In God’s kindness and providence, I am blessed to lead five Pastor Cohorts, a Discipleship Ministers Cohort, and a Children's Ministers Cohort each month this school year. I regularly hear how much the pastors and other participants appreciate these cohorts. We meet in either restaurants like Chick-fil-A, or around a conference table in my office. Since Covid, most meet at our office - which is centrally located. We meet for an hour to an hour and a half at 8:30am, 11:30am, or 7:00pm. Each cohort chooses the location that is best for them.
The 7:00pm cohort of bi-vocational pastors often meets by Zoom since it is hard for them to get here after work. They had rather go home and grab a bite and meet by Zoom, which works fine as long as you have a Pro Zoom account like our association does so you do not time-out after 45 minutes.
I believe leading these cohorts is a great way for me to invest in and disciple pastors and other ministry leaders. I love how cohorts help me get to know, pray for, and fellowship with these leaders. In addition, they get to know one another better, pray for one another, and learn from one another. In my experience, both the younger pastors and the older ones appreciate cohorts better than us having monthly Pastor Conferences. It is more intimate - 4-6 guys plus me. In fact, since we started these several years ago, we have reduced our Pastors Conferences from ten times a year to 4-6 times a year. We still have these – as well as an Equip Conference and a Southside Summit - because over half of our Pastors are not in a cohort yet.
I create one agenda for each of the nine sessions spanning from August to May, and use that same agenda with all the cohorts that month. We meet during the first two weeks of the month so holidays do not affect us. Today, for example, I had 8:30am and 11:30am cohorts, and all were present except for one pastor who had jury duty. Of course, some do miss due to funerals and other obligations but, generally, they really appreciate these cohorts and do not miss if at all possible.
I call them Cohorts instead of Roundtables because I want to lead them, set the agenda each month, and choose the participants based on their schedules and my knowledge of the best chemistry for each cohort. Before we started, I casted the vision of being a network of Gospel-Driven churches, and emphasized how I wanted as many pastors as possible to participate in these cohorts. I reached out to them by text, email, and calls to see who was interested and what times and days they were available. They graciously allowed me to put them in the various cohorts. Two of our cohorts are made up of younger pastors in their 30's and 40's, and half of them are new to our association. Most cohorts are a mix of ages. I want them to take these cohorts seriously, to be consistent, and for all of us to be on the same page.
Another reason I normally lead these is to keep them on track and on time. In addition, I want to keep them from degenerating into gripe sessions or times when one person monopolizes the group. (If you would want to use my agendas for any of the books we have already done, I would be glad to share those with you.)
I choose a book a year to go through as our emphasis for that year - and to meet a need that I see in many pastors/churches. Roundtables seem to be more "catch as catch can" led by various pastors who choose their own book/topic, have minimal accountability, and the AMS is just an observer or a participant when he can make it.
Our association buys the books out of a ministry team budget that relates to that area of emphasis. Cohorts are how I get pastors to read and interact with at least one book a year. In my experience, many pastors would not read and process books like the ones we study unless they did so with the accountability of a cohort and with me taking the lead in guiding the discussion.
Here is how we started:
"The Gospel-Driven Church", by Jared Wilson, a professor at Midwestern Seminary
Chapter three examines five “metrics of grace” to examine a church’s fruitfulness, following the pattern of Jonathan Edwards’ book, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.
- A growing esteem for Christ
- A discernable spirit of repentance
- A dogged devotion to the Word of God
- An interest in theology and doctrine
- An evident love for God and neighbor
Five Metrics of Gospel-Driven Churches
- Conviction of Sin and Repentance
- Devotion to the Word of God
- Theology and Doctrine
- Love for God and Neighbor
Five Year Strategy Toward Becoming A Network of Gospel-Driven Churches
2020-21 Emphasis: “The Gospel-Driven Church: Uniting Church-Growth Dreams with the Metrics of Grace,” Jared Wilson (Pastor Cohorts and Southside Summit, though the Southside Summit had to be cancelled last minute due to another COVID outbreak)
2021-22 Emphasis: Community Impact – “Loving Your Community: Proven Practices for Community-Based Outreach Ministry,” Steve Viars (Metric: Love for God and Neighbor) (Cohorts and Equip Conference)
2022-23 Emphasis: “The Multiplication Effect: Building a Leadership Pipeline That Solves Your Leadership Shortage,” Mac Lake (Base the pipeline on the 5 Metrics) (Cohorts and Southside Summit)
2023-24 Emphasis: “A Praying Life: Connecting With God In a Distracting World,” Paul E. Miller (distributed at our 2022 Annual Meeting to all present)
(Metrics: Growing in Holiness, Conviction of Sin, and Repentance)
2024-25 Emphasis: “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers,” Dane Ortlund (Metrics: Devotion to the Word of God; Theology and Doctrine)
What have you found that the Lord has blessed and used to coach/disciple/mentor pastors?
To the praise of His glory,