I've been in vocational, local church ministry for over 15 years (basically since I was 8 years old...wink wink). I have a bachelor's degree from a private, liberal arts university. I've been to more conferences than should be legal. I know a lot of stuff and have read an excessive amount of books. I've listened to a bazillion messages and talks. Hands down, the most formative gatherings or collectives that I've been a part of over the years are cohorts. For about 5 years I participated in a junior high pastor's gathering with a group of national caliber leaders from Youth Specialties. My local church was a part of the inaugural Sticky Faith Cohort through Fuller Youth Institute for a year. And these experiences have been the most important learning venues for my leadership development.
- Small > Big. They've been invitation only group where quality has been more important than quantity or size. It's easy to hide in crowds. The big gatherings feed my adrenaline addiction. Getting lost in the sea of people doesn't require any effort. Being silent while an "expert" speaks is simple to do. The small pushes against all those and demands participation, exposure, and connection.
- Gather, Scatter, Repeat. For the couple cohorts I've been a part of, we've consistently gathered together for a shared experienced, scattered to work out our learning, then repeated that cycle. The "repeat" has been key for true change taking place in my life and context.
- Longevity of Relationships. Because of the "repeat" factor, some of my closest friends and leadership companions are from these cohorts and are spread out all over the world. The historical nature of our relationship built through a shared experience has allowed me to push through hurdles, grow through challenges, and have consistently spoken truth into my identity and perspective into my circumstances.
- Like Me but Different. I'm a big believer that dissonance creates a catalyst for growth, yet safety cultivates the ground for its possibility. When others are "like me", it creates safety and opens me up for new ideas and change. Yet it's when others are not like me, when discomfort and pain are visceral, that instigates growth. The cohorts I've been blessed to engage in have been a divine mix of both those factors. Naturally, we lean toward comfort and the path of least resistance , so we have to make intentional choices to create disequilibrium in our souls. Becoming the fullest version of ourselves demands it!
It's for those handful of reasons that I'm launching a "women in youth ministry" cohort in January and another one for "women in leadership" (general) later in 2014. I've always desired for there to be safe yet dangerous places for women to gather to be encouraged, challenged, inspired, and educated toward their best leadership contribution. The women that are coming to the table are bright, passionate, diverse, unique, gifted, and lovely. I know this will be a life-changing experience for them, not primarily because of my contribution to the collective but because the power of a cohort.
Interested? Let's talk.