Old Brethren Courses

The Church of the Brethren has long held that it has “no creed save the New Testament.” Yet the New Testament itself is a collection of books and letters of a wide range of genres, none of which resemble a traditional creed. In this course, we will look at the various books of the New Testament, explore the world which created these texts, and look at how the texts may have interacted both with each other and the Hebrew Scriptures. We will look at what the ancient authors of the texts might have been trying to say to their audiences as well as what they are still saying today.

During the course, we will work through a textbook as well as most of the text of the New Testament. There may be supplementary readings as well. We will discuss the readings in the class forums, starting with prompts from the instructor. At the end of the course, you will turn in a project, though the forum of the project is up to the student. It can be a sermon, adult lesson plan, a traditional research paper, or another project.

Course Description

Mutual longing—ours for God and God’s for us—is at the heart of the spiritual journey. The congregation plays a unique role in supporting and nurturing life-giving Christian faith. But in order to support and nurture the spiritual life of its members, the congregation must embody a sense of vital spirituality: inviting people—individually and corporately—into the presence of God, increasing their awareness of God’s presence and activity, and empowering them to bear witness to God’s presence and activity in the world.

Through assigned reading, personal reflection, online discussions, practical application, and written assignments, participants will:

  • Articulate an understanding of Christian spirituality;
  • Examine the cultural dynamics impacting the spiritual journey;
  • Explore elements of vital congregational spirituality;
  • Examine the role of pastors and lay leaders in nurturing spirituality;
  • Examine the unique spiritual life of different populations within the context of congregational life;
  • Explore and experiment with variety of spiritual practices.

As a result, students will take away an enriched theoretical and theological understanding of Christian spirituality and the congregation’s role in nurturing a vital Christian faith in a turbulent world as well as enhanced practical skills for guiding the faith community toward spiritual growth.


Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Articulate a definition of Christian spirituality that is grounded in scripture, theology, and theory.
  2. Articulate an understanding of the cultural dynamics that impact the spiritual journey.
  3. Articulate an understanding of the congregation’s role in nurturing life-giving faith among individuals and within the life of the community.
  4. Recognize the characteristics of spiritual vitality within congregational life.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of pastors and lay leaders as spiritual guides.
  6. Demonstrate a basic understanding of human development and the spiritual needs of specific populations within the congregation.
  7. Demonstrate an understanding of a variety of spiritual practices.
  8. Demonstrate practical skills in program development and congregational leadership related to the spiritual growth of individuals and the community.


While the Church of the Brethren has long held the New Testament as its focus, the Hebrew Bible, also called the Old Testament, is the basis of much of the New Testament’s faith. In this course, we will work through the various books of the Hebrew Bible and look at their ancient context. We will attempt to better understand how these books interact and how they influence the New Testament texts. We will also look at a number of modern theories about these texts and how these theories influence how these books are read today.

In the midst of hectic lives, it’s not easy to “be still and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10 Spiritual practices help ministers and congregations to learn how to stop and notice God in everything they do.

During this class students will explore: what it means to pray without ceasing, what the Bible says about spiritual practices, spiritual practices for nine different learning styles, how we get in the way of our relationship with God, and how spiritual practices can help congregations thrive.

As a result, students will gain a deeper theological basis for spiritual practices and develop the tools and experience needed to encourage spiritual growth within their ministry context.

Introduction to the academic discipline of Biblical Studies as well as to online learning, and Brethren approaches to Scripture. Required for beginning TRIM students, optional for EFSM.