Diakonia is an exciting opportunity which provides a spiritual journey to lay individuals who wish to become more involved in their church or who want to better understand their faith.

Diakonia meets once each week for two years during the school year (September through April or early May).  Individuals are joined by other students and teaching pastors from around the Northern Illinois Synod to talk about the Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Ethics, Lutheran Faith in the American Context, and other topics.  Students are also given the opportunity to discern what spiritual gifts they might have to use in service to God’s people.

This course of study prepares students for the task of showing God’s love in their workplaces, neighborhoods, families, and schools, as well as their local churches.  Diakonia graduates are called to share the light of Christ in the world.

Anyone who is looking for a deeper spiritual connection with Christ is encouraged to try diakonia.  The Northern Illinois Synod currently offers classes in several locations:

  • St. John, Joliet, on Tuesdays (location manager: Trenton Ferro)
  • Shepherd of the Hills, McHenry, on Thursdays (location manager: Ellen Arthur)
  • St. Mark, Rockford, on Thursdays (location manager: Don Long)
  • First, Mount Carroll, dates TBA (location manager: Barbara Stark)
  • First, DeKalb, on Mondays (location manager Denise Rode)
  • St. Paul, Dixon on Mondays (contact Pr. Joseph O’Donnell)

All sites require a minimum number of students for operation.

Use the link below to download a registration form for the Diakonia program.  Diakonia graduates, current students, or I would be glad to talk with you about our experiences in the program and how they have influenced our spiritual growth and fellowship with our instructors and peers.  I can be reached at home (815-756-8321) or by cell (815-751-8256) but the easiest way to contact me is via e-mail at drode1@niu.edu.

Many of us in the Northern Illinois Synod have felt called to the diakonia program, and we hope to share its benefits with others who want to deepen their faith and have a closer relationship with God.  I hope you will give prayerful consideration to this unique opportunity.

Sincerely in Christ,

Denise L. Rode, Ed.D.
Northern Illinois Synod Diakonia Chairperson

Program Overview & Course Descriptions

What is diakonia?

The diakonia Program is a two-year process of spiritual formation and theological education for baptized members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or anyone wishing in good faith to study these teachings. This process occurs in three basic ways:

  • by thorough grounding in the classic seminary disciplines of practical, systematic, historical and Biblical theology;
  • by identifying particular skills and aptitudes in ministry and encouraging their use in the local parish;
  • by providing spiritual growth through worship, retreats, and a supportive community of fellow students, mentors, and instructors.

These are the tools diakonia uses to help equip God’s people for service in
parish and neighborhood ministries. The primary theme and focus of the diakonia experience is found in this word of Scripture: “Let the one who would be great among you be your servant (diakonos).”

What is diakonia’s emphasis?

The purpose and goal of the diakonia program is to provide each participant the opportunity to discover their God-given gifts, strengthen their faith and their abilities, and give them purpose within their own congregations, synods, and the church-wide body of Christ.

Through the diakonia educational experience, each student’s understanding of theology and their relationship to God is allowed to blossom and bear fruit as a light of Christ in society.

How is diakonia structured?

diakonia is a two-year course of study which consists of twelve courses – six courses each year. Each course is five weeks in length, meeting once a week for three hours each. Weekly assignments and readings reflect the twin purposes of relating subject matter to the student’s context of life and ministry (family, parish, neighborhood, area of ministry), and giving a solid background to the topic.

Students work at their own level, and assignments reflect the understanding that students are already busy in their families, jobs, and parish. Typically, students average approximately 3-5 hours of study per week in addition to class time.

How much does diakonia cost?

  1. Tuition: $360 per year (for the two-year program). Pro-rated refunds are given for students who withdraw from the program.
  2. Fees: A non-refundable Registration Fee of $30 is required at the time of registration. An additional fee of $24-40 at the conclusion of the program covers graduation expenses, including the presenting of a commemorative diakonia cross.
  3. Books: Actual costs for books vary from course to course, but instructors try to provide materials for less than $25-30 per course.
  4. Retreats: The number of retreats is determined by year, normally there is one. Retreat costs will vary by location.
  5. Financial Aid: Financial aid is available, plus we strongly encourage congregations to help support their lay leaders. It is our goal to turn no one away because of financial need.

diakonia Program COURSES

All courses are taught by pastors and/or lay professionals particularly skilled in that area of instruction or ministry. diakonia courses combine theological knowledge with practical skills. All students are encouraged to work at their own level of theological knowledge, academic training, and experience in ministry.


1. Introduction to the New Testament.

2. Church History: The First 400 Years.

3. Practical Ministry I: Biblical Images of the Life of the Church

4. Lutheran Creeds and Confessions

5. Practical Ministry II: Visitation

6. The Daily Life of the Christian


1. Introduction to the Old Testament

2. Lutheran Faith in the American Context

3. Christian Doctrine

4. Christian Worship

5. Themes & Issues in Christian Ethics

6. Practical Ministry III: Communicating the Gospel

Northern Illinois Locations

Salem Lutheran Church
1724 15th Street
Moline, IL 61265-3843
Tuesday evenings

St. Barnabas Lutheran Church
89014 S. Cary Algonquin Rd.
Cary, IL 60013-2405
Saturday mornings

St. John Lutheran Church
2000 Luther Drive
Peru, IL 61354
Tuesday evenings

St. Mark Lutheran Church
675 N. Mulford Rd
Rockford, IL 61107-3893
Thursday evenings

Registration forms and Financial Aid forms are available by contacting:

Doug Liston
5008 Hickory Lane
McHenry, IL 60050

Further information may also be found at the diakonia program website: