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View of architectural detail of Gullixson Hall, Luther Seminary campus

Missional Leadership Cohort

for Ecumenical Clergy 2019-20

Leaders across churches today face massive challenges on two fronts: understanding a pluralist culture that no longer supports Christian identity and practice; and 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/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/clergy.

This particular learning community will be intentionally ecumenical. The assumption is that there is a lot to be learned across denominational lines. We will work at learning from each other’s traditions as we engage the common challenges we face as leaders.


  • To understand more deeply contemporary cultures and the challenges and opportunities they pose to the formation of Christian identity and practice.
  • To gain biblical and theological insight into the triune God’s mission and the church’s missionary identity.
  • To engage key social science literatures in organization and leadership in relation to church life and leadership.
  • To reflect critically on specific missionary challenges of the participants’ contexts.
  • To engage in action/reflection experiments intended to address those challenges.
  • To articulate a renewed understanding of one’s pastoral identity and practice for 21stcentury ministry.


The cohort participants (capped at 12) commit to an 18-month learning journey. There are three in-person gatherings of three days each, interspersed with reading, work in your ministry context and monthly video coaching. Participants compile a portfolio of artifacts over the course of the program that showcase their learning and growth. This may include reflection papers, sermons, congregational curricula, a journal, surveys, interview or focus group transcripts and analysis, worship bulletins, websites, videos and other media. The work addresses current ministry challenges identified by participants and teams in their ministries.


The 2019-20 Missional Leadership Cohort for Ecumenical Pastoral Leaders seeks pastors/clergy who have established basic pastoral competence yet 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 engaged in ministry full-time;
  • 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 two to four hours per week of experimentation, study and peer engagement outside of the retreats for the life of the 18-month program.


The cost for participation in this learning community is $3,500. This includes food and lodging during all three retreat gatherings. Participants are responsible for their own travel costs. Meetings will be held in Minneapolis/St. Paul or nearby areas.


  • First Gathering (May 14-16, 2019)
  • Second Gathering (October 15-17, 2019)
  • Final Gathering (May 19-21, 2020)

Program Leaders

Program Director Michael BinderMichael Binder, Ph.D., is Co-Lead Pastor at Mill City Church in Northeast Minneapolis. Michael helped to found Mill City Church in 2008 with a focus on neighborhood ministry. Michael has a PhD from Luther Seminary in the area of congregational mission and leadership. He is part of the Innovation Leadership Team at Luther Seminary where he also serves as adjunct faculty. He consults with congregations and denominations in the U.S. and Canada. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three kids.

Stephanie Williams O'BrienStephanie Williams O'Brien, M.Div., is Co-Lead Pastor of Mill City Church in Northeast Minneapolis. She is also an adjunct professor of ministry and preaching at Bethel University and Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Stephanie has opportunities to coach leaders around the country through speaking, consulting, coaching and her podcast Lead Stories with her co-host Jo Saxton. Her expertise is in training leaders, communities, and churches to join the mission of God in the world.

Applying to the Missional Leadership Cohort

Please submit the completed application materials by March 1, 2019:

  • Application form
  • Discernment questions (250 words max for each question)
  • Current resume or CV
  • Names and contact info for three professional references

Apply online

Applicants are encouraged to complete their application online at the link above by Feb. 1, 2019.

More Information

Contact Michael Binder.