Turning Your Church or Ministry into a Disciple-Making Mission
What is a cohort anyway? Sounds a bit strange...
This is a term I was first introduced to when I (Greg Ogden) assumed the role as Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller Seminary. I confess it was new to me then. It is a term often used in an educational setting. A cohort program is “a group of people banded together or treated as a group” in a degree program or course of study. A simple way to view a cohort program is as “a group of classmates.” Though this cohort is not connected to a degree program, you will be sharing life together with fellow “students,” in this case pastoral leaders, who have the common objective of leading their churches to become disciple-making congregations. This means that we will “coach” each other. We will speak encouraging and comforting words, problem solve together, and stimulate each other’s biblical and theological insights. Leadership can be lonely. When we do this together we are no longer alone.
What are we trying to accomplish?
In the 2 years together, we will guide and coach participants as they: evaluate the state of discipleship, and its principle causes, within their church or ministry, acquire a solid biblical and theological foundation for relational disciple-making, experience, practice and multiply a Micro Group, form a leadership change team made up of staff and key lay leaders, and formulate a vision and three year plan for becoming a church/ministry whose central mission is to make reproducing disciples of Jesus. Realizing that it takes a minimum of 3-5 years to change a church’s culture, the cohort experience will solidly launch you in this direction.
Who is this program for?
We are looking for ministry leaders who strongly desire to lead their church or ministry to embrace a disciple-making mission and who are in a position within their church or ministry to develop and implement a disciple-making strategy and plan. This would include pastors, para-church leaders, missionaries, and teachers/professors who are focused on discipleship and disciple-making. Cohort Application
How many people will be in our group?
The ideal size would be four since we are trying to live out the value of micro groups. In order to be able to make our contributions as well as receive feedback with the optimal interactive capacity, four optimizes this opportunity. Our experience is that if you make it any larger, such as 6-8, there are just too many people dividing up the available “air time." Group dynamics being what it is with 6-8 people, this would mean that 2 to 3 people will be largely silent or 2-3 people will dominate. If we have four everyone will participate and feel needed and heard.
How often will we meet?
The regularity of meeting is both a form of accountability and encouragement. Therefore, a monthly meeting online for two hours via Zoom will need to be blocked out. Since we will probably be in different time zones and groups could have international participants, once we have arrived at a regular time each month, this time would need to be “religiously” guarded. Your 17-session cohort will stretch over 2 years with built-in seasonal breaks, i.e., in the past we have taken the months of July and August off as well as December.
How much does it cost?
The cohort fee will be $100/session pre-paid monthly. It is strongly suggested that your church or ministry leadership board contribute to the cost of the program as a sign of their commitment to becoming a disciple-making church/organization. In addition, you will be asked to create a change team that will be made up of staff and key lay leaders. The more the church is invested financially and personally the greater will be the benefits.
What will be expected of me?
You will be expected to complete monthly assignments which will include readings, response exercises, engagement with the church/ministry leadership, etc. Running throughout the time, you will form and lead a “micro group” that meets weekly to the point where the members will reproduce and create their own groups and thus multiply disciple-makers.
What might be the dream goal?
GDI believes that the only way to grow a disciple-making movement is through the creation of model churches. What is a model church? A model church is one whose identity is defined by being a disciple-making congregation that has a vision and practice of being a training center for other congregations both nationally and internationally. You will be introduced to the profile of a model church through specific examples of successful disciple-making congregations as well as a checklist of discernible steps to take to become a model church.
Why such a long period of two years?
Leading change to a new model of ministry requires a sustained focus. The value of the cohort is that its members provide ongoing accountability and encouragement. In ministry, it is so easy to be diverted by the immediate, such as the latest fire to be put out or program to adopt, that we can easily lose our way. Having partners who are striving for similar outcomes with whom we must check in regularly keeps us on track. In addition, this timeframe allows us to move far enough into implementing a Micro Group-based disciple-making strategy that we can see both the initial benefits and rewards with an outline for our future efforts.
What will be our curriculum?
The curriculum is presented via an online learning platform (GDI-Gele) that is user-friendly and highly interactive by design. As cohort members work through content for the month, they are often prompted to reflect on, or otherwise, respond to readings and other forms of content such as video presentations. Responses are viewed and often responded to by other members of the cohort as well as the cohort’s mentor/coach. This results in a much richer experience as members are stimulated, encouraged, and supported throughout the period leading up to the monthly Zoom meeting. Curriculum topics and sequencing are available in a separate file.