Cohorts Catalyze Transformation

A few weeks ago, I launched The Youth Cartel's second women in youth ministry coaching cohort. This group of 9 women are from 6 different states, 6 different denominational churches/organizations, and range in age from early 20s to 50-something. They've been in youth ministry anywhere from just a few months to over 15 years. They met each other on Day 1 and by Day 2 there was already loads of laughter, common connections, inside jokes, a few tears, and shared passion for the work we do.

At dinner after the first day together, one of these women boldly claimed it was her birthday (it wasn't) when a server came to our table inquiring if someone at our table had a birthday. She'll remain nameless, but here's a clue...

We laughed so hard we almost peed our pants. She was delivered a giant singing balloon. a fuzzy tiara was put on her head. And we all sang happy birthday to a girl who's birthday it wasn't.

She owned it. That's part of what I love about this cohort. They are owning it. 

In the 2 weeks since we met, I've already received 3 messages from these women about breakthroughs they've experienced. One young woman has been fearful and insecure about the teaching responsibilities in her job. So we talked through a game plan she could use practically and spiritually. She implemented that plan within a week and her confidence is growing. Another self-proclaimed workaholic emailed me that she was taking 2 whole days off this past week. She's grown tired of owning her workaholism at the expense of her soul. So, she's stopping that limiting belief and choosing a new way forward. YES! Another woman had a looming difficult conversation with her senior pastor. She was very nervous to engage in that conversation but living with that fear was worse than confronting her fear and leaning into a truthful, loving conversation with her boss. The conversation went better than she expected and she's moving into a positive, new workplace reality as a result.

Everyone made commitments about personalized next steps they must take in order to grow. Having the space to get away, learn, reflect, and commit to new practices changes us. 

What continually delights me about coaching is that we have what is needed to be the best versions of ourselves. Scripture affirms that we have been given everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). What being a part of this cohort does is gives these 9 women confidence to believe it. It gives them each other, which reminds them they aren't alone it all and that gives them courage to do what they must to do. The cohort gives them a safe place to say things they aren't sure they can say in other places. Several of my coaching conversations started with "I haven't said this out loud before..." What they shared wasn't illegal or shocking. But it was vulnerable and tough stuff and they weren't sure if those words are always welcomed elsewhere. 

In two days, we were strengthened and sharpened. This is just the beginning of our year together.  I cannot wait to see what God does with these crazy people...

The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because sh*t worked out. They got that way because sh*t went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.
— Elisabeth Gilbert, author

(Special thanks to Granger Community Church for hosting us!!)

LAUNCHING SOON! Women in Youth Ministry Cohort

There's something about the mixture of a group of likeminded individuals coming together and the accountability of a trained coach that does wonders for your growth and development as a leader and youth worker. I've learned that journeying with a safe group of peers provides fertile soil for long-lasting change.

I think that women in youth ministry are the intersection of some of my favorite people: leaders, women, and youth workers. And this environment is a beautiful opportunity for my gifts and background to be used for other women!

This whole-life coaching program is all about developing and empowering women in leadership. Being a woman in youth ministry is different. It demands unique skills and awareness as we approach the challenges and opportunities due to our gender.

We will learn across a scope of subjects focused on leadership development and youth ministry realities in this changing culture. This specialized cohort will have 8-10 women in leadership, and meets twice for 2 days plus 4 times online (2-3 hours each). Each component is very intentional and structured to provide encouragement, training, challenge, and transformation.

This cohort provides customized attention to your specific context and needs as a woman in youth ministry.

A Few Details...

  • HOW MANY: Maximum of 10 women and 5 women have already committed
  • WHO: Our group is from all over the U.S., and you do not need to be in full time ministry or a point leader. But each women must be in youth ministry in some way.
  • MEETING SCHEDULE: This cohort will meet twice for 2 full day meetings in Northern Indiana and have 4 online meetings (2-3 hours each). We will meet during the 2015-2016 school year. The specific dates will be chosen by the group. Our first face-to-face gathering will be in September, the other dates below are suggestive:
    • September: face-to-face
    • October: online
    • December: online
    • February: online
    • March: online
    • April: face-to-face
  • 1on1 COACHING: Participants receive four 30-minute phone calls with me between our face-to-face meetings
  • CONNECTION: Private Facebook group for ongoing support and interaction
  • HOMEWORK: We will do a good amount of shared, cross-disciplinary reading. I believe that Leaders are Readers! Additionally, each participate will self-assign homework based on learning and necessary, personalized growth areas
  • COST: $2000 (+ participant travel costs)

The transformation you'll experience from the other women and myself will be beyond these bullet points! You can read about Andrea's experience in our last cohort.

I've participated in similar cohorts and it's worth it. It's one of the best investments, in my opinion, you can make in your leadership. It has been for me. Conferences and network meetings are great, but they rarely produce the kind of customized, personalized, long-lasting transformation that we require as leaders.

The women who've already committed are very diverse! They are from all over the country, different denominations, different life stages, and different experiences in ministry. I'm VERY excited about our "differences" because it will make our learning that much richer and more profound!!

If you're interested in this cohort or a future one, you can learn more about the Youth Ministry Coaching Program HERE (including sample schedules and FAQs) or contact me directly HERE. I'd love to figure this out with you!

Wanna just apply? Complete this YMCP application! Can't wait until September!!


April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

The Cohort was a 'Defining Moment'

2014 Cohort

Not long ago, I wrapped up leading my very first Women in Youth Ministry Cohort with 9 women from all over the U.S. To say it was personally fulfilling and life-changing is an understatement. Of course, when you pour your life into another (2 Timothy 2:2), you always wonder how it's being received. A few weeks after the cohort ended, I received one of the greatest emails a leader can receive. One of our cohort women was asked to present to her church leadership board, her reflections from our coaching cohort. Below is her response.

I'm launching another cohort in early 2015 (as soon as we can fill it!). If you know another woman in youth ministry, please consider sending them my way. I'd love for them to share a similar journey to Andrea...

To The Church...

Over the course of my life I can point to certain chapters that I would consider to be “defining.” They are times where I have seen my soul be awakened, challenged and changed. They are moments that I couldn’t have wished for or created on my own. They are points in time that have been critical to shaping my heart. The past 10 months have been one of those defining chapters.

Last Fall I found myself feeling restless. I was in the middle of my 10th at our church as Youth Pastor. We had just brought home our son Biruk from Ethiopia after a 3 year journey of waiting. I was in the middle of a maternity leave, attempting to figure out not only how to be a Mom, but how to be a “working mom” with a paid professional job. I was struggling with so many fears in my personal life. And honestly...I was struggling to feel valued and validated.

That October, I received an email that would change the course of my life. The email was from April Diaz, a friend whom I had been corresponding with for about four years via Facebook. I had been connected to her by another woman in ministry who had taught one of the seminars I had attended at a Youth Specialties Convention. I had been struggling with my journey of infertility and in the end discovered April had walked a very similar journey as I was walking and was in the middle of adopting two children from Ethiopia. Over the 4 years, April not only encouraged me in my personal life, but began to speak into so many other areas of my life, ministry being one of them. When April emailed me last October, it was to tell me that she was starting a Women in Youth Ministry Cohort, through the organization “The Youth Cartel.” It was going to be a 10-month long cohort, comprised of 8 other women Youth Pastors from all over the country. We would gather twice together, face to face in California, video conference call several times throughout the year, and have 4 phone coaching calls with April. The purpose of the cohort would be to challenge us, affirm us, shape us, and develop us as professional women in youth ministry. I knew it was something I needed to do, so I took a leap of faith and signed up. I had no idea how it would affect my life.

Throughout the course of this cohort, I have read about 10 books that have empowered me as a woman in youth ministry, have helped me to understand my role as a working mother, have taught me so many different facets of leadership, and have taught me to lead courageously. I have learned the importance of knowing my personal vocational values and how they affect the role that I choose to be in. I have been challenged to think outside of the box with the issues I face in ministry. I have been reminded of how crucial the role of prayer is in my life. I have been not only encouraged to find a rhythm of rest as well as a monthly day of solitude in my life, but have come to love and look forward to it. Most of all, I have been forced to recognize so many of the fears I carry around with me and have chosen, with the accountability of my cohort, to face them head on.

Each month in our cohort, we set goals for ourselves and assigned personal homework to accomplish. These assignments included reading, journaling, having necessary conversations with people in our life, creating prayer teams, taking days of solitude, creating personal vocational values, taking risks, setting personal goals, facing fears and writing about them, and so much more. In the end, I was able to complete all the assignments I was given and had given myself, which I believe had a huge impact on what I got out of this cohort.

This cohort has been such a defining chapter of my life because I have learned to face my fears of failure, of the unknown, of not being good enough, and of so many things outside of my control. I have learned that my fears can’t control me and that God is so much bigger than any fear I could ever face. I have learned that I have something to offer this world and that shouldn’t be silenced. I have been taught to step out even when I think I am not good enough.

That, my friends, is why I do what I do. It's for women like Andrea and the women she represents that The Youth Cartel is so passionately committed to equipping women for church leadership.

The best is yet to come...

You can follow Andrea's remarkable journey as a momma and leader at Life Unexpected.

Comment /Source

April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.