The diakonia program has been re-imagined into Growing in Faith: The diakonia Program.  

After over 40 years of success in providing quality lay education in 11 synods across the ELCA, the national board has taken on the monumental task of re-designing the program to meet the needs of our 21st century churches and students.  The new program consists of a 2-year program with flexibility to suit the interests and needs our students. 

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.  

Current and past students love our program! They say that it enables them to understand worship and the scriptures more fully. They become more willing participants in leadership, education, and worship. They more easily engage in discussion about faith and service to the community. 

To enroll in an upcoming Diakonia class, click here for the application form.

For more information or to sign up for Growing in Faith: The diakonia Program in the Northern Illinois Synod please contact:  
Douglas Wood, Chairperson/Location Manager

For more information about the Diakonia program, click here. 

Foundation Year for both tracks – Six 5-week classes  

This first year of study will provide a strong foundation which will be built upon in year 2 and subsequent study.  Each synod should offer this foundation year of classes each year with in-person classes to establish the community that has been so important to this program.  Zoom options should be offered for those either not close enough, or with physical limitations, thus preventing their attending in person. 

 Christianity in a Lutheran Key

While all Christians share a common set of theological beliefs, Lutherans look at things through a filter of grace.   In this course we will discover more about our Lutheran roots.  We will also look forward to challenges that face us in the future.

Introduction to the First Testament/Old Testament

This course seeks to give you the basic knowledge to navigate the ancient, alien world of the First/Old Testament in your heart, mind, and imagination. We will explore what Scripture intends to be, where it arose and spoke, who wrote and edited it, how various worldviews shaped its contents, and when and especially why these particular things were put on record. During this class, as much as possible, you come to know the faithful yet flawed people (like ourselves) you meet there, to share more deeply their love of the God we all worship, and to embrace them as companions in following God.  

Introduction to the New Testament

The goals of this course are to understand the gospel message as revealed in the New Testament (NT), to explore the life and faith of the Christian church in the first century, to understand how the Bible came down to us in its present form, and to understand and use a variety of tools for interpreting the Bible.  Throughout the course students will reflect on how the New Testament Gospel has shaped our Christian lives.

Lutheran Creeds and Confessions

This course provides an analysis of the historical context and theological content of the Book of Concord (the Lutheran Confessions) with an eye to establishing the importance of its witness for Christian mission and ministry.

Living as a Christian in the World

This course allows students to explore their place in a world that is no longer predominately Christian.  Students will discuss and explore their role as a member of a Christian community and the community at large.  Begin discernment on future service and ministries in their congregations and communities.

Worship Matters

Why do we worship Sunday after Sunday? Is worship intended for an ‘in group’ to comfort and console? Is worship intended to equip for mission and service? Is worship for God or for us? As we explore these questions, we will discover tensions in worship: a God focus or a communal focus, a head focus or a heart focus, a structured worship or a free worship, a universal church focus or a focus on the local assembly and its needs. How we worship as a community will be informed by our roots in the Western Church’s liturgical tradition as well as by social and cultural experiences in a particular time and place. Through our conversations we will challenge and equip one another for the ongoing renewal of the worship life of the church.   

Practical Year - Six 5-week classes

This second year is designed to put flesh on the skeleton of the foundation year courses.  These classes will be a combination of in-person, hybrid, and on-line classes to provide minimum class size.  Some classes will only be offered on a national level to provide students with experienced instructors in specific area of content.  Students will choose one of two tracks for this practical year: Road to Service Track or Faith Formation Track 

Road to Service:
Courses 1, 2, 3, 4 + 2 other courses

This track is suggested for those considering continuing to congregational leadership or synodically rostered leadership where available.  Students should consult with local leadership for assistance in selecting courses.  

Faith Formation:
Course 3 , 4  plus any other 4 courses

This track is for those who are looking to deepen their personal faith in a more general manner.  

Course 1: Healthy Congregational Dynamics

This course will examine Family Systems and provide introductory boundary training; including recognizing/honoring roles of pastor, lay leader, and deacons.  Students will learn how to assess congregational gifts of membership, and work on time management and conflict management challenges.  

Course 2: Pastoral Care

This course includes the basics of current visitation class, including eucharistic ministry. Students will go on supervised visits to practice these skills.  Students will gain an introduction into handling challenging pastoral care topics such as death & dying and grief.  

Course 3: Cultural Diversity/Anti-Bias training

This course will provide space for students to discover how racism and bias are present in our institutions and how hurtful it is to all those involved; acknowledging that racism dehumanizes all of us and dismantling racism heals us all.  Students will come to understand how racism goes beyond personal prejudice. They will learn tools to identify bias and deal more honestly and openly with cultural diversity.  

Course 4: Church History

The course will provide an overview of 1st – 21st century church history; concentrating on general themes, the role of church fathers and major schisms in the church leading to our current climate. 



These courses will be offered on both local and national level using in-person, hybrid and online formats as needed.  

  1. Christian Doctrine – A look at our Lutheran set of beliefs
  2. Communicating the Gospel in Worship: Proclaiming the Gospel – Preaching, Reading in Worship
  3. Christian Ethics/ELCA Social Statements  
  4. Religions of the World
  5. One HS/OT elective each year
  6. One NT elective each year
  7. Evangelism offered every other year
  8. Outreach offered every other year  

Additional electives will continue to be developed and offered to both current students and past graduates.