This is the final part of a three part series on mentoring.
In the previous posts on mentoring, we looked first at why a mentoring relationship is so important; and second, what specific role a mentor plays in our lives as we are preparing for ministry. The next step, then, is actually finding a mentor andentering intothat relationship with them.
In principle, this is actually quite a simple thing to do. There are basically three things you want to take into consideration.
- Work on developing a philosophy of ministry. I have heard people lament that seminary focuses too much on theological development and not enough on how to implement those ideas into ministry. That may be true, but that means then that the onus is on you to spend some time figuring out what ministry will look like. Read books on the subject, visit other churches, talk to people in ministry, read different blogs, and immerse yourself in Scripture. If you are going to go into ministry you need to be prepared for that, and while you don’t have to have all the nuances of a philosophy of ministry figure out, you should at least have an idea focused in on as to what your ministry will look like.
- Find a mentor who is engaged in ministry and models your philosophy of ministry. Even if you have some of these things figured out in your head, you may not know quite yet how to hit the ground running, so to speak. At this point you want to align yourself with someone who does. Find a person who shares many of your ideas on how to approach ministry and begin to watch and observe them closely. Ask them how they prepare for a sermon, how they counsel people in various situations, how they deal with the more political side of church leadership, how they balance their time, and so on. And then watch them do it. Arrange to spend a good amount of time with them. Meet with them regularly to talk, work with them if you can. Remember the relationship Jesus had with his disciples. Try to contextualize what that mentoring relationship would look like today.
- Set yourself in the community your mentor is involved with. Be involved with the community that is being impacted by the philosophy of ministry you and your mentor share. Watch how that philosophy shapes and molds the people you are ministering too. There is no better way to determine if your ideas and approaches are contributing positively (or negatively!) to your ministry to God’s people than to see how it impacts them. Are they growing and being fed? Are they being transformed by the Gospel? Are they energized and equipped to serve God in different capacities? These are the sorts of things you can learn in this context.
If you know what you are looking for in a mentor and how that relationship will help you in shaping your ministry, then how do you actually get involved in a mentoring relationship? It’s very simple. Just ask! Find a person you have a reasonably close relationship with and who you would want to be your mentor and ask them to take up that role. Explain to them why you feel a mentoring relationship is important and how you feel they would be a blessing in helping you prepare for ministry. I’ll give you another little tip as well—if they are hesitant to do so or even say they’d rather not, they’re probably not the type of person you want mentoring you anyway.
Now, obviously there will be obstacles for some of you. Perhaps you live in a place where there are few churches and few pastors or other leaders in ministry who you could approach. Maybe you have not developed a reasonably close relationship with the leaders in your community. I would encourage you, then, to do all that you can to overcome these obstacles and find ways to work towards a mentoring relationship. Maybe that could be a point of discussion for you as our readers to contribute to in the comments.
Hopefully it is clear by this point that having this sort of relationship as you prepare for ministry is very important. A mentor can be an incredible blessing as we learn what it means to serve God and His Church in our ministry. What better way to learn than to be in the shadow of someone whose life reflects a heart fully committed to Jesus Christ.