The Dinner Church movement is growing across the West.

With traditional approaches becoming less and less effective in reaching secular populations, leaders are now reaching out for different sociologies of “doing church”. Interestingly, rebirthing a common ecclesial form from the Apostolic Era is proving to be highly effective again in creating great commission environments for unchurched people.

Dinner Church is not an innovation – it is a recovery project! And that historic recovery is at the heart of this program. Any leader who desires to recapture a very rich sociology of church from the first 600 years of Christian history soon realizes there is a lot to be embraced. Planting a Dinner Church is not as simple as doing church as we know it, except around tables. That would be akin to the proverbial iceberg being measured by what is visible on the surface and excluding the large mass residing under the water. Any serious student of the dinner church would do well to embrace some extraordinary and intrinsic differences in the areas of preaching, discipleship, evangelism, and the familial sociology that constituted a Jesus table. That historic ecclesial form drew its meaning from the New Passover that Christ himself practiced and handed over to the first disciples.

Simply stated, the depths of understanding to be mined in the dinner church theology is significant, and warrants graduate-level instruction and theological reflection. That need has prompted an academic response – the Dinner Church School of Leadership.

Learn how to plant and lead a Dinner Church

  • Learn how to select and train a core team and train volunteers for a Dinner Church.
  • Learn how to select a neighborhood and a site for a Dinner Church.
  • Learn how to take pastoral responsibility for a new Dinner Church congregation.
  • Learn how to prepare and deliver a kerygmatic sermon and how to disciple people in the likeness of Christ around tables.
  • Learn how to develop prayer strategies that will keep you on the front-lines of the Gospel.

Learn how to grow a new Dinner Church organizationally from infancy into adolescence, and finally into a sustainable adult congregation.

What is included?

Learn from Verlon Fosner

Dr. Verlon Fosner leads an innovative congregation in Seattle Washington since 1999. In the last decade the congregation transitioned from a traditional proclamation church into a multi-site Dinner Church called Community Dinners (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more US churches are declining than thriving, Verlon sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. After a long season of trial and error (and mostly error), their hearts became stirred by the manner of church that was practiced during the Apostolic Era.

In 2008, they opened up their first Dinner Church in a sore neighborhood some blocks south of their church campus, and immediately the room began to fill up with more never-been-churched people than they had seen in years. Soon they were opening up one after another throughout Seattle neighborhoods on different nights of the week, and the results were the same as the first one. They now pour into numerous neighborhoods throughout their city each week with a simple idea – that Jesus still wants to have dinner with sinners and wants his church to set the table.

It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones who needed a new way of doing church. So in 2014, so they founded coaching network centered on Jesus’ dinner table theology (www.DinnerChurch.Com). Presently, Verlon offers more than half of his time to help leaders throughout the country look at their cities and neighborhoods with new eyes.

In 2016, Verlon joined the Fresh Expression US leadership team and began offering sequential day-conferences (Encounters, Pre-Launches, and Post-Launches), and started hosting ‘Immersions’ and ‘Multipliers Immersions’ in Seattle and at their home, which enables several leaders at a time to observe Dinner Churches in action commingled with training conversations over a three-day period.

In 2019 Verlon founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership in Seattle which offers online Graduate-Level education for those pursuing a deep understanding of the Table Theology and Ecclesiology.

Verlon holds a Doctorate of Ministry degree from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and has written several books: “Dinner Church”, “Dinner Church Handbook”,  “Welcome to Dinner, Church” (which has a nine-week companion video series to be used as a discussion guide), and “Trowel & Sword” (which reveals prayer-practices needed for the frontlines of evangelism). All of these resources are to help leaders and congregations learn how to work with Jesus at one of His dinner tables.

Verlon has been married to Melodee for 40 years, and together they have three adult children, seven grandchildren, a variant collection of grand-foster-kids, and two grand-dogs.

 

  • Five Courses over a 9-month period 
  • Weekly Lectures will be every Wednesday Evening for 1.5 hours September thru early June
  • Classroom and virtual options will both be available. All students, whether classroom or virtual will be engaged in a live lecture each week.
  • Any student enrolled in a Masters Program will be paired with an Academic Advisor chosen from the faculty of SFS. Any student pursuing the Dinner Church Graduate Certificate will be paired with an Academic Advisor (holding at least a Masters Degree) chosen by DCLS. 

Our Guest Researchers and Practitioners

Heather Evans

Heather Evans is director of Reach and Fresh Expressions at Grace Church Cape Coral and Dinner Church Specialist for the Florida United Methodist Conference. She leads Eat, Pray, Love dinner church in the second-largest trailer park in the United States.

Isaac Olivarez
Isaac Olivarez is from Fort Collins, CO, and is a huge Denver Broncos fan. He also enjoys skiing, running and hiking Colorado’s 14ers. He and his wife Jaime founded Urban Outreach Denver in 2012.

Dr. Mike Graves

Dr. Mike Graves is Wm. K. McElvaney Professor of Preaching and Worship emeritus, who currently serves as Scholar in Residence at Country Club Christian Church, both in the Kansas City area. He has published extensively in the areas of preaching and worship. Some of his books include: The Sermon as Symphony, The Fully Alive Preacher, and Table Talk: Rethinking Communion and Community. He is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) tradition.

Jon Davis

The Rev. Jon Davis PhD, an Episcopal priest is a known and recognized leader in the Episcopal Church and beyond. He has expertise in youth ministry, worship and liturgy (PhD dissertation), church growth and planting, missions, conference leadership and more. He is now on staff with Fresh Expressions. He is a sought after, dynamic and engaging speaker, writer, worship leader and ministry trainer. He and his wife Beth live on a little farm in Oviedo, Florida with a couple of horses, a number of cats, chickens, English Bulldogs and other critters.

Mary Jackson

Pastor of Greater Bell United Methodist Church for 9 years
Florida Conference
Brooker, FL
Graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary
Married to Irvin  with 2 children.

Daniel Altimus

As Pastor of Common Ground, a Dinner Church in rural York Haven, Pennsylvania Daniel’s passion is to see Christ revealed and to seek the welfare of his community. Daniel and his wife Angie have been married for nineteen years and have two sons, Luke and Shane. Daniel describes himself as pretty ordinary but is grateful to be a participant with Christ which makes everything extraordinary.

Earl Creps

Dr. Earl Creps is Director of the Center for Leadership Studies at Northwest University in Kirkland, WA, home of the university’s PhD and EdD in Organizational Leadership. Earl has led four churches, including a plant in Berkeley, CA and is a specialist in ministry to post-Christians. His books, Off-Road Disciplines and Reverse Mentoring are published by Jossey-Bass/Leadership Network.

 

Christopher James

Rev. Dr. Christopher James is associate professor of evangelism and missional Christianity at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in church planting and theology and culture and directs the Master of Arts in Mission and Discipleship. He holds degrees from Wheaton College, Fuller Seminary and a PhD in practical theology from Boston University School of Theology. His book, Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil: Theology and Practice (Oxford University Press, 2017) has received multiple recognitions and been reviewed in half-a-dozen academic journals. He is currently engaged in research into the ecclesial ecology in Dane County, Wisconsin in partnership with researchers doing parallel studies in Amsterdam, Vancouver, BC, Frankfurt, and Sydney. In addition, James is executive director of Missio Madison, a Lilly-grant funded cohort for missional practioners in Madison.

Brian Spillman

Brian grew up in Pueblo, CO.  After a decade of taking the prodigal son route, he found himself sitting at a dinner church in Pike Place Market while visiting Seattle by the invite of a friend. The very next morning he heard the loudest call from God he had ever heard and decided then and there to move to Seattle to be apart of The Community Dinners. After being lead and mentored by his pastor Verlon Fosner, Brian decided to finally answer the call that had been chasing him his entire life. Brian is now the Pastor of that same dinner church in Pike Place Market and is currently The Seattle Dinner Church Initiative Leader with a focus on growing the dinner church movement throughout Seattle and the greater Seattle area.

Kendall Vanderslice

When Kendall embarked on a career as a
pastry chef, she found that her love of bread
transformed the ways she read scripture and
understood worship. Fascinated by God’s
use of food throughout the arc of the Gospel,
she merged her work in the kitchen with
academic study of food and theology. She
writes, speaks, and gives baking workshops
so that others might embrace the beauty of
food and feasting, too.
Kendall is a graduate of Wheaton College
(BA Anthropology 2013), Boston University
(MLA Gastronomy 2016), and Duke Divinity
School (MTS 2019). In 2018, she was named a
James Beard National Scholar.
Her book, We Will Feast: Rethinking Dinner,
Worship, and the Community of God, follows
the development of dinner churches across
the United States, examining the social,
ecclesial, and theological value of eating
together.

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