How did Jesus educate his key leaders?…
Mark 3:14 gives us a summary of Jesus’ educational model for leadership development: “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out.” (NIV)
In today’s terms, we might say that Jesus formed a cohort — a small group (large enough to be dynamic but small enough to be relational) that brings together those who share a common bond around which a supportive community of learners can be nurtured.
A similar vision informs Gordon-Conwell’s Cohort-Based Education (CBE) offerings:
Gathering global Christian leaders
into intentional communities
to know Christ more deeply
to make him known more broadly.
- Ministry is inherently isolating, leading to multiple deficiencies and pathologies among many ministers. Unfortunately, theological education can contribute to and even aggravate that isolation when the student-leader is treated primarily as a single individual actor. One effective means of addressing the problem of isolation is by creating cohorts of students, especially of students who are already in significant ministries in their local contexts. Within these environments, ministry leaders can share issues, challenges, and opportunities with other like-minded ministry leaders and grow together spiritually and professionally.
- The foundational value of a cohort is a student studying with the same peers for a sustained and preestablished set of courses over a sustained period. This process has the potential to build mutual support which not only aids learning and retention in the short term of obtaining their degree, but nurtures life-long relationships for shared life and ministry.
What are some of the benefits of Cohort-Based Education at Gordon-Conwell?
- Mentoring by Leading Scholar Practitioners: Cohorts are mentored by a Gordon-Conwell approved instructors who speak the language of the cohort. This mentor will meet with the cohort as a group on a regular basis, reviewing their status within the program of study, leading group discussions, and also will meet one-on-one for personal academic advising, ministry mentoring, and discipleship.
- Predictability: Once a cohort is formed and scheduled, students and sponsoring partners such as congregations, denominations, or parachurch organizations all benefit from knowing exactly what to expect for the duration of the cohort:
- Courses and course locations/times/delivery systems are pre-set, laid out upon entry to the cohort.
- Students do not need to register for each individual course once they are registered for the cohort.
- Tuition is fixed for the bundle of courses as long as students remain in the cohort.
- Tuition is paid on a regular schedule (quarterly or monthly) rather than per course or per semester.
Cohorts aren’t always the best approach for every student since they lack the flexibility of having total freedom to pick and choose when and what you study. However, for students already in ministry full-time or part-time, Gordon-Conwell cohorts have proven to be a highly effective way to earn a graduate theological degree in a way that feeds directly back into your ministry without crashing your schedule or your bank account. Besides, you’ll be following the same approach Jesus used with his first followers.