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.     

When & Where?

DCDI participants meet by Zoom during our scheduled Friday dates from 9:00-12:30 and in person on Saturday dates from 9:30-4:00 at the Church of the Ascension in Rockville Center.

Cycle Exploring Church Culture

  • 2024 September 20-21
  • 2024 December 6-7
  • 2025 February 7-8
  • 2025 May 2-3

Cycle Understanding Church Systems

  • 2025 September 19-20
  • 2025 December 5-6
  • 2026 February 6-7
  • 2026 April 24-25

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


Contact the Rev. Elisabeth E. Tunney, Program Director and the retired rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Patchogue

Video: Introduction to Diocesan Church Development Institute 

Who Does It Impact?

Leader speaking


Spiritual formation, expanding self-awareness, leadership skills, and ability to work in teams 

Acolytes kneeling


Defining clarity of purpose, encouraging healthy dynamics, and intentional development 

Interior of the Cathedral of the Incarnation


Provides the tools and skills of congregational development that build a critical mass of healthy congregations 


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

I have been involved with the Church Development Institute 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. 

Liz Tunney


Meet 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. 

The Rev. Karen Davis-Lawson headshot

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 headshot

The Rev. Kevin Morris

I am the rector of the Church of the Ascension in Rockville Centre 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. During this time, I also served as supply priest at various parishes in the Diocese of Newark.  

I was first introduced to the DCDI 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 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. 


Frequently Asked Questions 

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

First Weekend: System thinking, group development, core frameworks, action research 
Second Weekend: Methods of discovery, data gathering, MBTI, organizational diagnosis\
Third Weekend: Managing conflict, transitions, generations, size differences, and contextual issues
Fourth Weekend: Social Intelligence, Projects 

Cycle Two

First Weekend: Understanding congregational culture, group development, core frameworks
Second Weekend: Intervening in culture, spiritual practices, strength finders, marketing
Third Weekend: Observing congregational culture, appreciative inquiry, mixed economy of church 
Fourth Weekend: Adaptive leadership, projects, influencing change

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 two years, you will work closely with folks across the diocese, 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.

You and your parish team will design and implement two projects providing you an opportunity to put your learning to good use immediately. The participant projects are designed to improve or establish structures or processes by which the parish manages and conducts its mission and ministry. 

What are examples of previous parish projects?
  • Engaging the parish in creating a devotional for the Lenten Season
  • Developing a program to channel fresh produce to those in need
  • Surveying parishioners to determine appropriate and preferred communication methods
  • Implementing a faith-based stewardship program
  • Creating an integrated, centrally located property contractor file system
What will I learn as a participant?
  • Assess your strengths as a leader and how to leverage them effectively 
  • Different ways to collect feedback from the parish
  • How to build support for new programs and initiatives and how to retire old ones 
  • Improve the quality of decision making 
  • Planning and facilitating productive meetings 
  • Managing conflict 
  • Developing new ministries 
What is the cost?

For the first year (four sessions), there is no cost to participants other than required reading material. The fee for the second year is $200 per person.

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.  

What are the training dates?

Cycle: Understanding Church Systems
2023: September 23-24, December 1-2
2024: February 9-10, April 19-20

Cycle: Exploring Church Culture
2024: September 20-21, December 6-7
2025: February 3-4, May 2-3 

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. 

Interested in signing up? Have questions?

Contact the Rev. Liz Tunney /