Synods of Wisconsin Missional Leadership Cohort

Ministry leaders face massive challenges on two fronts.  They are challenged with understanding a pluralist culture that no longer supports Christian identity, as well as  leading faith communities through processes of learning, adaptation and innovation in mission. 

Meaningful engagement with complex challenges like these functions best in communities of peers who mutually encourage, support, challenge and deepen one another, while being held accountable to a disciplined structure of action and reflection under the guidance of experienced mentors and coaches.

The Missional Leadership Cohort is a structured learning community that offers teaching, mentorship and accountability for church leaders in partnership with committed peers and faculty and staff. It offers the promise of intensive, transformational leadership development for a missionary church with flexibility and accommodation for the demands facing full-time, working pastors.



  • Understand more deeply contemporary cultures and the challenges and opportunities they pose to the formation of Christian identity and practice.

  • Gain biblical and theological insight into the triune God’s mission and the church’s missionary identity.

  • Engage key social science literatures in organization and leadership in relation to church life and leadership.
  • Reflect critically on specific missionary challenges of the participants’ contexts.
  • Engage in action/reflection experiments intended to address those challenges.
  • Articulate a renewed understanding of one’s pastoral identity and practice for 21st-century ministry.

Hear from past Missional Leadership Cohorts

“This has been the single most important, helpful continuing ed experience of my young career.” 

“I have not been a part of something for the past 13+ years that has impacted my leadership development in the ways this has.”

The Rev. Jane Johnson (below), Episcopal priest serving in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, describes how her leadership has changed based on her experience in the cohort.

Questions? Get in touch.

Learn More

How Does It Work?

Learning community participants commit to a 12-month training process.

Tracing God’s Movement in Our Lives and Neighborhoods

Learn by Doing: Using Action Learning to Discover God’s Leading

Sharing Our Learning: Intentional Reflections on Our Actions

  • Three two-day retreats

    Held virtually until we can gather in person.

  • Regular video coaching

    Go in-depth with a trusted mentor, without leaving your office.

  • Portfolio

    Learning and growth will be showcased by gathering artifacts over the course of the program.

  • Selected reading and study

    Between retreats and coaching sessions, enter both the biblical text and expert material to discover new paradigms for ministry.


There are spots for up to twelve participants who can commit to this 12-month learning journey. Candidates from minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply. We hope to have at least one pastor from each of the six Wisconsin synods take part.

The Synods of Wisconsin Missional Leadership Cohort seeks pastors who have engaged in faithful innovation work with their congregations, who seek to deepen their missional leadership. Pastors should have established basic pastoral competence and hold promise for outstanding leadership in the church, with a significant time horizon in ministry ahead of them. Cohort candidates will therefore:

  • Possess at least three years of ministry experience following seminary

  • Be willing to take risks—personally and in their contexts—to learn and innovate in mission

  • Commit to participating in three three-day retreats and an estimated average of 2-4 hours/week of experimentation, study, and peer engagement outside of the retreats for the life of the 12-month program

Come prepared to build on your current skills, discover new ones, and to experience a renewal of your pastoral identity and practice.


Thanks to a generous grant from the Siebert Foundation, the tuition is fully funded for each participant.

Other Costs

If we are able to meet in-person, food, lodging and supplies are covered by the grant. We are also able to accommodate individual lodging over the course of virtual retreat days.

Travel Costs

If travel becomes possible, participants are responsible for their own travel costs.


If in-person gatherings become possible, we will meet in a centrally located retreat center in Wisconsin.

Tentative Schedule

First Gathering

April 22-23, 2021

Second Gathering

September 23-24, 2021

Third Gathering

April 21-22, 2022

Meet the Program Leaders

Dwight Zscheile, Ph.D.

Dwight ZScheile, Ph.D.

Episcopal priest and Vice President of Innovation and Associate Professor of Congregational Mission and Leadership at Luther Seminary. His books include People of the Way: Renewing Episcopal Identity (Morehouse 2012); The Agile Church: Spirit-Led Innovation in an Uncertain Age (Church Publishing, 2014); and Participating in God's Mission: A Theological Missiology for the Church in America (with Craig Van Gelder, Eerdmans, 2018).


Blair Pogue, D.Min.

Dawn Alitz, Ph.D

Rev. Dr. Dawn Alitz is the Director of Communities and Coaching, Faith+Lead – Luther Seminary. Dawn received her Master of Arts in lay leadership from Luther Seminary in 2003, and received her Ph.D. in 2009. Dawn has taught in adjunct positions at the seminary, as well as with Augsburg College and Lexington Theological Seminary. Prior to her work at Luther, she served in a number of ministry settings including mission start and established congregations.

Blair Pogue, D.Min.

Erin Nelson

Rev. Erin Nelson serves as Director For Evangelical Mission for the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin. She specializes in congregational redevelopment and vitality, leadership development and generosity. Erin attended Gustavus Adolphus College and Luther Seminary. 

Blair Pogue, D.Min.

Matthew short

Rev. Matthew Short serves as the Assistant to the Bishop for Evangelical Mission in the Greater Milwaukee Synod. His deepest passion is walking with congregations as they blur the lines between the secular and the sacred; between the life of the congregation and the life of the wider community. 

Apply to the Synods of Wisconsin Missional Leadership Cohort

Tracing God’s Movement in Our Lives and Neighborhoods

Learn by Doing: Using Action Learning to Discover God’s Leading

Sharing Our Learning: Intentional Reflections on Our Actions

  • Discernment questions

  • Current resume or CV

  • 3 professional references