Seminary for the Laity Courses

During the 2007-2008 academic year, Starr King has offered 7-week Seminary for the Laity online courses. With enormous gratitude to Dr. Helen Bishop, we are announcing that the Seminary for the Laity certificate program will not continue into the 2008-2009 academic year. In light of Starr King School's new educational model, our approach to theological education for the laity is under further development. Students currently enrolled in the Seminary for the Laity certificate program who wish to receive a certificate may complete it by taking SKSM online courses for the SftL rate fees. For more information, SftL Certificate students should contact Cathleen Young at

Dr. Bishop’s leadership in this capacity has been outstanding and we are grateful. Thank you, Dr. Bishop for your generous commitment, educational imagination, wisdom, and collegial spirit. We look forward to working with you in the future.

Note: Seminary for the Laity courses are not designed for the graduate level. Neither credit nor tuition for these courses is transferable to another Starr King degree program. For graduate-level courses, see our onsite master's programs and online offerings.


Fall 2007 Semester

Working with Transition and Change
Helen Bishop

(7 weeks, Sept. 4-Oct. 19, 2007)

The world we live in presents constant change at an ever-increasing rate, and those who lead faith communities, congregations and nonprofit organizations are faced with the necessity of working effectively with transition and change. This course will present methods of change management, guidance on self-management, information on how groups respond to transition, and case studies for analysis.
SKSL 107 | 1 module | Limit: 20
Please click here to download the "Working with Transition and Change" syllabus.

Unitarian Universalist History for Lay Leaders I
Helen Bishop

(7 weeks, Oct. 29-Dec. 14, 2007 )

This course is a survey of Unitarian Universalist history from the sixteenth century to the present. Twentieth-century Unitarian Universalist historian Earl Morse Wilbur identified three fundamental premises within Unitarianism as freedom, reason, and tolerance. In addition to these, Universalism incorporates the concepts of universal salvation, and the human desire for the good. Both movements evolve from multi-stranded histories of dissent within European and North American Christianities. The Unitarian idea of God as one, and the Universalist concept of universal salvation, have surfaced and played across the histories of human belief for millennia. This class will explore some of the historical contexts of Unitarian and Universalist antecedents. We will also explore briefly how the roots of our current faith movement are informed by interchanges of ideas among Christianity, Islam and Judaism within complex European histories.
SKSL 104 | 1 module | Limit: 20

Please click here for the "UU History for Lay Leaders I" booklist and click here for the "UU History for Lay Leaders I" syllabus.

Systems Thinking for Unitarian Universalist Laity CANCELLED
Helen Bishop

(14 weeks with mid-semester break, Sept. 4-Dec. 14, 2007)

This course is designed to promote understanding among Unitarian Universalist lay leaders of how organizations operate on the systems level. “Systems thinking” is a methodology linking understandings of how individuals, dyads, small groups and large groups of people interact with the structure, policies, practices, and culture of an organization. Participants will read materials on various aspects of organizational life, analyze and prepare organizational diagrams, examine the ways in which components interact, discuss emotional and family systems theories and their implications for congregational systems, discuss implications of systems analysis and thinking on congregational leadership, analyze case studies for evidence of organizational frames, and prepare a case study of a nonprofit organization demonstrating systems thinking.
SKSL 103 | 2 modules | Limit: 20 CANCELLED
Please click on the link to download the syllabus: (doc)


Spring 2008 Semester

Unitarian Universalist History for Lay Leaders: II (Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Concerns)
Helen Bishop
(7 weeks, Feb. 4 - March 21, 2008)

This course inverts chronology, borrowing from Foucault's statement: "all history is a history of the present." We will look at seven contemporary concerns within Unitarian Universalism as a movement. We will examine how these are linked to the principles and practices connected with this faith community, and to historical precedents within Unitarian Universalism. Students are encouraged to raise their own concerns, and to reflect on how their roles as lay leaders within their congregations inform their responses.

SKSL 105 | 1 module | Limit: 20
Please click on the link to download the syllabus: (pdf | doc)

Polity, Governance and Structure
Helen Bishop
(7 weeks, Feb. 4 - March 21, 2008)

Unitarian Universalist congregations are grounded in polity — their authority rests in the congregation itself, rather than in an outside entity. This course will describe organizational structures common to congregations of various sizes, relate governance practices to structure, staffing, and size, and provide models and tools related to congregational polity and authority. Students will compare and contrast four structural models: Policy Governance (described by John Carver), independent, interdependent/collaborative, and team. Each model will be considered in terms of lines of authority, staffing practices, and leadership.

SKSL 106 | 1 module | Limit: 20
Please click on the link to download the syllabus: (pdf | doc)

Group Processes and Life Cycles
Helen Bishop
(7 weeks, arch 31 - May 19, 2008)

Congregations and nonprofit organizations are made up of interlocking circles of small groups, each of which goes through its own life cycle. Leaders who can work effectively with group dynamics and processes can maintain focus on the larger organizational system while paying attention to the groups that make up the organization. This course will describe group life cycles, dynamics and processes, present models of effective group leadership, and offer case studies and analysis of how groups function. Students will practice group leadership skills with informal and formal task groups, committees, boards, and staff groups, and receive feedback designed to strengthen their skills.

SKSL 111 | 1 module | Limit: 20
Please click on the link to download the syllabus: (pdf | doc)

Conflict Management for Lay Leaders I
Helen Bishop
(7 weeks, March 31 - May 19, 2008)

This course will provide methodologies for assessing, analyzing and managing issues related to each of five levels and three types of conflict. Emphasis will be on procedure- and resource-based conflicts. Students will examine their own conflict management style preferences, analyze case studies, and utilize systems thinking to develop plans for managing conflict effectively.

SKSL 108 | 1 module | Limit: 20
Please click on the link to download the syllabus: (pdf)


Additional Information

Contact Admissions for more information about this new program, which starts Fall 2007.

Click for the SKSM Academic Calendar for Seminary for the Laity dates.


Click to view the Starr King catalog in PDF format.

M.A. | MASC | M.Div. | Seminary for the Laity


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