We often hear network, network, network but there are also advantages of a smaller cohort if you are in Christian Education.
Network, network, network is often advice received when you are looking for a new job, but there are also advantages of a smaller cohort once you have a Christian Education position.
What Is a Cohort?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definitions of a cohort are:
- companion, colleague
- band, group.
Denominational networks are great and full of resources but can be big—sometimes HUGE—and overwhelming. A cohort is a smaller group, maybe only a few people, where you really focus on what is important to you, support each other, and so much more.
Why Be Part of a Cohort?
I have a couple of small cohorts, two to three other Christian Education leaders each, that I meet with every six weeks or so that I call my “CE support groups.” We share ideas, troubles, ask for help, vent, and laugh. One life-changing idea (okay, perhaps not life-changing but definitely helpful) I learned by meeting with these colleagues is to pass out lollipops at the beginning of each confirmation meeting for less chatter while you are teaching—it’s hard to talk with your friends during class if you have a lollipop in your mouth. I’m not sure I could keep my sanity or stay in the field if I didn’t have these other CE peeps in my life!
I don’t know any CE leader that doesn’t work hard to stay within budget. With a cohort, you can share physical resources (VBS decorations, supplies that your church doesn’t need, books or Bibles that are no longer used, a portable Gaga Ball pit, etc.) When leaders share resources, they no longer need, everyone wins!
There’s an old Swedish saying, “Shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” So true, especially in a group of Christian education leaders. Sharing your successes—and your not-so-much successes—can help others, and who doesn’t like to have someone to celebrate a success with you, or support you when something hasn’t gone well? And you might be amazed at how many other church programs struggle with the same issues you do, like “that one kid…“ who sounds just like the one you are struggling to reach.
Sure, it takes up some of your valuable work time, but saves so much more. Why reinvent the wheel when it’s already been invented—probably more than once?
How Do I Build or Start a Cohort?
You may already have the beginnings of a cohort and don’t know it. Are there other CE leaders you’ve met in neighboring churches, or at a large denomination network event? Ask them if they’d be interested in meeting occasionally to share ideas. One thing we learned during the pandemic is that Zoom or other online video meeting programs can be a great way to meet.
Don’t know anyone in your area but would like to? An easy way to begin is just calling and asking them to meet you for coffee (better yet, offer to buy them a coffee!) and just get to know each other and your respective churches’ programs. If you are in a rural setting or distance keeps you from meeting in person, you can still meet for coffee by each of you brewing your own and meeting in the comfort of your own space using a conferencing app.
I’ve met some interesting people through my network and cohort contacts, some I want to know better and some who aren’t a great fit for me. I’ve heard of some awesome activities that didn’t quite fit my situation, but they sparked other ideas I could use. And, as my mother used to say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and “You won’t know until you try.” So, give cohorts a try!
About the Writer
Cindy Paulson is a seasoned Christian Educator, currently serving as Director of Faith Formation at a church in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN. Her favorite group to work with is middle schoolers, if you can reach them, you can reach anyone!
Cindy’s passion for easy-to-use, theologically solid, and engaging curricula make being Lead Editor at Spirit & Truth Publishing more fun than work.
This blog post is part of a monthly series of practical advice for faith formation leaders by faith formation and education professionals. Summaries of these posts are sent in a monthly email to email subscribers. Subscribe today!