The Academy

The Academy is a series of classes designed for those who want to grow in their faith and knowledge; grow as a leader; serve God in new ways and opportunities; engage in meaningful continuing education; and learn from the best of teachers. The Academy develops well equipped, thoughtful individuals to better serve the congregations and councils in a variety of ways. Many use this training on their journey toward becoming Commissioned Pastors, others for their own enrichment. Completion of the 11 courses fulfills the educational requirements to become a CP/CRE in the participating presbyteries.

A flyer describing the program can be downloaded here: Brochure 3-2022

The Academy developed out of conversations between the presbyteries of Minnesota Valleys, North Central Iowa and Prospect Hill and the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, where each presbytery had its own training for Commissioned Ruling Elders. Presbytery leaders determined that if they worked together, they could not only address the growing needs for Commissioned Pastors but also recruit nationally known instructors to enhance the program. A task force of the visioning group developed a curriculum of 11 classes that would meet the educational expectations of each participating presbytery.

Sponsoring presbyteries: Minnesota Valleys, Missouri River Valley, North Central Iowa, Northern Waters and Prospect Hill.

Become a sponsoring presbytery to enhance and enrich the learning opportunities! For more information, contact Deb DeMeester, Director of Leadership Development, at

Get Started Today!

Summer classes are offered at the Synod School of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, IA. Commissioned Pastors are encouraged to take these as ongoing Continuing Education and for building relationships with other Commissioned Pastors.

Each fall and spring, classes are held at a retreat center centrally located among participants. Additionally, Presbyteries or groups of Commissioned Pastors who have at least five people interested can join the fall and spring classes by video conferencing.

Winter practicums are offered online to eliminate the need for mid-winter travel. Lecture content will be met with hands on experiences and insightful conversations with pastors.


Member of Participating Presbytery:

  • $125.00/class
  • $1,375/full program

Register for full program at:


  • $150/class
  • $1650/full program

Register for individual classes by following the link provided.  This is also how you sign up for and pay for room and board.

Additional Expenses:

Participants are responsible for purchasing the required texts, room and board at Synod School as well as travel/accommodations for Fall and Spring classes.

Summer Classes

Two classes are offered each summer during Synod School, the last full week of July.

Reformed Theology

Church Leadership taught by Rev. Loren Shellabarger

You will register for these classes through the Synod School website. If you have not been to Synod School, let me know and we’ll add you to the mailing list. Contact Deb DeMeester.

Location: Synod School and Online

Dates: July 26-30, 2021.

Instructor: Rev. Dr. Sarah Henrich, retired professor of New Testament from Luther Seminary and a Synod School lover.

Registration: Register through the Synod School website for 2021.

Location: In person and Hybrid at Synod School

Dates: July 25-30, 2021

Instructor: Dr. Gary Neal Hansen, whose book Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers, became a best seller.

Registration: Register through the Synod School website that goes live April 1, 2021.

Location: The Synod School in Buena Vista, IA.

Dates: July 24-29, 2022

Instructor: TBA

Location: The Synod School in Buena Vista, IA.

Dates: July 24 – 29, 2022.

Instructor: Cambria Kaltwasser, Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.

Winter Classes

Winter classes include hands on learning with a local pastor as well as readings, reflections, and a couple of Zoom meetings over a two months. To sign up, select the class you are interested in taking and it will direct you to a flyer with more information and a registration link.

Explore what it means to be an Engaging Leader and to Engage other Leaders. Learn More

Location: Online

Dates: Winter 2024

Instructor: Deb DeMeester, Director of Leadership Development for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies
We will explore personality and conflict preferences to better understand what we individually bring to leadership and how the preferences interact with each other. The preparation will include taking two instruments through LeaderWise.

This class will be an online practicum with the Rev. Lisa Watson who brings over 20 years of hospital chaplaincy experience as well as her current work in Marriage and Family Counseling to this course.  There will be 2-3 Zoom meetings of about 1 hour each as well as readings, movies, personal visits and more.  Class begins the week of February 6 and ends the week of March 13.  There will be weekly assignments during this period.

Course Goals:  By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Articulate difference between pastoral care and pastoral counseling
  • Demonstrate an awareness of oneself as minister and of the ways one’s ministry affects others.
  • Learn to observe and assess needs, then plan and mobilize multiple resources of the church and community;
  • Develop a systematic process for approaching and responding to persons, families and groups with the more frequently present critical needs;
  • Explain the implications of appropriate boundaries and ethical concerns in ministry.
  • Develop a beginning understanding of empathy, therapeutic relationships, and pastoral presence and how to employ these in counseling practice.

Fall & Spring Classes

Fall and spring classes are ordinarily held face to face.  To sign up, select the class you are interested in taking and it will direct you to a flyer with more information and a registration link.

Will be offered in Fall 2023

Instructor:  The Rev. Dr. Tom Long, retired professor of preaching.

Location: Lakeshore Center on Lake Okoboji

Dates: October 29-30, 2022

Instructor: Pam Prouty, Stated Clerk for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies and the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys

Worship and Sacraments

Location: Benedictine Center in St. Paul, MN

Dates: March 25-27, 2022

Instructor: Rev. Burns Stanfield, Pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Boston, MA.

How do we put together worship? Who is the audience? Why do we do what we do in worship? We will begin with worship on Friday evening.

April 2023 Online

An introduction to the people and resources available for congregations and leaders through the Presbyterian Church (USA).

What Leaders are Saying

The Academy has opened my eyes to a clearer understanding of church leadership. We have had excellent teachers/leaders and I am learning so much. I look forward to each new class! I am confident that these classes will educate and mature us to move forward in leadership.

I am loving the Academy course! It is so great to get to know other people with the same interests as I have, and I have already put into practice so much of what I have learned!

The Academy has been an experience in learning more about what God is calling me to do! The people in the program bring such a diverse background of knowledge that it makes for great discussion and – learning.