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.

Watching and Learning

I grew up in a faith tradition that didn't have a model for a woman with leadership and teaching gifts. The roles available for women revolved around the kitchen and the home. In the church, women could display leadership by organizing potlocks and teaching children until they reached puberty. From an early age, I absorbed what would be my future. Until God surprisingly called me into youth ministry when I was 16 years old.

There was zero framework for that calling. That didn't happen where I came from. And it didn't fit anywhere in my experience, or what I saw other women doing in their lives.

By the grace of God, my parents and others began affirming my calling and I was swept into pursuing that calling. The first stop of my training began at Willow Creek Community Church.

I was 18 years old.

In those formative early days of leadership, my first boss in the church was a woman, who's since become one of my dearest friends. I also watched two Nancy's use their gifts to lead teams and ministries, teach on Sunday mornings (gasp!), serve on the management team and elder board. It was revolutionary to me.

Nancy Beach is one of those Nancy's.

Nancy's been a pioneer in her generation and mine. She was a founding leader at Willow Creek. She created and lead an arts team that revolutionized creativity in the church. People weren't using drama and so many other creative mediums before Nancy did. She was invited to teach at churches and conferences all over the world on matters of creativity and leadership. She's been one of the key women on the forefront in the evangelical church for three decades. That's a long time to pioneer something.

For nearly 20 years, I've watched Nancy from a distance. I was astounded to see a woman - a mom even - providing such significant and important public service in the church. I couldn't believe the anointing she carried when she preached on Sunday morning (and not just on Mother's Day!). It rattled my thinking to know her voice actually influenced Bill Hybels, the senior pastor. I remember her carrying a critical role in the church as they set out to raise a bazillion dollars. I stood in awe when I saw her year after year pastor a Global Leadership Summit with tens of thousands of leaders. I remember her speaking at staff meetings, giving pastoral care to a staff of over 500 men and women.

I remember Nancy's voice in my life as a young woman when she told me that my leadership and teaching mattered. It changed me. She showed me what was possible when the Holy Spirit intentionally gives you a gift.

In the past couple years, Nancy has provide a much more up close and personal role in my life. I count her among my wise counsel and I love her deeply. She's provided perspective, wisdom, care, intimate personal experience, hope, challenge, and better skills for me in challenging leadership and personal seasons. She's been quick to say "yes" to my request for a quick phone call or Skype conversation. She's been generous with me in every way.

She's shown and taught me to stay the course as a woman in leadership, even when it's so.very.hard.

Yet with all of Nancy's investment and influence - and hundreds running along beside her - there's still a gap in the church. She so articulately laments,

Women church leaders tell me stories of small ways, and larger ways, in which they have felt overlooked, excluded, diminished, unfairly compensated, and misunderstood. There are also many stories of churches where the opposite is true, where women feel valued and empowered. Yet most female leaders who cross my path feel somewhat alone in their journey, and are occasionally or often tempted to just give up, bury their gifts, and quiet their voice.

This is why the Women in Youth Ministry Campference is so important. We need each other as we journey through these challenges. We need to be reminded we aren't alone. We need our gifts to be emboldened so the church becomes all she must be. And we need to get better, stronger, smarter, more soulful as we faithfully lead and teach in our churches.

And this is why I'm beyond thrilled Nancy agreed to speak at WYMC this Spring. She was quick to say "yes" to coming and speaking and coaching to this next generation of female leaders and teachers. She's so deeply committed to pouring her life into ours and this is just one of the ways she's living it out.

What a gift to have Nancy with us. I know you'll soak up all she has to offer. I hope to see you there.


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.