No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, you have experiences and stories that will be helpful to others.
I had been a youth minister for less than two years when one of my friends told me about Ben, one of his friends who was serving as a youth minister about an hour away from me. The church where I was serving was somewhat isolated, so I happily made plans with Ben to travel the hour to his church. We made plans to have dinner together, and then I was going to attend his youth program later that evening.
We hit it off and this became the first of many times we’d travel back and forth to visit with each other, get our youth groups together, and collaborate on weekend retreats. Ben had been in youth ministry a little longer than I had, but as our relationship developed and grew, he began to see me as a mentor. The kinds of questions he had, and the topics we explored, began to grow and develop as well. Ben had conflict with his church leaders, and I was able to help him through this by sharing how I had learned to communicate better with my own church leaders.
Several years later, I was at a church that was struggling to overcome some bad habits that were holding it back from growth and from effectively serving its neighbourhood. I was frustrated. I didn’t know what to do, and I wasn’t experienced enough to be able to help this church work through those issues.
One day, another pastor in town reached out to me. John made it a point to network with other pastors in the city, and especially with younger pastors. He took me to lunch and cared enough while I talked to suggest a semi-regular meeting. John became a mentor to me, and he helped me, through his own experiences, to tackle some of the problems my own church was facing. We were able to find some measure of healing and make progress on changing the image of the church in our neighbourhood, in large part thanks to John’s patient mentoring.
It is my firm belief that all pastors both need a mentor and need to mentor someone else. This belief is reinforced for me by the stories I hear about ministers and pastors who are burning out and leaving ministry because of the challenges the pandemic has foisted upon them.
The value of this is two-fold. You give out of what you receive. No pastor is an island, and every pastor can be helped by the experiences of another.
I recommend that you begin this journey by becoming acquainted with other pastors in your area. Put aside any denominational differences and begin reaching out to pastors for coffee. As you develop and form relationships, some will stay just at that level of friendship or acquaintanceship, but other relationships will grow. Some may become spiritual friendships, or you may find yourself being invited into a mentoring relationship by a pastor. You may even find a pastor who could use mentoring that you can offer.
To help you prepare for this, first make a list of your own weaknesses in ministry and questions that you have about ministry. Make a second list of your strengths and positive experiences. As you visit with other pastors, ask one of your questions and see how that pastor responds. Share your experiences with a pastor when you believe it may be of help.
No matter what we think of another’s doctrinal beliefs, there is a collegiality that exists in the pastorate. We can help one another. We can help one another persevere and grow.
What is holding you back from seeking a mentor? What is holding you back from being a mentor? I encourage you to seek out both types of relationships, for your greater emotional and spiritual health.
Let me know how I can serve you in this.
P.S. Sometimes you need someone to talk to, someone who has walked the same path ahead of you. I specialize in mentoring pastors who are facing transitions (whether from burnout, contemplating a job change, or looking for help with congregational issues). I’d love to talk to you and see how I can help you. Reach out to me through my contact page and let’s begin a conversation that will help you find clarity in your ministry.