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This time of pandemic is stretching churches more than ever before. The pandemic has accelerated the need to do ministry in new ways, and congregations are being invited to lean into creativity and adaptive change. One way to answer these challenges is to identify a small group of your church members who might join a cohort led by Faith Formation Ministries to explore ministry during Covid.

My colleague Laura Keeley and I have been working with peer learning cohort teams for the past five years. We’ve learned a lot! Here are some observations that might encourage your congregation to join an upcoming FFM cohort for this particular season.

Four Observations

We have noticed that our cohort teams typically tend to be composed of explorers and curious people who love their churches and who desire to find innovative ways to help their communities change and grow. There are people in your congregation who are made for such a time as this and are just waiting to be asked to serve in this way. Who are the leaders and entrepreneurs in your congregation whom God is calling forward to help you navigate this new world? Might a coached cohort allow these explorers to consider how your congregation can thrive? 

We have also noticed that these teams don’t stop being curious after their particular peer learning experience ends. Many teams have told us that they have been blessed by the resources and learnings of other FFM cohort groups. They also report that they’ve applied what they learned in their initial cohort subject area to other areas of ministry. If your church has participated in a cohort in the past, maybe it’s time to re-engage your team.

Another thing we have noticed about the 57 cohort teams that we have worked with over the last five years is that they know how important it is for congregations to form teams who can operate without the distractions of managing current ministry initiatives. Many of our cohort teams are made up of people who have been released from constantly dealing with urgent ministry details (Are our church school rooms large enough to allow for social distancing?) in order to address big-picture questions (How might intergenerational online faith formation experiences bless us during a time of social distancing?). Calling out a team to address big-picture questions is vital during these unsettling times. 

Cohort teams understand church culture and have tasted success and small failures. This openness to experimentation is an important gift to a congregation as we try things we never thought possible before. Examining congregational culture to see where there might be roadblocks to innovation will help councils and ministry leaders try new things, process times of discouragement, and reflect on the sustainability of new approaches.

Four Cohort Opportunities

Here are four upcoming cohort opportunities that might bless your congregation. The three from Faith Formation Ministries will be run virtually and will begin in January 2021. 

  • Third Third of Life Cohort: Congregational members who are in the third third of their lives (ages 55 and up) have been impacted in a variety of ways during this pandemic. They are experiencing everything from forced early retirement to deep isolation. Congregations who would like to explore robust ministry with this demographic can contact Laura Keeley or Lesli van Milligen for more information on this cohort.

  • Creating a Mentoring Culture Cohort: The pandemic has also highlighted the weaknesses of relying solely on youth ministry programming. In partnership with ThereforeGo Ministries (formerly Youth Unlimited), FFM will be hosting peer learning groups who want to lean into mentoring as the core of their youth and young adult engagement. Contact Ron deVries for more information.

  • Children’s Ministry Cohort: With many church school programs waiting to reengage, children’s ministry leaders (both paid and volunteer) are wondering how to best support faith formation in the home. Join this cohort to explore what this might look like in your church. Contact Mimi Larson for more information.

  • Good Governance for Better Mission is a pilot project out of Canada that will be looking at how council structure and leadership can become more robust in order to support the mission of the local church. Contact Lesli van Milligen for more information on how to join this cohort.

Your congregation needs you! This pandemic is making many church members nostalgic for the past, but our prayer is that a cohort experience will bless your congregation as it moves toward a new and robust future.

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