LEAD Cohorts offer enrichment, connections


LEAD Cohorts scheduled to begin in September, By Connie Faber

LEAD Cohorts, a Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) initiative begun in 2017, are one way USMB anticipates enhancing the ministry of local church pastors and leaders while also fostering connections between USMB church staff across the country. Four LEAD Cohorts will be starting in September.

LEAD Cohorts are online meeting places for small groups of Mennonite Brethren pastors and leaders who are interested in a specific subject or in gathering with like-minded people. Cohort sessions are typically 60 to 90 minutes.

“The purpose of cohorts is to provide a place for pastors and leaders to delve into a relevant topic with others,” says Don Morris, USMB national director. “This results in good discussions, learning from one another and sharpening skills in a certain area of ministry.”

Cohorts foster new relationships

Cohorts are also one way USMB is encouraging pastors and church leaders to network, says Morris.

LEAD Cohorts are “huge for developing great new relationships among pastors and leaders—with people in the cohorts perhaps being hundreds of miles from others they interact with online every two weeks,” says Morris. “That’s part of the networking aspect of the new vision of USMB. We’re working at developing initiatives for pastors and leaders to connect with others and for churches to connect with other churches. It’s all about coming together as Mennonite Brethren and cohorts are a major part of that strategy.”

Morris sees LEAD Cohorts as a win-win situation. “I personally don’t see much downside to the cohorts,” he says. “They are short and sweet time wise, meet for three to four months and are free, except for perhaps buying a book or two. Participants get to meet others they may not know very well while at the same time learning new things about ministry. It’s hard to beat.”

LEAD Cohorts use Zoom Video Communications, a company that provides remote conferencing services using cloud computing. “Set-up for Zoom is also easy,” says Morris. “It’s a matter of clicking one link sent to you in an email.”

Four cohorts begin in September

LEAD Cohorts were introduced in early 2017, with the first cohort focused on preaching. That cohort, led by Jared Pulliam, was well received, says Morris, and will be repeated this fall.

Pulliam’s cohort, “The Disciple-Making Power of Expository Preaching,” will be offered in 10 weekly sessions beginning in September. “This cohort is designed specifically for participants to refine Bible teaching skills in community with others and in doing so, develop their abilities in the service of Christ and his kingdom,” says Pulliam, who is lead pastor of Christ Church Sellwood in Portland, Oregon.

While only one cohort was offered in spring, this fall multiple options are available.

Chandelle Claassen, a trained spiritual director and certified life coach living in Newton, Kansas, will lead “Introduction to Spiritual Formation.” This cohort will meet seven or eight times and will introduce biblical and Christ-centered spiritual formation. “We will explore the importance of soul care practices with the intent to embrace who we are uniquely created in Christ to be,” says Claassen, who is also a member of the USMB LEAD Coaching team. “Group sharing will be an enriching component of our time together.”

John Oelze, executive pastor at First MB Church, Wichita, Kansas, will lead a cohort focused on pastoral counseling. “Through personal counseling interactions that take place as a cohort, we will be reminded and refreshed with the move of the Holy Spirit as he guides us in examining our own hearts to bring about change in others.” Oelze is planning for “Refreshing Your Pastoral Counseling” to involve seven to eight biweekly sessions.

“Coffee Shop Talk” will provide pastors with an opportunity to visit with ministry peers about common issues and challenges. This cohort will be led by Pat Coyle, senior pastor of Shafter (California) MB Church. Coyle anticipates that each gathering will focus on a specific topic, such as balancing ministry and family or dealing with conflict.

As Morris prepares for future cohorts, feedback from participants will help to identify what topics to address in upcoming cohorts and what can be done differently in the future to improve the experience.

Individuals interested in participating in one of the fall 2017 cohorts are encouraged to register as the number of participants in each cohort is limited. To register, email Don Morris (don@usmb.org) or Lori Taylor (lori@usmb.org).


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