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Cohorts benefit members and leaders alike

Coaches of Christian Formation cohort groups rejuvenated through connections made with ministry partners

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

This fall, 20 cohorts were offered by the Christian Formation Partner Association Collective.

LOUISVILLE — Gina Yeager-Buckley came away from her experience coaching the Presbyterian Youth Workers Association (PYWA) cohort for the Office of Christian Formation dramatically changed.

“I’m excited again, renewed,” she said. “It took me back to my love and passion for youth ministry.”

Gina Yeager-Buckley

From the start, Yeager-Buckley’s PYWA cohort — one of 20 cohorts offered this fall by members of the Christian Formation Partner Association Collective — clicked and became important to cohort members.

She said members in the cohort really talked and listened to each other, using one of the principles of holy listening: no interruption. It worked so well that the cohort is planning on getting together for an informal gathering in 2021.

“We’re missing each other, the creative support and encouragement we were getting,” Yeager-Buckley said.

Stephanie Fritz

According to Stephanie Fritz, coordinator of Christian Formation, the “Enhance and Innovate your Youth Ministry” was just one of 20 cohorts offered this fall by some of the ministry partners with the Christian Formation collective.

PYWA, the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE), and UKirk Collegiate Ministries Association all started cohort groups this fall.  Each member of the collective — including Presbyterian Church Camp & Conference Association (PCCCA) and Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network (POAMN) — have expressed interest in establishing 2021 cohorts.

Christian Formation has now trained 17 coaches in the basics of coaching from the International Coaching Federation, through Vibrant Faith Coaching.

Becky D’Angelo-Veitch, director of Faith Formation at Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, coached two cohorts for APCE.  She said most of the people in the “I’m New” cohort had started their jobs during the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, they hadn’t met many members of the congregation — at least face-to-face.

Becky D’Angelo-Veitch

“They’d been working in silos, so we were able to connect them to other educators and resources,” she said, “which we believe is hugely important.”

D’Angelo-Veitch also coached the “Permanently Out of the Box Faith Formation” cohort. She was excited that everyone in that group felt like the pandemic had given them an opportunity to reset their ministry priorities.

“No one talked about going back to what was normal,” she said. “Instead, we talked about how we don’t want to miss this opportunity to reach out to educators in rural areas that we previously we haven’t connected with.”

A retired pastor, the Rev. Von Clemans in Charlotte, North Carolina, also coached two APCE groups, “Leading Well” and “Virtual and Hybrid Faith Formation.” The takeaway for him from both groups — which have decided to continue to meet in 2021 — was the same.

the Rev. Von Clemans

“Watching groups of people scattered all over the country forming relationships that will continue beyond this cohort was amazing,” he said. “Seeing them appreciate each other’s insights and support, and what it provides their work, in the midst of the pandemic is a paradigm shift that I personally hope will continue.”

Fritz said Theology, Formation & Evangelism ministries, where Christian Formation is housed, discerned in 2020 that cohorts and coaching would be a focus of all its ministry areas.

“The pandemic has shown us the importance of ministry leaders connecting with one another — and that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for ministry,” she said. “Coaching helps draw out the excellence already within ministry leaders, rather than offering a prescribed approach.”

“Because we value our partnerships within the collective, we wanted our cohort groups to begin with them.”

 Other cohort topics being offered through the Christian Collective Partnership include:

Anti-Racism, Hard Conversations about Race for White People, Intergenerational Ministries, Partnering with Parents, Presbytery Level Youth Ministry, Small Church Ministries, Fund Development for Campus Ministries and New to Campus Ministry.

 The Office of Theology & Worship will also start pastoral ministry cohorts in 2021. Other TFE ministries, including Christian Formation, Vital Congregations and 1001 New Worshiping Communities, are collaborating to support a coaching network.

 If you’re Interested in being part of cohort group, which are available for Christian Formation leaders, educators, youth leaders, pastors and volunteers in the church, contact Stephanie Fritz.

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