Pastors called to plant or replant a church often find themselves facing an impossible challenge. Armed with little more than a vision and some faith, they attempt to start what hasn’t been started before: A specific church in a specific area with them as the pastor. The challenge can seem bigger than it is because pastors often feel like they are facing it alone.
A recent University of Virginia study asked people to put on a heavy backpack and estimate the steepness of a hill. Those alone believed the hill to be quite steep. Those with friends found the hill to be less steep; the stronger the friendship, the less steep the hill.
We feel stronger when friends are with us. We feel weaker when we are alone.
As Paul wrote, “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting fear without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Cor. 7:5-6).
The Lilly Endowment spent $84 million over 10 years to allow 63 Protestant and Catholic organizations to study what practices are necessary for pastors to sustain excellence over a lifetime of ministry. They found the single-most important practice, across every organization, was participation in a structured learning community of peers. These groups not only benefit the pastor, but also his congregation: Pastors in formal peer groups lead congregations that serve the church, reach out to others, and grow at higher rates than churches with pastors that don’t participate in peer groups. This is true for both existing pastors and emerging church planters.
If you are a church planter or replanter in your first two years or no more than 18 months out from planting your church, we invite you to apply for our church planter cohort. Participating in the cohort will help you develop the characteristics and relationships necessary to sustain a healthy, fruitful ministry for the long haul. You won’t be doing this by yourself; you’ll be doing it with your peers. You can learn more about the members of our current Church Planter Cohort here.
The cohort is a finishing school, so to speak. Cohort members are already gifted in areas like preaching and theology. They meet Biblical qualifications for an elder. They are gifted leaders. It assumes they have enough risk tolerance and drive to start something new. It assumes they could do what God called them to do without the cohort, but will benefit from directed reflection on their life, leadership, and ministry.
Our Church Planter Cohort allows you to spend extended time building the characteristics necessary to sustain healthy, fruitful ministry. Together with peers you will build these characteristics into your life and ministry by gathering 12 times over a year for unique experiences, training from recognized experts in these areas, and time building into one another the encouragement we all need to sustain fruitful ministry.
These characteristics are the result of a seven-year study on resilient pastoral ministry lead by Covenant Seminary in partnership with Reformed Theological Seminary and Westminster Seminary and funded by the Lily Endowment. The results of that study are detailed in the book Resilient Ministry.