Lifelong Learning

Our Mission

We believe theological education is for everyone, especially for religious professionals, people of faith, divinity school graduates, and the spiritually curious. Lifelong Learning provides non-degree courses led by Divinity School faculty and designed to be accessible, applicable, and enlightening. Our courses are for those who consider themselves life-long learners and who find the study of religion wildly important. 

Want to be a more informed worshiper? Would you like to deepen your faith journey? Thinking about divinity school? Already attended seminary or divinity school and want to hear about recent developments in the field? 

Explore what we offer and contact us with any questions you may have!

About Lifelong Learning

Welcome to Lifelong Learning (LLL) at Vanderbilt Divinity School.  The Purposes and Commitments  at the heart of the school's mission emphasize the points at which theology and practice meet. Two of the guiding questions for LLL are about the what and the how of life: "What can we glean from our traditions, methods, and practices?" and "How are we to live in light of what we know to be just?"  

VDS holds the commitment to train leaders, including congregational leaders, chaplains, nonprofit leaders, for social justice leadership is at its core. Embedded in a larger university, the interdisciplinary connections and conversations it has across campus supports the school's legacy of theological innovation and leadership.   

Life-long learning programs are created out of the distinctive character of Vanderbilt Divinity and in conversation with its many alumni, students, faculty, staff, and interested constituents.  Here, people who are curious and committed may join a learning community that  cultivates and nurtures nontraditional students to become more thoughtful leaders, helps students better understand the changing contexts in which they live, and help them lead others more effectively.   

Here, we hope to work with those who seek:  

  • to become more thoughtful leaders,
  • to better understand the changing contexts in which we live,
  • to learn new perspectives,
  • to widen existing network,
  • to feel more capable,
  • to help others more effectively.


Aaron Stauffer

Aaron Stauffer

Interim Director

Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice

Director of Online Learning

Aaron Stauffer is the Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt Divinity School, working primarily with the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice. A recent PhD graduate in social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York, his dissertation, "Organizing Lived Religious Practices for Power: Sacred Values in Broad-based Community Organizing" focuses on the political role of sacred value in broad-based community organizing. Drawing from a tradition of radical democracy, constructive feminist and anti-racist critiques of liberal political theory, and the rising field of "lived religion," he argues for the importance of religious values in the practice of community organizing.

Read More

Lisa L. Thompson

Lisa L. Thompson

Associate Professor and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair of Black Homiletics and Liturgics
On leave Spring 2023

Dr. Lisa L. Thompson, a native of Cedar Grove, NC, is Associate Professor and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair of Black Homiletics and Liturgics at the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion.

Read More

Mike Hodge

Mike Hodge

Lead Organizer, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH)

Read More

Laine Walters Young

Laine Walters Young

Assistant Director of the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership

Laine studies the ethical concept of equal regard in intimate relationships for contemporary young adults through the lens of Religion, Psychology and Culture. She engages developmental, cultural, feminist and psychoanalytic theory in this project. 

She has Vanderbilt University certificates in Women and Gender Studies as well as the Mellon Seminar for Teaching in the Humanities. Laine enjoys teaching pastoral care as well as various history courses.

Read More

Andrew Krinks

Andrew Krinks

Postdoctoral Fellow, Initiative for Race Research and Justice

Andrew Krinks is a postdoctoral fellow with Vanderbilt University's Initiative for Race, Research, and Justice where he conducts research on racial justice as it relates to education, carceral institutions, and public health.

Read More

Examples of Featured Courses

Faith in the Headlines Instructor: Lisa L. Thompson

Mobilizing people of faith for their engaged participation in everyday life relies on an ability to translate everyday matters of life as everyday matters of faith. Our being co-creators of a more just world relies on such translation, whether we are community organizers, clergy, non-profit leaders, scholars, or occupy other spaces as the everyday-faithful. The palpable nature of what it means to live in this world fills our social media feeds, news outlets, and daily chatter. Headlines are where life meets the public square. They are symptomatic expressions of deeper struggles, possibilities, joys, and sorrows in our pursuits of collective and personal wellbeing. This course helps those concerned with moving Christian communities towards greater risk-taking and accountability at the intersections of faith and society.

Moral Leadership: What is It, and How Are You a Moral Leader? Instructor: Laine Walters Young

This course will tour learners through the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership's approach to moral leadership as applied, relational, experiential, interdependent, justice-focused, public, and communicative using Robert Franklin Jr.'s Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, and Imagination as a core text. Learners will leave the course with concrete practices for building and restoring trust, how to make their integrity known to those around them, and what courage and imagination looks like and can be applied in the everyday work of ministerial, social service, business, and nonprofit fields.  

The Religion of Carcerality and the Religion of Abolition Instructor: Andrew Krinks

Why do we have police and prisons? What role does religion play in building police and prisons, and what role might religion play in building a world without them? This course explores the religious roots and function of carceral institutions in the United States, as well as the religiosity of movements that aim to create conditions in which police and prisons are neither possible nor necessary. Participants will be invited to engage course material through theological reflection on their own experience and social context, and will obtain theological and practical resources for inviting their communities into the work of reimagining public safety.

Crisis in our Congregations: Building Powerful Communities in an Age of Disconnection Instructors: Aaron Stauffer, Mike Hodge

Community organizing can strengthen congregations. When the vast majority of faith leaders feel isolated and under-connected in an age of polarization, the art of active listening can help to reweave relationships within communities and develop leaders in our institutions. In the world of broad-based community organizing, the listening campaign is the crucial strategy that helps congregations and organizations identify the core values that tie them together and leads us to identify the right issues to act on in public. This course, by exploring the skill of active listening and the broad-based organizing strategy of the listening campaign, provides students with the opportunity to refine their skills of leadership and community building in order to identify and develop leaders and help their community organize to take action in public.


For questions, please contact Aaron Stauffer at