WORSHIPFUL-WORK® grew out of the learnings and experiences of the Set Apart Lay Leader Project, a four-year ecumenical effort ('91-'94) aimed at the development and revitalization of church boards/councils via the integration of spirituality and administration. The Project, enabled by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment and directed by Charles M. Olsen, involved lay and clergy participation from 20 churches across the broad ecumenical and cultural spectrum. It constructed a nationwide network of stakeholders through the process of inquiry and research. The Alban publication, Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual Leaders (which can be purchased at Water in the Desert Ministries Bookstore) by Dr. Charles M. Olsen, is based on the learnings of this project. The practices of worshipful-work continue to be used by many churches and organizations.
The organization, Worshipful-Work,was formed by Chuck Olsen in 1995 as a result of the Lilly funded project. He became the Director of the organization and was joined by Ellen Morseth, BVM, to provide the training, consulting, and resource ministry of Worshipful-Work. Communal spiritual discernment for church leadership became a focus of the ministry. Based at the Heartland Presbyterian Center in Parkville, MO, Worshipful-Work became an independent 501 (c) (3) organization in 1995 and later purchased "Gracious Space," across the road from HPC, for an office and training facility. After Chuck's retirement in 2000, the Board of Discerning Overseers became a national board and formed a Leadership Team to direct the ministry. They called Val Isenhower to coordinate their work as Coordinator of Ministry in 2001.
In July, 2002 the Board met and after a process of discernment decided to re-organize. Gracious Space was sold and staff positions were dissolved. The Board of Discerning Overseers continued to meet to discern the future of Worshipful-Work. They led the organization by acting as consultants and trainers in worshipful-work. In 2005, they gave a grant to Water in the Desert Ministries to revive and renew the School for Discernmentarians. which had been an important training event in corporate discernment offered by Worshipful-Work. The Discerning Overseers organized and offered a national colloquium on discernment in July of 2006 in Nashville.
Following the colloquium, the Discerning Overseers entered into an intense time of discernment to seek God's yearning for the future of the ministry. That discernment process led to the decision on June 30, 2007, to dissolve Worshipful-Work as a resourcing and programming entity. The legacy of the ministry as well as the trademark Worshipful-Work® was passed on to Water in the Desert Ministries.
Water in the Desert Ministries has agreed to continue the ministry of Worshipful-Work by developing new resources, leading retreats and workshops, which include offering on-line courses in Worshipful-Work through the Be-A-Disciple network. Val Isenhower & Judith Todd, founders of Water in the Desert Ministries, continue their connections with Chuck Olsen to provide continuity and growth in the practices of Worshipful-Work.