Breakout Sessions

We have three breakout session opportunities throughout the gathering. Click through the tabs and scroll down for details on session options. 

Breakout Session #1

If You Build it, They will Come: Special Needs Ministry


The Special Needs community is often an unreached group of people who need the presence of the church in their lives.  Ministering to this community must be intentional, flexible and creative!  This workshop is designed for churches who want to be open to the many different ways they can serve children and families with special needs.

Breakout led by: Rachel Poysky (Children’s Pastor) and Keri Mosk (Special Blessings and Safe Haven Director), Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX


Bringing a Spirit of Generosity and a Legacy Program to Your Congregation


In times of shrinking congregations and budgets we need to shift the focus from want to generosity. Discover programs and methods for instituting generosity and legacy programs in your congregation.  Resources will be given as the class delves into stewardship issues facing the church today.  This is an interactive discussion-style class.

Breakout led by: Rick Young (President and CEO) and Stefanie Marsden (Relationship Manager), Texas Presbyterian Foundation


Considering the Confessions


ECO is about to make some momentous decisions as it grows into maturity. For the past couple of years we’ve been considering the Book of Confessions we inherited. Theology Task Forces across the nation have been deep in study and discussion. At our Synod meeting on Thursday, we will be voting on overtures that have been advanced by presbyteries. The National Theology Task Force will explain the process, review the options, hold preliminary discussions, and explain what the future might look like.

Breakout led by: ECO Theology Task Force


Flourishing Leaders


Building from the foundation of Elder Leadership Institute, Flourishing Leaders desires to help grow church leaders into effective spiritual leaders, whose leadership comes primarily out of their own relationship with Jesus and secondarily from being competent in core leadership skills.  Flourishing churches are led by flourishing leaders, who are themselves flourishing disciples, so it is essential to grow effective leaders if we hope to have a flourishing church.  In this resource, we ask three main questions in a way that will facilitate Spirit-led transformation to a new way of leading the church: Who am I/ Who are we?, What am I/we leading? and How do I/we lead effectively? Come to hear more about this new resource and to discern if it might be right for your church leaders.

 Breakout led by: Lisa Johnson (Director of Lay Leadership Development), ECO


Creating Whole-Life Disciple-Making Churches


If church leaders want to see the Kingdom spread in their communities, it’s going to take more than one person to make it happen—it’s going to take a team of Spirit-empowered leaders working together to change their existing church cultures.  The good news is that moving towards the vision of becoming a whole-life disciple-making church is a ‘win-win-win’ for church leaders, congregations, and communities. Join us for a practical discussion about ways leaders can help their congregations become the disciple-making communities they have been called to be.

 Breakout led by: Imagine Church – Chris Lake (Executive Director of the Vere Institute) and Jon Paul (Senior Pastor of Free Christian Church, Andover, MA)


Neighborhood Mission for Everyone


Fruitfulness in your mission to the neighborhoods where you live, work, and play require practical and faith-building tactics. Come learn what everyone can do to increase their faithfulness and trust God for greater impact. Rev. Trent McEntyre has studied and practiced relational evangelism, apologetics, and church planting in the US, Europe, and Asia. Emily McEntyre is a creative communicator who writes to introduce neighbors to Bible study at

Breakout led by: Trent McEntyre (Pastor and Church Planter at Dunwoody Presbyterian Church, Dunwoody, GA) and Emily McEntyre (Writer at


Birthing a Church


A church planter reflects on the joys and pains of the first year of birthing a church. This seminar will explore models of plants, managing expectations and the necessary shifts needed to build a transformational community.

Breakout led by: Nate Stratman (Pastor at Hope Community of Wilmington, NC)


Match Making : Pastors and Churches Looking for One Another


If you’re a church looking for a pastor or a pastor looking for a church, this breakout session is for you.  We will cover ECO resources and best practices as well as touch upon the importance of the transitional time for both the church and the pastor.  This breakout will cover a lot of material in a short amount of time, but all the material is practical and usable today!

Breakout led by: Nate Dreesmann (Executive Director of Ecclesiastical Support), ECO


MAGs : Lets Get Started!


Still wondering how to get your Mission Affinity Group jump started? Or, do you need some ideas on ways to shake things up with your MAG?  Join Anna Kent, Director of Mission Affinity Groups, as she discusses the different ways to utilize the new “Narrative Questions.”

 Breakout led by: Anna Kent (MAG Director), ECO


Living Life to the Full:  Wellness, Self-Care, and Boundaries for Women


We all want to live healthy, balanced lives.  But what does it mean to take care of yourself when your job is all about caring for others?  What decisions are you making today towards self care and living a joy-filled life?  In this session we will look at several different measures of health and discuss how goals and boundaries can create a healthier sense of joy, purpose, well being and sustainability in your life and in your ministry.

 Breakout led by: Rachel Palmbush


Main Session Continuation


Main Session Continuation

 Breakout led by: Ed Stetzer


Get Off the Dime: Bringing about Healthy Change


Have you tried to lead some significant change and transformation in your church only to face significant resistance and opposition…even division in the church…or have the plans simply collect dust on the shelf, with no meaningful change? It’s one of a pastor’s and church leader’s most frustrating experiences. Especially, a lot of small to medium-sized churches often struggle to get out of ruts so that God will bring about healthy transformation. Pastor Brian has helped two medium-sized churches (140 and 170 worship attendance) to bring about significant change: starting contemporary worship services, drastic overhaul of Session size and purpose, significant expansion of staff through volunteer staff positions, and more. All of these have been done without killing the church or getting fired! In fact, the congregation has been excited about the changes. In this session we’ll discuss a biblical process for bringing about change in your churches, so that your church would be transformed into an even more vibrant outpost of the Gospel.

Breakout led by: Brian North (Pastor at Rosehill Presbyterian Church, Kirkland, WA)


Welcoming the Stranger Among Us


We will explore opportunities to welcome and befriend immigrant persons living in the USA. Our presenters will include two Houston residents who have vital ministries among immigrants and refugees. Houston is perhaps America's most ethnically diverse city. Dan McNerney will report on his trip to London and Dubai and talk about reaching Muslims in the Middle East and the US. Richard Haney will discuss the topic of hospitality to internationals. Come and hear how local Christian communities are practicing cross-cultural hospitality.

 Breakout led by: Frontier Fellowship Staff


Practical Steps to Multi-Ethnic Ministry


Multi-ethnicity is the growing reality for our communities.  In this breakout we will talk about God’s desire for the Church to be multi-ethnic and how our churches can take tangible steps to become more multi-ethnic.

Breakout led by: Mark Tumney (Pastor at Christ Community Church, Milpitas, CA)


Growing Young: Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church


Unleashing the passion of young people in your church is possible! Churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage. Based on groundbreaking research with over 250 of the nation’s leading congregations, Growing Young provides a strategy any church can use to involve and retain teenagers and young adults. It profiles innovative churches that are engaging 15- to 29-year-olds and as a result are growing spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and numerically. Growing Young co-author Jake Mulder will show church leaders how to position their churches to engage younger generations in a way that breathes vitality, life, and energy into the whole church.

Breakout led by: Jake Mulder (Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Fuller Youth Institute)


Why Contemporary Worship is Unbiblical


A Bible study and discussion on worship preferences and biblical values of worship.

Breakout led by: Brandon Muchow (Minister of Modern Worship and Production at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA)


How to Start a Prayer Ministry in Your Church


In this workshop, we will explore the gentle ways of changing a culture and helping people out of their comfort zones in prayer.  From there we will talk about ways to move a praying church into a church with a prayer ministry. (Please note that if you have a church that is already very comfortable praying together and for each other, this workshop may be a little basic.  If you need training resources, please come find me for a more advanced chat!)

 Breakout led by: Wendy Everts 
Breakout Session #2

The Power of the Narrative for Flourishing Believers


Are you tired of trying the newest curriculum, the latest in gizmos and DVDs that promise a fresh approach but is still just the same old same old way of teaching the Bible to children, youth, and adults? Are you stunned by the lack of Bibical and theological understanding of your congregation?  Are you frustrated by the amount of money your are spending on materials that end up in piles at the end of the season? Are you discouraged by the lack of connection between Biblical preaching and the educational ministry of your church? Then this workshop is for you.  Learn a new methodology that is tried and true. A method that is not dependent upon any publishing house, but is a true exegetical approach to learning the Bible for life change, yet filled with hands-on activities and experiential learning.  It's free, it's easy, and you can do it!

Breakout led by: Mickie O'Donnell (Director of Children's Ministry at Norton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT)


How to Have a Better Business Meeting as a Delegate


Have you ever attended a business meeting and become lost in the middle of various parliamentary procedures?  This workshop is for you.  During this session, Professional Registered Parliamentarian Dr. Leonard Young will share will delegate some tips for being better able to accomplish things in a parliamentary assembly.  Dr. Young is a past president of the National Association of Parliamentarians and is serving this convention as ECO's parliamentarian. 

Breakout led by: Leonard Young (Parliamentarian)


How to Mobilize Your Church on Mission


“The Missional Pathway” is a simple, inexpensive, effective, and powerful process to mobilize churches to minister in a way that intentionally builds relationships over time with people most likely to be open to the influence of church members. 

“The Missional Pathway” is a discovery-based, lay-led process. Its four congregational workshops span a period of six to ten months. Experienced CRM Team members will facilitate the process at your church. The result is church members and entire congregations living influentially among the unchurched to whom they are called to serve.

Breakout led by: Kirk Kirland (reFocusing Team, Church Resource Ministries)


The Postmodern Path to Faith


Our call to "go and make disciples" has not changed in the last 2000 years... but our context sure has!  Even just over the last few decades we (in the West) have seen huge, disorienting cultural shifts from a modern, mostly Christian culture to a postmodern, mostly post-Christian culture.  Come hear what over 2000 brand new postmodern believers have taught us about how folks tend to come to faith these days, and explore how these insights can help our congregations more fruitfully and naturally make new disciples in our postmodern context. 

Breakout led by: Don Everts (Associate Pastor at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church, Chesterfield MO and author of  I was Once Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus)


Join the ECO Pastoral Team!


Are you a candidate looking to become a pastor in ECO?  Have you been praying about your calling and whether pastoral ministry is right for you?  Come and listen to the newest pastors in ECO and ask your questions. 

Breakout led by: Nate Dreesmann (Executive Director of Ecclesiastical Support), ECO


MAGs: This Is How We Do It!


Join a panel discussion of pastors and elders who have been engaged in Mission Affinity Group work.  The discussion will cover a variety of topics such as how their MAGs got started; overcoming potential roadblocks and lessons learned; and the joys of MAG engagement and why YOU should be doing it too! 

 Breakout led by: Anna Kent (MAG Director), ECO


Exploring Ministry Partnerships between Men and Women


The dynamics of mixed gender ministry relationships are often challenging to navigate. Join this Lead Pastor/Associate Pastor team as they host a conversation about the risks and gifts of ministering together as men and women.​ Erik and Jane will share what they’ve learned from their own experience and provide practical suggestions to face the challenges and celebrate the goodness of serving the Lord together in the church.

Breakout led by: Jane Filkin (Pastor of Discipleship and Community) and Erik Hanson (Lead Pastor ) at First Presbyterian Church, Boulder, CO


Finding Balance Through the 6 Dimensions of Wellness


Wellness is more than the absence of disease.  In order to feel your best, you need to find a healthy balance in all of the areas of wellness.  Learn where to focus your efforts to feel healthier, happier, and in control of your life. 

 Breakout led by: NFP/Orriant


Main Session Continuation


Main Session Continuation

Breakout led by: Kyle Strobel


Flourishing Disciples


Building from ECO’s Discipleship Initiative, Flourishing Disciples is designed to train a small group of leaders to grow as disciples, disciple others and build a disciple making culture at their church. Flourishing churches are led by flourishing leaders, who are themselves flourishing disciples, so discipleship is the first critical building block for a flourishing church.  If your church has a passion for discipleship and would like to dive in deeply to discover how to cultivate a disciple making culture at your church, come to hear the details of what this resource entails.

 Breakout led by: Lisa Johnson (Director of Lay Leadership Development), ECO

Failing and Prevailing: Making Prayer the Steering Wheel of the Church


 Most breakouts center on how to do things better. Those kinds of breakouts are helpful to me. But at this breakout, people might be encouraged to listen to me share the mistakes I have made in learning to lead a small church, and my frequent failures as a pastor. This breakout will conclude with dialogue on prevailing prayer. I believe ECO will rise, thrive and succeed only as we pray. Corrie Ten Boom once said, "Prayer must be the steering wheel of the church, not the spare tire." I will continue to make mistakes as all other pastors and leaders do, but one mistake I don't want to make is in leading a prayerful church. Time will be devoted to listening, discussing and sharing ideas of how we might lead our churches to pray. 

Breakout led by: Anthony Ceder (Pastor at Matthews Memorial Presbyterian Church, Albany, TX)

Give a Drink to the Thirsty: How Your Church can Make the Maximum Impact on Global Poverty


663 million people in our world do not have access to clean water, and 1 in 3 people do not have access to a toilet. Lifewater International is tackling the global water and sanitation crisis with a sustainable, dignifying, Christ-centered model that is bringing real change at an affordable price. Come learn how your church can change everything for an entire village. Discover how you can get your whole church (children, youth, adults) involved in a mission that is transforming communities and sharing the Gospel.

Breakout led by: Sean Martin (Church Planter at Headwater Ministries, Hailey, ID and Investor Relations Manager at Lifewater International)


Discipling Global Christians


As God’s people, we’re on mission with God. God’s plan is to bless all the nations/peoples of the earth through us.  Since it’s easy to lose sight of God’s global purpose as we disciple and send, come explore how we can maintain a global focus in these essential arenas!

Breakout led by: Andrew Adair (Executive Director, The Antioch Partners)


Gospel City Movements


How many churches are there in your community? The answer: ONE. What does Jesus long for? That the faithful would be one (John 17:21)! How are you answering his prayer?  A Gospel City Movement strives for unity among Christ followers as they seek to bless their city, (Jeremiah 29:7).

Over 300 Gospel City Movements have emerged across the country seeking to address the difficult issues of their communities.  

Helping Florence Flourish-HFF  (Florence, South Carolina) is one such movement. Chris Handley is the team leader for HFF as it seeks to address racial divisions, homelessness, family deterioration, educational struggles. HFF also seeks to encourage a city wide prayer movement. 

HFF has sponsored an annual season of service for the last two years (ServeFLO). HFF hosted Tony Evans for a Oneness Embraced event that brought the races together in the civic center; and had 100 local leaders at a City Convene conference discussing best practices for addressing the difficult issues of Florence.

Breakout led by: Chris Handley (Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Florence, SC)


Growing the Church: Process not Program


This breakout session answers the question; How can my session cooperate with the Holy Spirit in bringing the life of Christ and His growth to our congregation?' We will briefly introduce the principles in the book, "Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit" using an interactive format.  We will include time for prayer and listening, and then debriefing as a way of experiencing the 'dance of cooperation' with the Holy Spirit that we discuss.  This breakout session will give participants a taste of what they might get at a Growing the Church retreat, or give them a vision for using the book with their sessions.

 Breakout led by: Presbyterian Reformed Ministries International Staff


Church Transformation Through Cohorts


Is your church in need of transformation? Ready to be transformed?  Or even just open to learning more about what it could mean to be a transformed church? Join Paul Borden, our 2017 National Gathering main speaker, to learn more about the possibility of becoming involved in a game-changing Church Transformation Cohort that includes coaching, pastor learning groups, lay leader training, and on-site consultation and evaluation that leads to health, growth, and new disciples coming to faith in Jesus Christ in your church context. 

Breakout led by: Paul Borden


Breakout Session #3



As we approach and enter retirement, we face several questions, fears, and challenges. Learn how to make a smooth transition and what to expect in life's fourth quarter including the different seasons of retirement and how God wants to continue using you.

Breakout led by: Bruce Bruinsma (Founder of Envoy Financial and Live With Meaning Foundation)


Understanding Polity Overtures


Join us to gain a deeper understanding of potential changes in ECO's polity in preparation for Thursday's Synod Meeting. 

Breakout led by: Chris Ham (Executive Associate Pastor at First and Calvary Presbyterian Church, Springfield, MO)


Drawn: How to Draw in Unchurched and Skeptical People


If you are like me you dream about being a church where three things are happening:  1) Christians are growing in their faith  2) Unchurched people are becoming the church and seeing its importance  3) Skeptical people are engaged, moving towards belief, and eventually believing.

In this breakout we will look at how to be a church that is reaching unchurched and skeptical people while continuing to help Christians grow.

Breakout led by: David Hancock (Church Planter at The Grove Church, Port St. Lucie, FL)


Gender Dysphoria and the Transgender Experience


This will be a brief introduction to the complex issue of gender dysphoria and the varying degrees of distress people feel when having a gender identity (the gender they perceive themselves to be) that doesn’t match their biological sex. The larger transgender experience will also be discussed. Scott will share some of his own personal experiences with these issues, along with some other factors (like which pronouns to use when talking with a transgender person) to consider when thinking through this topic.

Breakout led by: Scott Kingry (Program Director at Where Grace Abounds)


Certified Transitional Pastors (CTPs)


The ECO Synod Office will soon only be working with Certified Transitional Pastors (CTPs) and with churches who are looking at a transition in pastoral leadership as an opportunity.  Come and learn more about this new certification process and how to become a CTP or how to become a church approved to receive a CTP.

Breakout led by: Nate Dreesmann (Executive Director of Ecclesiastical Support), ECO


Identifying and Developing Women Leaders in the Church Setting


Everyone knows that the basic tools of leadership development are not one-size-fits-all.  This is especially true when it comes to identifying and developing leaders who are women.  This breakout will look at the following concepts: Providing creative venues for identification of potential leaders; Developing a strategic plan to foster flourishing women leaders; Mentoring and reverse-mentoring – how do the rules change?; Collaboration, synergy and delegation – what we may not know; Conflict resolution – conflict happens, and male/female resolution patterns are often quite different; and providing meaningful feedback to women leaders. 

Breakout led by: Bonnie Fearer (Associate Pastor at Santa Barbara Community Church, Santa Barbara, CA)

The Incredible Power of the Small Church


Does your church suffer from a poor self-image because it is lacking numbers in the pews? Are you feeling inferior when you hear what larger churches are doing? Do you feel overwhelmed and defeated when you look at a Christian Education Curriculum that is clearly designed for a church that has lots of leaders? What a nasty trick of the enemy to make us believe that small churches are less than their large church counterparts.  Enough!

Whether your definition of small is 80 or 8, this seminar is designed to pump you up, get you excited and focused on the strengths that come with being small.  Bring your stories of the things you have accomplished because you are small to share with each other. We will also explore some shifts in thinking and self-perception that will empower and encourage a church of any size to embrace who it is in the community where God has called it to be Christ’s presence.

Breakout led by: Karen Ballard (Pastor at Rome Presbyterian Church, Rome, PA)


Good News from Hard Places


Come learn why the Church in difficult places has much to teach us about both the cost of discipleship, and as its fruits! Marilyn Borst shares first-hand experience behind global headlines as she sheds light upon the work and witness of the Presbyterian Church in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, and invites us to come alongside that work through our prayer and presence. As Paul reminds us, “we rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us….”

Breakout led by: Marilyn Borst (Associate Director for Partnership Development at The Outreach Foundation) 


Recovering from Natural Disasters: Does it Really take That Long? 


Journey the road of disaster recovery. See the realities, roadblocks, and successes families and communities face in the days, months, and years after a disaster. Learn how World Renew Disaster Response Services and it’s volunteers help to fill the gaps to make sure the elderly, disabled, and low-income disaster survivors do not fall through the cracks but are supported on their road to recovery. Find out how you and your church can be a part of this ministry.

Breakout led by: Bob Laarman (World Renew Disaster Response Services Director)


Racial Reconciliation – Let’s Talk!


Come discuss and share ideas surrounding the topic of racial reconciliation.  If you are interested in pursuing new initiatives towards that end and contributing to a discussion that could continue throughout the year, come gather with like-minded leaders as we seek God’s direction both as individuals and for our churches.


Loving Beyond the Boundaries


During his ministry, Jesus stepped out-of-bounds to spend time with cultural outsiders.  We will examine Biblical stories to see the importance of “loving beyond the boundaries.”  As a group we will examine the boundaries of the culture we live in and see how we can be drawn to the uncomfortable fringes of ministry for the sake of the students we work with.

Breakout led by: Cesar Castillejos (Richfield Young Life Area Director and Creative Director at The Well, Hope Church, Richfield, MN)


One Year into the Paul Borden Cohort


Wondering about the church transformation project with Dr. Paul Borden?  Come and ask your questions and hear from the pastors and elders themselves in the Borden Transformation 2017 Cohort about their experiences and where they will be going in 2018.

 Breakout led by: Paul Borden


Leadership: Succession Planning Toolbox


The topic of Succession Planning has come to the forefront of leadership thought and conversation. Today’s churches realize the importance of stewarding a succession planning process that builds on their history, honors its aging leaders, and prepares for the future. Auxano’s Succession Planning clients answer these questions with confidence and clarity.

What leadership transition process makes the most sense for our situation?  How do we go about developing a succession planning strategy?  How prepared are we from an organizational structure standpoint to navigate a season of leadership transition? How do we prepare and lead our people through a season of significant leadership transition? Join us as we explore answers to these questions and share Auxano’s resources that will assist your church in this important stage of ministry.

 Breakout led by: Will Heath (Lead Navigator at Auxano)


Pastor Trek: Going Where no PNC has Gone before to Find Your Next Pastor


Have you heard 40% of ordained ECO pastors are 60+?  How will we replace this base of wisdom and experience with pastoral leadership who will help our ECO churches thrive?  The traditional means of recruiting from particular seminaries or just looking within denominational bounds is no longer a viable option.  The hundreds of resumes received from an online job posting might produce some decent candidates, but how does your PNC assess theology, ecclesiology, leadership style, and character?  This session will help elders and pastors begin to think comprehensively about how a church might conduct an ongoing search or begin succession planning for the future.

Breakout led by: Joe Farrell (Vice President of Ministry Relations at AGORA Search Group)


Becoming a Flourishing Church


The mission of ECO is to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.  This series of 6 videos and exercises are designed to help you understand what the marks of a flourishing church are and learn how to grow in that direction. The thesis we will build from is flourishing churches are led by flourishing leaders, who are themselves flourishing disciples. This breakout will be an overview of “Becoming a Flourishing Church”  so that you can discern if this resource is right for your church.

Breakout led by: Lisa Johnson (Director of Lay Leadership Development), ECO