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Managing Difficult 
Church Change

Online Practical Theology Short Courses
Trinity College Glasgow & Theology & Religious Studies, University of Glasgow

Course Description

Change is upon us. For churches and parishes the disruption of Covid-19 means external and internal challenges are more intense and making decisions and managing change has never been harder. Complex problems stretch church leader capacities and organisational resilience. Yet the calling of the church in the world has not changed. This course will assist leaders who are active in local church contexts to identify and interpret critical challenges facing your church and equip you with tools to develop faithful and creative responses. It will include identifying spiritual practices and skills for engaging with difficult church change. 

It is recommended where possible two leaders (clergy or non-clergy, staff or volunteer) from the same church accompany each other in this course to derive maximum benefit. 

This is an open access course available as a 10-credit course (accredited by the University of Glasgow) or audit-only for those who just wish to engage with the learning programme for their own personal benefit.

Enrolment is now closed.



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Mr Andy Brookes is an independent consultant working mainly across churches and not-for-profit sectors in the UK, developing leaders and supporting senior teams. He has experience of leading major change in complex environments including Lloyds of London, individual diocese in the Church of England, and Greenbelt Festival. He served as General Secretary and CEO for the Diocese of London 2009-2015. He is a grandfather, hockey player and a recovering golf player.

Rev Dr Mark Johnston is a Lecturer at the GU Dept of Theology and Religious Studies. He has leadership experience working in education, churches, mission projects and not-for-profit sector. He has served the Church of Scotland in church innovation and for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand as a theological educator and ministry and mission trainer. He is a lover of the outdoors, curious about history and cultures and enjoys a good conversation over a beer.

Further Information

Timetable & Duration

September 28th - December 7th, 2020

This course will take place online on Monday evenings, 7pm-8.30pm GMT +1


This course will be taught over 12 weeks via 10 weeks of online real-time meetings & instruction, a one week mid-course break and a week at the end for writing up a final project (credit participants only).

Introduction to the course

Most local leaders are aware of the pressing need for the Church to adapt and change. Questions of organisational effectiveness and decline in a changing society are not new and require a response. What the Covid pandemic has done is throw this condition of liminality into sharper relief; we cannot go back to normal and clarity about what is ahead is elusive and we must dwell in the in-between. Church leaders are now faced with difficult decisions of change in a time of disorientation. In the midst of this we are finding out that some of our traditional church leadership practices and approach to change are no longer serving us well. We need to come to terms with complex problems and re-learn how to lead our congregations spiritually and organisationally well.

This course aims to offer practical tools and perspectives for local church leaders to work on their key challenges in complex and disruptive times. It does not promise simple answers but it will look at core practices that you can deploy or adapt to your church situation. It will invite you to engage with your real-time challenges and reflect on how to process these so you can design pathways for action. This work will be done in self-reflection, in engaging experienced voices, in accessing learning resources offline and in finding encouragement in the company of other church leaders like you online. It is a course guided by two tutors who have worked in and led church organisations of both local and larger scale. Topics covered will include:

  • Facing difficult change & disruption and the mindset required

  • Mobilising your primary church purpose for an unclear future

  • Making sense of the dimensions of your challenge

  • Engaging others to respond to difficult change

  • Planning change

  • Handling and managing the temperature of conflict

  • Personal and team resilience for the change work required

  • Accountability and communication

  • Spiritual Practices for leading in church organisations

Course Information


This course is suitable for learners from a wide variety of backgrounds including those new to university-level learning, and those already familiar with it. 

Learners may choose to undertake assessments, and thus qualify for 10 credit points towards a Higher Education certificate or other Glasgow University approved programmes, or may engage with the learning programme for their own personal benefit without the final assessments. Graduates are equally welcome.

This course is conducted online. The directed online instruction will be explored in weekly real-time conversations along with materials and interaction using the learning platform, Moodle. Zoom as an online meeting tool will be used for the real-time conversations and online group times. Access to these tools will be supported by the course administration. More information about the use of these will be provided once enrolled. For technology you will need to have access to:

  • broadband/ wireless (at least 1.5 megabites per second up and download)

  • a computer with Dual core 2Ghz or higher and 4GB of RAM or Ipad with OS 13 or later,

  • minimum of Windows 7 or Mac 10.7.

  • a speaker and microphone, built in, USB or wireless Bluetooth

  • Webcam, built in or USB

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course participants will be able to:

  • Identify a key organisational challenge facing their church;

  • Evaluate and interpret the technical and cultural nature of that challenge;

  • Develop a strategy and action plan for addressing those challenges that is accountable, and takes ecclesial, theological and behavioural factors into consideration.

  • Use improved skills to handle difficult change situations

  • Reflect on their leadership practice and how they manage themselves in this task spiritually and emotionally. 

Delivery & Assessment

Each learning module will be taught through a range of online group discussion, exercises, and activities, viewing and reading. Each week students will be introduced to a range of online materials, including video, articles, rituals and activities for practicing in your own local context.

In addition, learners who enrol for credit will be able to access digitised materials, articles, and books via the University of Glasgow's library.

The formal assessment for this course is optional and consists of the following:

  • Reflective assignment 40% (800 words) comprising submitting 3 of your module journal entries.  

  • Report 60% (1200 words) submitted at the end of the course

Support, guidance and feedback will be available for all assessment.

Credit Award


Completion of the course carries with it 10 Undergraduate credit points for those who wish to undertake the formal assessments. 



£200 (this covers access to all resources and administrative costs).

Funds & Subsidies

Part-funding subsidies from Trinity College are available to leaders from Church of Scotland Urban Priority Area (UPA) parishes via separate application directly to us. To be considered for a subsidy email your interest to Principal of Trinity College,, by 21 September, 2020.


Applicants should still register for the course by following the instructions under ‘How to Apply’ below. We are unable to provide the subsidy upfront so we ask you to pay the full fee initially and arrangements will be made for the subsidy as a direct grant subsequently.

Funds or subsidies may also be available through your own church for training or study purposes and we encourage you to approach them with the details of the course.








This link will take you to the Glasgow University Short Courses Enrolment page for this course. Enrolment for our courses close on 21st Sept. You will need to click on the date of the course further down and this will take you to a basket to purchase the course. Follow the instructions – including registering your details as a new applicant and then undertake payment (through their secure system) for the course. You will receive an email indicating success that you have enrolled. If you have any difficulties with this process – please contact or


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