Diocesan Church Development Institute

Diocesan Church Development Institute is presented by the Center for Leadership Training.

The Reverend Elisabeth E. Tunney is the program director and the retired rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Patchogue.


What is DCDI - the Diocesan Church Development Institute?   


The Diocesan Church Development Institute (DCDI) is a leadership training program focused on developing the spiritual community and organizational life of congregations. It equips leaders to serve their congregation through a highly integrated training experience that engages participants in the issues and dynamics that they face as leaders. DCDI is a program for clergy and lay leaders who desire to transform their congregations by making them stronger, healthier, more deeply rooted in Anglican Spirituality, more responsive to God, and more effective in their communities.   

Who does it impact? 

Individuals – in spiritual formation, expanding self-awareness, leadership skills, and ability to work in teams
Congregations – in defining clarity of purpose, encouraging healthy dynamics, and intentional development
Diocese – in providing a common theory base, along with the tools and skills of congregational development that build a critical mass of healthy congregations.   

Who has it helped?   

The Diocesan Church Development Institute has provided training to the Episcopal Church for more than 30 years. The original program was designed by the Rev. Robert A. Gallagher as a diocesan consultant training program and it grew to a national program hosted by seminaries, moved to a national workshop for clergy and lay people, and then returned to its diocesan-supported roots. 

DCDI is now or has been offered in the dioceses of Atlanta, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Eastern and Western Michigan, Milwaukee, Newark, North Carolina, Northern Indiana, Rochester, Southwest Florida, Southern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Virginia, Washington, Western New York, and Western Massachusetts.   

Check out this video prepared by the Diocese of Eastern and Western Michigan about DCDI:


Why am I committed to this program? 

A personal note from Mother Liz Tunney, Program Director of the Center for Leadership Training:


I have been involved with the Church Development since 1997 when I first went through the program. I found that CDI offered very practical theories and methods for understanding and managing the life of a church community and the role of leaders both lay and ordained, regardless of size of the parish. My experience in CDI deepened my faith and made me a more effective leader in my parish as well as a resource for my diocese. Before experiencing a call to ordained ministry I put my CDI skills to use as a vestry member, a secretary, senior warden, and diocesan consultant. I was able to transfer many of the skills tools and techniques to my professional life as an internal consultant in the financial services industry.

Eventually I became a member of CDI Trainers and have served as a trainer in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts and the Diocese of Colorado. After graduating from seminary in 2011 I came to the Diocese of Long Island as Priest-in-Charge of St. Paul’s in Patchogue and was called as rector in 2014. I remained at St. Paul's until I retired in 2021.

My CDI training had provided foundational training - the stuff you don’t learn in seminary - that enabled me to function effectively in my new role. Since coming to the Diocese of Long Island I have also continued to provided consulting services by facilitating retreats and coaching vestries and search committees.    

Who are the trainers?   

The Diocesan Church Development Institute (DCDI) is a network of lay and ordained trainers from participating dioceses which oversees the promotion, development, and implementation of all DCDI's. The network also sets standards, develops curriculum, maintains continuity, and provides professional development opportunities for DCDI trainers. If you want more information check out www.diocesancdi.com   

Meet two of our DCDI trainers:

The Rev. Karen Davis-Lawson


I serve as rector of St. David's Episcopal Church, Cambria Heights and am the former rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Astoria. Prior to being called to ordained ministry, I served as an administrator in higher education. That experience serves me well. However, I believed I needed additional skills to help me, and the congregation engage in ministry differently. DCDI did not disappoint. I was presented with a scope of information about myself, personal interactions, organization structure and culture, group dynamics, conflict resolution, and much more.

I accepted the invitation to become a trainer because I believe, if the knowledge gained through the program is applied consistently, we can improve the quality of a congregation’s life and ministry in the long-term. As a trainer, continued engagement with the material keeps it fresh and allows me to integrate the information more fully into my ministry and personal life. I can already see positive changes.

The Rev. Kevin Morris


I am the rector of the Church of the Ascension in Rockville Centre, NY and dean of the Southwest Nassau deanery. Before coming to Ascension, I was the Director of Pastoral Care, Patient Relations and Volunteer Services at Christ Hospital in Jersey City, NJ. My responsibilities at Christ Hospital included monitoring and teaching performance improvement in the realm of customer service, providing pastoral care and religious services to patients and staff, and supervising and administering five different (non-clinical) departments. While serving at Christ Hospital, I also served as a regular and long-term supply priest at various parishes in the Diocese of Newark. Prior to working at Christ Hospital, I was a chaplain for a private hospice in Florida. Although I was ordained at a fairly young age, I did spend a few years (before, during and after seminary) working in customer service and management for a few large retail chains.

I was first introduced to the Diocesan Church Development Institute when a visiting bishop presented the Christian Life Model to us at a clergy gathering. I can remember thinking to myself, “huh, that’s actually a useful way to look at things!” I decided to give it a try and fast-forward several years, now I am one of the trainers. Not only have I found the DCDI models to be helpful in looking at congregational life with a critical eye, I have also found the relationships forged along the way to be of immeasurable value. Perhaps the two most important things that you learn in DCDI is that: one, you are not alone in wanting to make your church stronger, and two, you are not alone in the challenges that you face.

What is the conceptual framework? 

 The program is grounded in the disciplines of pastoral theology, ecclesiology, congregational studies, organizational behavior, organizational culture, group development, and leadership studies. It looks at the development of the congregation as a community of faith with a unique identity, purpose, and dynamics which can be understood, assessed, and improved using the knowledge and methods of organization behavior and development. 

 What topics are covered? 

  Cycle One
arrow-small.png First Weekend: system thinking, group development, core frameworks, action research
arrow-small.png Second Weekend: methods of discovery, data gathering, MBTI, organizational diagnosis
arrow-small.png Third Weekend: Managing conflict, transitions, generations, size differences, and contextual issues
arrow-small.png Fourth Weekend: Social Intelligence, Projects 

Cycle Two
arrow-small.png First Weekend: understanding congregational culture, group development, core frameworks
arrow-small.png Second Weekend: intervening in culture, spiritual practices, strength finders, marketing
arrow-small.png Third Weekend: observing congregational culture, appreciative inquiry, mixed economy of church
arrow-small.png Fourth Weekend: Adaptive leadership, projects, influencing change   

What kind of commitment does it require?   

DCDI has adapted to the challenges of the current environment and has changed from being a residential program focused on classroom training to one that incorporates the use of Zoom in plenary and small group sessions, videotaped presentations, and homework, as well as the usual outside reading spread out in 8 weekends over the course of two years. 

How will the DCDI work in the Diocese of Long Island? 

With the COVID-19 pandemic, DCDI has had to adapt to changing conditions. We have changed our program from being a residential program to one that incorporates the use of Zoom in plenary and small group sessions, videotaped presentations, and homework, as well as the usual outside reading.

What can I expect as a participant?  

This program builds learning not only on the parish level but across the diocese. During the course of two years you will have the opportunity to work closely with other people from across the diocese so that you will make new friends and find new partners and resources for your ministry. Participants must be willing to make the commitment for two years, do the assigned reading, and complete the projects.

Attendance is required at all sessions. While emergencies do arise, make-up work will need to be completed and the absence of any participant has an impact on the learning of the group as a whole. We provide the schedule in advance in order to minimize absences. 

We recommend parish teams because it is important that clergy and lay leaders begin to speak a common language about what it means to improve the organizational life of the parish. This doesn’t mean you can’t come as an individual but the results are far better if you do it as a team so we will be giving priority to parish teams. You and your parish team will design and implement two projects providing you an opportunity to put your learning to good use immediately.

The participants projects are designed to improve or establish structures or processes by which the parish manages and conducts its mission and ministry.

Past parish projects have included: 

arrow-small.png Creating a virtual walkthrough for the Subdeacon Customary
arrow-small.png Engaging the parish in creating a devotional for the Lenten Season
arrow-small.png Creating, distributing, and analyzing data from a questionnaire as part of a search process
arrow-small.png Developing a feeding program
arrow-small.png Developing a program to channel fresh produce to those in need
arrow-small.png Planning a community meal
arrow-small.png Surveying parishioners to determine appropriate and preferred communication methods to improve communication and break down "silos"
arrow-small.png Developing a process for evaluating gifts and donations of property
arrow-small.png Working with the vestry to link strategic planning, ministry, and stewardship
arrow-small.png Implementing a faith-based stewardship program
arrow-small.png Creating an integrated, centrally-located property contractor file system

What will I learn as a participant? 

  arrow-small.png Assess your strengths as a leader and how to leverage them effectively
arrow-small.png Different ways to collect feedback from the parishLearning from how other parishes address the similar challenges
arrow-small.png How to build support for new programs and initiatives and how to retire old ones
arrow-small.png Improve the quality of decision making
arrow-small.png Planning and facilitating productive meetings
arrow-small.png Managing conflict
arrow-small.png Developing new ministries

The bishop's office believes in this program so much that for the first year, the first 4 sessions, there is no cost to participants other than required reading material. During the second year there will be a charge of $200 per person, which will cover a small portion of the program's cost. 

Interested in signing up?  

  If you would like to register, please send me your name and the names of anyone else who will be attending and your contact information: parish, address, phone, and email.


The Rev. Liz Tunney / etunney@dioceseli.org
Cell: (860) 324-8579

Mark your calendar   

Training sessions meet Fridays on Zoom from 9 am - 12:30 pm.Saturdays are in person at the Church of the Ascension in Rockville Centre from 9:30 am - 4 pm.

Many content presentations are available on video at this link.

Program dates for 2022-2023

2022 September 23 - 24
2022 December 2-3
2023 February 3-4
2023 April 28-29

Program dates for 2023-2024

2023 September 22 - 23
2023 December 1-2
2024 February 9-10
2024 April 19-20

Program dates for 2024-2025

2024 September 20 - 21
2024 December 6-7
2025 February 3-4
2025 May 2-3

There is no cost to participants in the first year other than the cost of reading material.In the second year there will be a cost of $200 per participant.