1950s rural, unincorporated subdivisions lacking basic infrastructure such as potable water, sewer service and electricity. This region continues to be one of the most impoverished areas in the United States.

But Mendez focuses on the positive. She believes that although the community of El Cenizo faces significant challenges, “it also has significant opportunities for life and ministry.” Misión Luterana Agua Viva is a place of refuge, offering help and instilling hope. The church partners with local organizations, agencies and other churches to help the people of El Cenizo survive, find stability and grow through a combination of direct support, education and training.

Agua Viva school supplies program helps families overcome challenges of life in El Cenizo.

Each fall, with help from partner Lutheran churches and individuals, Agua Viva provides backpacks filled with school supplies for 250 children in grades K-12, through its Aprendiendo a Leer Con Jesús (Learning to Read With Jesus) program.

Empowered leaders share God’s grace

Key to its mission is its focus on cultivating leaders. The church identifies leaders and sends them for training with public agencies. Episcopal and Methodist sister churches and nondenominational partners provide further training in health care, education, self-sustainability and entrepreneurship, nutrition and family care. In addition, Agua Viva works closely with a local pastoral counseling and coaching center, which has (so far) certified and graduated 12 leaders who serve as community facilitators from Agua Viva.

Mendez’s late husband, the Rev. Moises Mendez (who recently passed away), set into motion the church’s ongoing practice to develop and multiply church mission workers. One essential element of training: each leader is charged with identifying and developing other leaders. Mariana believes this practice is essential to accompanying the people of El Cenizo in their efforts to survive and thrive in this Third Culture border town. “We are multiplying the priesthood of all believers as we work together as partners inside the church and in the community to become facilitators of the work of God.”

Vegetable garden beds at Agua Viva, El Cenizo, Texas

Agua Viva church members plant and harvest organically grown vegetables for use at the Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) hunger-relief after-school program (typically serving 125 children ages 1-17). More than 2,500 monthly food portions are prepared by a full-time volunteer staff at the Vida Plena (Plentiful Life) program, which offers warm, freshly made food to more than 120 elderly people daily. Agua Viva’s pantry distributes 60,000 pounds of food per year.

Mission partners make all the difference

Mariana and Moises were initially called to mission development in Laredo in October 2002. The mission moved to El Cenizo in 2007, where Agua Viva took up residence in two double-wide trailers within four residential lots purchased 14 years earlier by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. With additional partnership and support from the ELCA’s Southwestern Texas Synod and the help of seven partner churches, Agua Viva was able to refurbish the trailers, pay off the mortgage on the land, build a sanctuary, and begin ministry and mission in the community. Agua Viva continues to steward its resources carefully, including ongoing ELCA churchwide mission development support. Mendez credits the Holy Spirit for “helping us to grow the Kingdom of God on earth,” and she appreciates the church’s many partners: “Thank you for your prayers, your commitment and solidarity toward those most in need within our border community.”

“As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” — Jesus (John 17:18 )

by Kris A. Mainellis, Program Director for Communication and Events, Congregational Vitality