Jesus said, "Go and make disciples."

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 total of these 2 years together, we will guide and coach participants as they:

  • Evaluate the state of discipleship principal causes, within their church or ministry.
  • Acquire a solid biblical and theological foundation for relational disciple-making.
  • Experience, practice and multiply a micro group (3-4 others).
  • Form a leadership change team made up of staff and key lay leaders.
  • Formulate a vision with a 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 your ministry 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 4 since we are trying to live out the value of micro groups. Limiting the group to 4 optimizes the opportunity for all participants to interactively make contributions as well as receive feedback. Our experience is that if we make it any larger, such as 6-8, there are too many people dividing up the available “air time."

Group dynamics suggest that in a group of 6-8 people, several would be largely silent while 2-3 would dominate. If we have 4, everyone tends to 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 online meeting of 2 hours via Zoom (or Google Meet) will need to be blocked. Since we most likely will be in different time zones and groups may have international participants, this time would need to be faithfully guarded once we have arrived at a regular time each month.

Your 17-session cohort will stretch over 2 years with built-in seasonal breaks. For example, the months of July, August, and December.

How much does it cost?

The cohort fee is $100/session prepaid monthly. We suggest 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-management 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, and more. Continue leading a lead a “micro group” throughout your time in the cohort. Ideally, members of your micro group will reproduce by initiating their own micro groups while you are collaboratively a member of the cohort.

What might be the dream goal?

We believe 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. Because the value of the cohort is that members provide ongoing accountability and encouragement, your investment in making disciples who make disciples is essential. In ministry, we find that being distracted and diverted by the immediate—such as the latest fire to be put out or program to adopt—we can easily lose our way.

Having partners who are striving for similar outcomes with whom we must check in regularly helps to keep 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 as an outline for our future efforts.

What will be our curriculum?

The curriculum is presented via an online learning platform ( Gele is an online, scalable mentoring/discipleship platform with built-in transparency and accountability focused on making reproductive disciples that is user-friendly and highly interactive by design. As your cohort members work through content for the month, they are often prompted to reflect on and respond to readings and other forms of content such as video presentations.

Responses are viewed only by your group 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.


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