Nov. 15, 2023 — New certification cohorts are forming at the Institute for Discipleship, as 10 programs prepare to begin on Jan. 15, 2024. Offered completely online through, areas of specialization include Christian education, church administration, evangelism, grief care, ministry with people with disabilities, rural ministry, spiritual formation, women’s ministries, youth ministry, and young adult ministry.  

Designed for clergy and laity alike, these programs provide a Biblical, theological, and practical foundation for ministry in key areas for today’s churches and communities. is part of the Richard and Julia Wilke Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern College and has offered quality online educational experiences with roots in Wesleyan theology since 2006.  

Requirements for certification include successful completion of four or five six-week online courses. (The spiritual formation and youth ministry programs include a 12-week practicum.) Courses in this 2024 certification cycle will be held Jan. 15 to Feb. 23, March 11 to April 26 (no class during Holy Week), Aug. 19 – Sept. 27, and Oct. 14 – Nov. 22.  

Lori Richey, director of online learning for the Institute for Discipleship, explains that while courses are online, the small-group format offers participants the opportunity to learn with and from persons with similar ministry interests as well as from the highly qualified instructors.  

“These certifications bring learners together so that they build connections and relationships over the sequence of courses,” she says, “and many report that they stay in touch long after their program is finished.  

Richey is especially excited about a newly updated certification in rural ministry.  

“This program has been ‘on hold’ for the past couple of years and we’d had people asking when it would return. We were thrilled when Dr. Sandi Perl stepped up to update and lead this excellent content – she has years of ministry experience in rural congregations as well as being the executive director for a rural non-profit called The Living Well in Penn Yann, New York. I’m so glad that we’re once again able to offer this high-quality resource for folks worshiping, leading, and serving in rural communities.”  

Full information is available online at