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Christian Formation cohort groups are just about the best gift ever

Educator says the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators cohort has been ‘a real lifesaver’

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Christian Educator Linda Babcock says participating in a Christian Formation cohort gave her hope that she could continue to reach people of all ages who could no longer come to church because of the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Orchard Park Presbyterian Church)

LOUISVILLE — As cohort groups are being formed by the Office of Christian Formation in partnership with the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators and Presbyterian Youth Workers Association, Christian educator Linda Babcock said her cohort was “a real lifesaver.”

“It was truly validating,” she said. “Like OK, I’m headed in the right direction, I can keep doing this. It made me braver to keep trying new things during COVID.”

The cohorts, which will begin after Easter, are listed below:

APCE

  • Dismantling Structural Racism
  • People of Color Serving in Faith Formation Ministries
  • New Models of Faith Formation

PYWA

  • LBGTQIA+ youth
  • New Models of Youth Ministry
  • Basics of Youth Ministry

Stephanie Fritz, coordinator of Christian Formation, helped start 20 cohort groups last fall, in partnership with the Christian Formation Partner Association Collective. She’s excited that more PC(USA) leaders like Babcock can benefit from shared learning among denominational and ecumenical colleagues in a post-pandemic world.

“These cohorts are unique as they encourage participation from all church leaders and aren’t limited to paid clergy or staff. They’re also free of charge,” she said.  “Those who participated in our initial cohorts with APCE and PYWA felt connected and inspired and had renewed energy for their ministry context.”

Babcock is the director of education and mission at Orchard Park Presbyterian Church in Orchard Park, New York. Her initial six-week cohort, “Virtual and Hybrid Faith Formation,” proved so valuable that each member decided to continue to meet monthly in 2021.

Made up of people in every region in the nation, cohort members share practical ideas of how they’re staying connected to their congregations during the pandemic, along with what is working in their context. They also pray for each other and ask questions that help keep the focus of their work on the “why?”

“This helps clarify what we need to let go of,” Babcock said, “and what we need to take up as educators that we have never taken on before.”

According to Babcock, her cohort has given her hope that she can continue to reach people who are not coming to church by offering them the gospel message.

“They’re helping educators be the church in the world, and not at a physical address,” she said, “so that we can be the powerful presence of the Spirit of the living God.  Of all the gifts APCE has given its members, the gift of free cohorts is the best ever.”

For questions about the collectives being offered contact Stephanie Fritz.  She notes that More Light Presbyterians will partner with Christian Formation and PYWA in the LGBTQI+ youth cohort. 

Register for the APCE cohorts now. Registration for PYWA cohorts will open soon.


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