Organic Ministry: Cultivating Soil & Soul

taproot-garden-chickenTo be notified when registration is open, please click here. 

  • March – December 2017
  • First Monday of each month

Course Description:

This course is aimed at pastoral leaders in congregations, though it is neither strictly limited to professional clergy nor to those who serve in congregations. The course is built upon the participant’s direct experience of creation within the culture of a small, diversified family farmstead. The farm serves as the context for practical and theological study of the nature of the church within the divine economy of Creation and Kingdom. Attention is given to those understandings and practices that make for the health of the individual and the community of faith within the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, interpersonal, vocational and creational dimensions.

How it works:

Participants enroll for a full 10-month session, March – December 2016, gathering monthly on the first Monday of each month from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., for a day at Taproot Garden that includes light farm work, intentional personal retreat time and facilitated group discussion on assigned reading.


  1. Laboratory – Participants meet as a class for a full day each month at Taproot Garden, engaging farm labor as a key element in the “hands-on” aspect of pastoral education.
  2. Meal – Participants gather together around the table to share food and fellowship, as an extension of their labors to help produce the food they consume and a prelude to discussion.
  3. Prayer – Participants spend dedicated time in both solitary and communal prayer. Discussion – participants discuss issues relevant to “holy health,” making use of learning from the day’s activities on the farm and the assigned reading.
  4. Occasional Guest speakers/conversation partners
  5. Assigned reading – participants are assigned reading to complete each month.
  6. The Holy Bible
  7. Textbooks:
  • Cultivating an Ecological Conscience, by Frederick L. Kirschenmann, University of Kentucky Press, 2010.
  • The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber, Penguin Press, 2014.
  • Organic Prayer: A Spiritual Gardening Companion, by Nancy Roth, Seabury Books, 2007.


$50 non-refundable registration fee brings the total cost to $825 per person.

$825 per person includes lunches, program facilitation and occasional guest speakers. Program materials not included.

Register online here.


Taproot Garden, 10633 Drake Street, Norwalk IA 50211


Lori Diebel, PhD, Tim Diebel, MDiv, DMin (see bios below)

Tim Diebel, MDiv, DMin, Lori Diebel, PhD, (see bios below)









Objectives for Participants:

1. To integrate an “organic/agrarian” paradigm versus an “industrial/mechanistic” paradigm in the student’s understanding of church and practice of ministry.

2. To gain skill in thinking and functioning based on the biblical understanding of “holy health,” specifically:

  • To establish rhythms of pastoral life that are less chronic and more kairotic;
  • To nurture qualities of pastoral life that are less reductive and more wholistic;
  • To cultivate habits of pastoral life that are less reactive and more responsive;
  • To foster practices of pastoral life that are less mechanistic (focused on technique and technology toward “the achieved life”) and more organic (consistent with “the given life”).

Objective for the Leaders:

To guide participant activity and conversation toward increased insight and application of the understandings and habits that make for holy health, using the resources of nature and culture on a small, diversified, family farmstead, the resources of faith provided by the Church, and the resources of writers and thinkers from disciplines related to theology, agrarianism, nature and culture.


Participants are asked to self-evaluate, according to the desired outcomes, including the following points as listed.

  1. Develop and sustain regular spiritual disciplines.
  2. Develop and nurture a pastoral imagination through ongoing habits of reflection on their practice.
  3. Be life-long learners who reflect regularly on their philosophy and practice of ministry.
  4. Nurture “holy friendships.”
  5. Maintain appropriate, though not rigid, boundaries between personal and family life and pastoral work.
  6. Be diligent in self-care concerning their “holy health,” which is understood in seven dimensions: spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, vocational, social/interpersonal, and creational.

Facilitator bios:

Tim Diebel is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), with over 30 years of service as a parish pastor.  A native west Texas, since moving to Iowa in 1993, Tim has come to appreciate the rhythms of nature and the importance of organic systems and sustainability.  In 2011 his calling shifted from congregational leadership to the establishment of Taproot Garden, a 10-acre classroom where he cultivates a large garden, tends laying hens, and is restoring a prairie.  Tim’s appreciation for integrating body/mind/spirit, along with his passion for congregational and denominational leadership, community organizing and his growing respect for holistic earth processes, finds natural expression in co-facilitating this program.

Lori Diebel is an educator with over 33 years of leadership experience in Iowa public schools.  An Iowa native with degrees from The University of Northern Iowa and a PhD from Iowa State University in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Lori has served as a classroom teacher, a principal, and a district-wide administrator.  Enriching this work, she has also been an instructor for Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits for Highly Effective People”, participated in Parker Palmer’s “Courage to Lead” workshops, has studied systems thinking with Peter Senge, is a certified Core Communications trainer, and has extensive experience with the Clifton StrengthsFinder.  Lori has a particular passion for helping people stimulate their own imagination and discover their own inner wisdom.  She is inspired by beauty and light and the opportunity to collaborate with God — through each season — in the flourishing of creation.

Together Tim and Lori share a common delight in food, cooking, and hospitality, and an aversion to squandering any of the wonders of earth and community.

What past participants say:

“This class broadened my awareness of such issues as sustainability and the importance of good food grown in good soil. The connections we make to our local church’s ministry in our discussions have been insightful. Plus I simply love being with the group and doing the work we do. Great experience and great leadership.”

“I was seeking for a holy/separate space to process, get dirty, and think about ministry in new ways. I have found that this past year.”

“For anyone who cares about or wants to learn more about the importance of stewardship of creation and the ways it intersects with life in the local church, this is a good place to enter into conversation. It goes beyond reading and conversation into practice.”

“It was a chance to get back to the basics, think about ministry from another… and perhaps a more grounded… perspective, and to make some changes within my soul and church.”

For more information:  

Contact Diane McClanahan, Director for Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center at, 515-251-6667.

Register online here.

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