December 20, 2022 • Third Third Journal
A Little Background
When Michaela O’Donnell joined the De Pree Center staff a few years ago, she piloted a program called Road Ahead. Based on her Ph.D. dissertation research, Road Ahead is a six-week cohort experience that helps people in times of vocational transition discern God’s presence and guidance. I had the privilege of leading several Road Ahead cohorts specifically for folks in the third third of life. It was wonderful to walk alongside a small group of committed, caring people as we worked through the Road Ahead process together. I watched as God did some amazing things in people’s lives.
Fast forward to one year ago. I was working hard on our video course, Flourishing in the Third Third of Life. As I spent many hours in research and writing, it occurred to me that what I was learning would be perfect for a Road-Ahead-style cohort experience in addition to a course experience. (A course emphasizes learning through listening, individual study, and small group conversation; a cohort features personal reflection, small group interaction, and experiential practice.) I explained what I was envisioning to Michaela, who had become the Executive Director of the De Pree Center. She expressed enthusiasm about the potential for developing a third third flourishing cohort program and encouraged me to pursue it.
In the first months of this year, I began to build a six-week cohort experience based on all that I had been learning about third third flourishing. In the spring I led a prototype of the cohort, followed by a second iteration and a third. The Third Third Flourishing cohort is now ready for wider circulation, with trustworthy content, tested methodologies, and trained guides.
How the Third Third Flourishing Cohort Works
The Third Third Flourishing cohort is a six-week, two-hours-per-week group experience that uses the Zoom platform (though it could happen in person). A cohort comprises five to ten people in or approaching the third third of life (around 55 years and up). Cohort participants are eager to learn in an experiential way how to flourish in their season of life. They are committed, not only to their own growth, but also to that of their fellow cohort members.
Cohort sessions are led by trained guides and supported by an extensive workbook. Each session includes time for personal reflection, breakout group interaction, whole cohort conversation, and topical mini-lectures. Between sessions, members engage in guided personal reflection and practical “experiments” that move them forward on the way to flourishing. Cohorts usually meet either weekly or every other week.
The Third Third Flourishing cohort and the Third Third Flourishing course have been designed so that someone can do just the cohort, just the course, or both the course and the cohort in any order. The course, as I have noted before, emphasizes content delivery and learning with encouragement for personal application. The cohort facilitates personal reflection and experimentation in the context of a supportive community. Both ways of learning have value and will serve people with diverse needs and learning styles.
When Will the Third Third Flourishing Cohorts Begin?
We will be offering the first cohorts beginning in March 2023. As soon as we have firmed up the schedule, we will publish it online and notify all of our Third Third Life subscribers.
What Will a Third Third Flourishing Cohort Cost?
The basic tuition fee is $500 per person for a cohort experience. This fee allows us to pay the guides, produce the materials, cover the cost of administration, and reserve some funds for scholarships. If someone wishes to participate in a cohort but cannot afford the fee, the De Pree Center will work with that person to supply needed scholarship support.
The De Pree Center will be offering many Third Third Flourishing cohorts throughout the year. Individuals can join a group. Or, in some cases, an existing group (like your small group from church) might decide to have a cohort experience together.
We have found that some organizations are looking for a deeper and more extensive partnership with us. For example, the De Pree Center has recently joined forces with a major denomination to train its leaders to serve as guides for third third cohorts comprising people from that denomination. If your organization is interested in such a partnership, please contact me for more information (email@example.com).
Stay tuned for more information about our Third Third Flourishing Cohorts.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.