Practical Church Leadership

Lead your church with confidence

Randy Gehring Preaching

“Any pastor who is looking to strengthen their administrative skill set should give this program serious consideration.”
– The Rev. Randy Gehring, senior pastor, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church; Sioux Falls, S.D., program graduate

Accelerate change and transform your leadership skills with Dakota Wesleyan's Practical Church Leadership (PCL) program.

PCL is an online, certificate program for working ministry leaders that builds confidence in financial development, governance, talent management, project management and communications, with 12 months of professional coaching and coursework that offers significant ministry impact. 

Here's what to expect: 

  • 1 year 
  • Online
  • 7-week courses
  • Applied project that leads to major church transformation
  • Professional coaching to help you understand material and execute projects
  • 3 face-to-face, two-day accelerator workshops designed to connect and learn 

Apply Now

The Reverend Constanze Hagmaier

"Dakota Wesleyan's program equips pastors and deacons to confidently lean into the complex realities of adaptive leadership needs."
– The Rev. Constanze Hagmaier, Bishop, South Dakota Synod Assembly

The Reverend Bruce Ough

“Dakota Wesleyan’s church leadership program is a great opportunity for our churches. It is preparing bold, confident spirit-led leaders who are helping our congregations adapt to their constantly changing mission fields.”
– The Rev. Bruce Ough, former Resident Bishop, Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church 


Bill Lewis

“In the case of PCL, the students are not alone. With the coach, they have a safety net. A place to discuss application, a place to be mindful of the realities they face day-to-day as church leaders, a place to consider the possibilities, personally and professionally in their development.” 
– Bill Lewis, coaching coordinator, PCL


The Reverend Jeff Otterman“Pastors that need a fresh approach to administrative ideas - this is the place to come. Money well spent.” 
– The Rev. Jeff Otterman, pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church; Yankton, S.D., program graduate  


Picture of Katie Ricke looking at camera

“Seminaries prepare us well to be theologians, but they don’t always prepare us well to be administrators of the churches we serve. We need to be equipped to do both in order to serve effectively as pastors.”
– Katie Ricke, Yankton First United Methodist Church, Yankton, S.D., and program graduate.

Calendar Overview

The calendar for the PCL program begins in July and runs a full calendar year.

The first session is a 2-day in-person orientation in July, on campus at DWU, followed by three weeks of onboarding and getting to know your coach, the learning management system, and more. 

The first 7-week course begins in August.

Classes have live guest lectures with experts at noon (Central Time) on 4-5 Mondays throughout each term.

The applied project, and associated processes and procedures to help manage the applied project, are also set up similar to a course in our Learning Management System and students will have access to that from start to finish as well.

DWU will host an in-person event with live speakers for 2 days in mid-January (in regional locations) and one additional in-person event at DWU in mid-July at the conclusion of the program in order to engage in some additional learning, worship together, and celebrate.  

The Practical Church Leadership program is an ecumenical program tailored to meet the unique needs of churches across denominations. 

Scholarships may be available through denominational continuing education grants, foundation support, local church funding, DWU financial aid or payment plans. 

Certificate to MBA: 18 of the 21 credits can be applied toward DWU's MBA in Nonprofit Administration for church leaders who wish to continue post-certificate. 

Check out a survey of program participants before starting the program and after completing.


This program includes 21-graduate credits.

NPA600: The Path of Stewardship 1

Information and materials used during the initial gathering and subsequent orientation weeks.  ** Please note that this course is open for 4 weeks at the start of the program and will house both information about our in-person event in July as well as other information about the program that is relevant to your onboarding experience.**  

NPA610: Financial Resource Development

This course will discuss the current state of giving within the church, examine the underlying tenets of giving from a scriptural and a human perspective, and explore different approaches for cultivating giving within the church that will enable short and long-term sustainable resource development.

NPA615: Financial Resource Management

Financial Resource Management will provide students with fundamental knowledge about processes and procedures for financial planning and financial management. Students will develop skills and techniques through analysis of financial documents and practical application of contemporary financial management tools and techniques.

NPA620: Governance, Personnel, and Volunteer Management

Evaluate different leadership and governance structures for nonprofit and church oversight. Assess best practices for human resource development and management. Understand methods for volunteer recruitment, development, engagement, and retention. 

NPA630: Applied Project

Scholars will participate in a year-long applied learning experience where they lead the design and delivery of one or two comprehensive projects with the objective of making measurable and positive impacts on administrative functions of the organization. During the course students will be coached by a qualified and trained applied professional who will also provide instruction and support in principles and practices of project management.

NPA640: The Path of Stewardship 2

Engage in oral presentation, reflection, and analytical skills by presenting your applied project during the second in-person gathering. Reflect on strengths and challenges, and connect with mentors and other church leaders.

NPA650: Vision, Strategy and Evaluation

Compose vision, mission, values, and purpose statements. Understand elements of strategic planning, program design and evaluation.

NPA661: Communications and Community Outreach

Explore a variety of mediums and communication strategies to design (or modify) methods of internal and external communication, develop skills in marketing and messaging to and for their church, and evaluate and engage strategies for effective outreach.

NPA680: The Path of Stewardship 3

Engage in oral presentation, reflection, and analytical skills by presenting your applied project during the second in-person gathering. Reflect on strengths and challenges, and connect with mentors and other church leaders.

PCL Confidence Level Survey

Click Here

NOW enrolling for July!

Want to learn more? Let's connect! 

Alisha Vincent

Alisha Vincent

Director of Practical Church Leadership Program | Associate Professor of Nonprofit Administration

Phone: (605) 995-2933

Missy Leuthold

Missy Leuthold

Adult & Online Enrollment Coordinator

Phone: (605) 995-2688