SCSW Diakonia Program: Continuing Education Ministry

Did you know that the ELCA has a social statement on Education?  We believe Education is so important to God’s church, that we have a published understanding of how the church feels about our calling in education.

Our Calling in Education is centered by the belief that God calls us to educate people in the Christian faith for their vocation and to seek with others to ensure that all have access to high-quality education. We are to seek access for all as service to the common good that makes possible development of personal gifts and abilities. This calling is rooted in a Lutheran heritage that values education for all people in both church and society.  The second section of the statement, centered on Jesus Christ, reminds us that we are educated to serve the neighbor, not as a matter of personal salvation or for our own personal advancement. It also reminds us that we follow a savior who was a teacher.

These values are reflected in the work of the synod’s Diakonia program.  The Diakonia team is comprised of: Rev. Steve Kottke, synod staff; Deacon Vicki Hanrahan, synod staff; Barb Zimmerman, Coordinator, Linda Wullf, Registrar and site coordinators and Diakonia graduates, Janean Hill, and Ken Harris.  (Rev. Kalen Barkholz served as an integral member of this team for the first few years).

Diakonia instructors have included for example:  Rev. Brad Pohlman, Rev. Joanne Fabie, Rev. Dick Inglett, Rev. Peter Heide, Rev. Bob Fisher, Rev. Kalen Barkholtz, Rev. Dan Feaster.   All of these instructors would be happy to talk to pastors who are considering teaching about their Diakonia experience.

“When you teach Diakonia you are making an impact on the greater church because these students are bringing back what they are learning into their own congregations, families, and neighborhoods.”  ~ Rev. Kalen Barkholtz, Instructor

“Some liken Diakonia to confirmation without the hormones or seminary without the Greek or Hebrew!”


Here’s what the team has been up to as shared by Diakonia Coordinator, Barb Zimmerman:(Pictured center)

“Diakonia is based on Ephesians 4:12, Equipping the Saints for Diakonia; building up the body of Christ…in other words, to prepare the lay people of the congregation to share the good news of the Gospel. Diakonia is a two-year program. Diakonia graduation does not lead to becoming rostered; however, it does help some discern where their heart and the Holy Spirit may be leading them.  One graduate found out she liked to do visitations and has become active in Hospice. One of the students, before completing the courses, went to seminary. He found the confidence that he could do the work. Another person this last year will be entering Luther College this year, and all of the graduates shown here have led worship, preached and some are now serving on the Diakonia team.  I know there are pastors within the synod who have taken Diakonia and then went on to seminary.

Some history of Diakonia. Diakonia started in New York 41 years ago. Slowly it has spread across synods. In 2010, I was seeking lay learning besides Bible Studies in my own congregation. Our synod did not have a lay school offering but the Greater Milwaukee Synod had Diakonia. I chose to go to Oconomowoc for the next two school years and graduate from Diakonia. When I graduated from the program in 2012, I had no idea where it might lead me. I was just satisfied with the knowledge I gained and the friendships I had made. In March of 2015, I approached the bishop at the time, Rev. Mary Froiland, asking why we could not have Diakonia here instead of having people go to Oconomowoc for it. At synod assembly we had an informational booth regarding Diakonia. In September 2015 we started our first classes. By June 2018 we have graduated four people.  The classes are held at Trinity Lutheran church in Madison. I am happy to say that there has been enough interest generated to have three sites this year:

* Trinity-Madison,  (Saturday mornings)
* St. John’s-Evansville (Saturday mornings)
* First English-Platteville (Thursday evenings)

At present time we are doing a telephone blitz contacting all congregations within the synod. This means that we as a committee are diligently trying to find 18 instructors who are willing to teach either in Platteville on Thursday night or Evansville on Saturday morning or Madison Saturday morning. We are also seeking students for these three areas. The classes will start the week after Labor Day. We break for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, LEAD, Easter, Synod Assembly and Memorial Day.

You do not have to take all the courses, though it is prayerfully recommended. Do what fits your schedule. All sites are handicap accessible.

More information, along with registration application form, can be obtained from the Diakonia page. You can also contact www.scsw-elca.org, or Barb Zimmerman at 608-535-0264 (leave a message) or by e-mail at scswdiakonia@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from prospective students and instructors!

Diakonia Brochure

ELCA Social Statement on Education