Cultivating Pastoral Imagination in Practice: Cohort Retreats for New Pastors and Mentors

Learning in Communities of Practice


The first years of pastoral ministry provide a rich context for what James Wind and David Wood describe as “reflective immersion,” that is, learning through reflection with peers and mentors on the actual practice of ministry. The Cohort model provides new pastors the space and interaction essential to adaptive learning, while overcoming pastoral isolation, building and sustaining professional friendships, and engaging mentors who contribute to pastoral formation and identity.

CBFNC is designing a two-year cohort program utilizing a small group model that would involve no more than 6 - 8 new pastors and 2 - 3 pastoral mentors. The two-year cohort would meet at regular intervals during their first years of pastoral ministry. Participants would share and present complex challenges from their own settings, explore the relationship between identity and practice, and explore important topics of immediate value to effective leadership and enhancing the arts of ministry.

Cohort mentors, participants and resource leaders would establish outcomes and learning goals, as well as share in the selection of readings and other materials appropriate to themes and topics that emerge from the interactions in the gatherings. Participants would provide written feedback on personal progress and learning, as well as a written self-assessment.

Mentors as facilitators and participants are central to the success of the cohort model. The goal of building communities of learning, sustainable professional friendships and habits of reflection with peers and mentors is realized through the sustained interaction between members over time. The first cohort will launch in the Fall of 2019, with an additional cohort added each Fall.

*Wind, James P. and Wood, David. J. (2008). Becoming a pastor.  Reflections on the transition into ministry. Alban Institute.