Core Program Courses


The Core Program is set-up so students can complete all eight courses in two years (4 courses each year) or chose to take courses at a pace that works for them. The full list and course descriptions are as follows:
** Courses offered for the 2022-2023 school year include instructor introductions and required books.

Intro to Theology Theology of the Cross: God in Unexpected Times and Places: Our theology course explores what many name as the distinctive heart Lutheran thinking about God, Jesus and how we are called to be church in the world: theology of the cross. We believe that God is profoundly present in the times, places and people we’d least expect an all-powerful deity to be, for example: born in a manger, eating with outcasts and sinners, and dying on a cross. Through our readings and discussions, we will explore how this theology impacts all aspects of our lived theology: how we think, talk and teach about God, the questions we ask, and how we live out our faith in daily life, especially at times of suffering and loss.

Old Testament/Hebrew Bible:  The goals of this course are for the student to gain a working knowledge of the content of the Hebrew Bible along with a basic understanding of its socio-historical background and an awareness of the history/methods of interpretation.  The student will develop skill in reading biblical texts as rhetorical literary documents and achieve an understanding of the importance of the Hebrew Bible for understanding the New Testament and Christian faith.  The instructional method will encourage the student to grow in love and excitement in the reading and study of the Bible.

**Introduction to the New Testament: The goals of this course are to gain a working knowledge of the content of the New Testament, a basic understanding of its socio-historical background and an awareness of how the New Testament came into being.  The student will develop skills in reading biblical texts while exploring the various Gospel portrayals of Jesus.  Students will use the knowledge to grow in confidence in proclaiming the Gospel to others.  Students will also explore key theological concepts such as grace, justification, the theology of the cross and stewardship.  The instructional method will encourage students to grow in love and excitement in the reading and study of the Bible.
SCHEDULE: Friday 6:10-8:20
~ Ryan is assembling a reader (approx $50 for students)
~ Bible (Translation of your choice)

~ N. T. Wright and Michael F. Bird, The New Testament in Its World, Zondervan Academic.  ISBN 978-0-281-08271-1
~ NRSV Bible w/ Apocrypha

INSTRUCTOR: Rev. Ryan Eikenbary

I am the Faith Life Pastor at First English Lutheran in Appleton, WI. I am a northern California native who served at a church in Stockton, CA before moving to Wisconsin in January of 2022. I attended The Masters University in Southern California, earning a BA in Biblical Studies. My graduate studies include an MA in Church History from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and an MDiv from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. My thesis for my MA is titled “And God Spoke in England: Puritan Iconoclasm and the Creation of the Verbal Icon”. In addition to my parish work, I was an adjunct professor in ethics and religious history courses at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. When I am not working, I enjoy reading, cooking, working in our garden, swimming, and spending time with my family. I have been married since 2012 and my spouse and I have two adopted children.

Liturgy & Life: The word “Liturgy” comes from the Greek meaning, “the work of the people.” Together with ministers of Word and Sacrament, the Christian assembly gathers, shares in the work of hearing the Word, receiving the meal, and is sent in peace to serve the Lord. This rhythm cultivates praise of God and renewal for faith and life. Through this course, we will examine the Use of the Means of Grace, discover different sources and functions of various portions of the liturgy, the history of rituals for life passages (baptisms, weddings, funerals, healing service), and the origin and depth of attending to feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year. Students who take this course will be prepared to assist in worship leadership and planning in their own congregational settings

**Lutheran Confessions:  It is now more than five hundred years since Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses. The purpose of this class is to question and wrestle with what does it mean to be Lutheran today? Is “being Lutheran” still important or even relevant? How does Lutheran theology fit and/or contribute to other Christians, other faith traditions, and to the global and secular world? Three desired outcomes from this course are for participants to 1) more clearly establish the why, what and how for their identity, purpose and faith, 2) understand the Lutheran Confessions as a call and guide to actively live out faith in love of neighbor and as a shared action of the Christian community both as an individual and within a congregation, and 3) be able to engage with deeper passion and understanding in worship, service and witness with fellow Christians of other denominations and globally.
SCHEDULE: Friday 8:30-10:00
~ “The Freedom of a Christian” by Martin Luther (Author), Timothy J. Wengert (Editor). ISBN-10: ‎ 9781506413518 or ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1506413518 REMOVED
~ “The Freedom of a Christian: Luther Study Edition” Paperback – May 23, 2008, by Martin Luther (Author), Mark D. Tranvik (Editor). ISBN-10: ‎080066311X or ISBN-13: ‎978-0800663117
~ “Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team” by Simon Sinek, David Mead and Peter Docker, Portfolio Penguin (2017). ISBN-10: ‎ 0143111728 or ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0143111726
~“The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – will be provided through Thrivent Action Team funding
INSTRUCTORS: Rev. Mark Ziemer, Rev. Nile Sandeen, Rev. Josh Fite and Rev. Cindy Crane

Rev. Mark Ziemer
Lutheran Confessions Moderator Instructor
I loved serving as a parish pastor for 42 years including fourteen years at St. John’s, Marion, eighteen at Grace, Tomahawk, and nearly two years as an Interim at Trinity, Waupaca. I especially enjoyed initiating opportunities to love our neighbors, pursue relations with those different from ourselves, and encountering and caring for God’s creation.
My searching journey with the Lutheran Confessions began in my eight years attending a WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) elementary school. In college I witnessed the repercussions of confessing faith when my Religion Professor at Concordia Milwaukee (1973) was tried for heresy and nearly all professors’ positions were eliminated at Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne, IN (1975). On sabbatical in 2010 I witnessed the Lutheran Confessions lived out in a very different context in South Africa.
July 1, 2021, I went out to pasture – literally. As retirement approached my wife and I purchased a small farm near Gays Mills in the heart of Wisconsin’s Driftless region where many are seeking sustainable practices in care of the land. Our land, pasture, and barn are used for our son-in-law’s organic dairy, and I now immersed in new learning and projects on pasture renovation, silvopasture, pollinators and gardening.

**Church History: “We believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Behind those few words from the ecumenical council that met at Nicea in 325 C.E. lies a lot of history from the time of Jesus and the first apostles to the present day. This class will help students understand the basic story line from the Day of Pentecost to the global Church today, albeit from a 30,000-foot view. Decisive moments that shaped the Church in profound ways for generations to come will be highlighted in more depth. Students will learn the history of the church includes controversy, heresy, struggle, and abhorrent behavior as well as inspirational proclamation and teaching and exemplary witness and service. Through it all we will rejoice in God’s faithfulness in Jesus Christ whose very Body is the one holy catholic and apostolic church.
SCHEDULE: Saturday 10:40-12:10
~ “Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (3rd edition)” by Mark A. Noll.  ISBN-10: ‎0801039967 or ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0801039966
INSTRUCTOR: Rev. Dr. Mark Granquist

Mark Granquist is an ordained ELCA pastor, who has taught at Luther Seminary, St Paul, Minnesota for the last 15 years. Prior to this he taught at St Olaf College and Gustavus Adolphus College, and served a congregation in Rochester, Minnesota. He lives in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Kathy, and they have two adult children and one granddaughter. His area of expertise is the history of Christianity, especially in America.

**Faith and Spirituality: The longest journey can be from our heads to our hearts. We may learn biblical facts and Christian doctrines with our heads but struggle to move them into our inner being where we can be loved and transformed by our Triune God. In a welcoming classroom environment, we’ll combine Dr. Brame’s text with Bible study, prayer, silence, and honest sharing. We’ll experience the joy of Christian community as we learn together to articulate our faith and receive God’s love for us as individuals and as a group. NOTE: This course title is offered every year but has a different focus.
SCHEDULE: Saturday 9:00-10:30
~ “Faith, the Yes of the Heart” by Grace A. Brame.  ISBN-10: ‎0806638052 or ISBN-13: ‎978-0806638058 (NOTE: Augsburg Fortress prints when ordered so watch delivery timing.)
INSTRUCTOR: Rev. Cheryl Davis

Pastor Cheryl Davis has been the pastor for seven years at First English Lutheran Church in Wisconsin Rapids. She was introduced to Lutheran theology when she was 25 years old and knew her heart had come home in the message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Her passion is to bring other hearts “home” as they learn of Christ’s love for them and grow in relationship to him. She loves solitude, reflection, writing, walking, conversations and nature. Pastor Cheryl is married to Horace. Together they share four adult children and their spouses and 13 grandchildren.


The Lay School offers laity flexible opportunities to meet their varied needs.

“Core Certificate Program” Classes are held on both Friday evening and Saturday morning, one weekend a month for those desiring to complete the program in two-year’s time.
Cost: $100.00 per class or 4 classes for $300.00. Students purchase their own books for the classes.

“Only Friday Evening or Only Saturday Program” Laity may not be able to commit to both Friday and Saturday classes due to work or other obligations, yet they desire to complete the Lay School certificate program.  Attending an evening or day, one weekend a month, may be perfect for them.
Cost: $100.00 per class. Students purchase their own books for the classes.

“One Class at a Time” For laity who are only interested in some of the classes we provide 3 classes: Bible, History, Faith, and Spirituality. These classes would apply to the certificate program if the student desired to continue their learning experience.
Cost: $100.00 per class. Students purchase their own books for the classes.

SCHEDULE For Core Program

Meal                                                    5:15 – 6:00 P.M.
New Testament                                  6:00 – 8:20 P.M.
Lutheran Confessions                       8:30 – 10:00 P.M.

Breakfast                                            8:00 – 8:30 A.M.
Worship                                              8:30 – 8:50 A.M.
Faith and Spirituality                        9:00 – 10:30 A.M.
Church History                                 10:40– 12:10 P.M


Why do you love Lay School?
I have asked that question to myself numerous times, the only answer I can come up with is the Lord led me to this chapter in my life. I have always cared deeply for people I know and don’t know and wondered how I could help them. Which led me to serving shut ins communion. I have learned that listening, encouragement, and conversation go a long way with helping homebound to feel good about themselves. Which in turn I began to feel the pull to do more for the church family. Then the lay school bulletin came out and I prayed and talked it over with my Pastor and she thought it would by a good fit. So, lay school was it and am I ever proud, glad, and humbled that the difference I hope I can contribute to fellow Christians and maybe turn a few into Christians. The schooling is amazing and fulfilling to me…

Jackie Bushar
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