Ask anyone who grew up in church, and they will tell you that we could do a better job of identifying, equipping and sending young pastors to do serious gospel work. With total dependence on the Lord Jesus, and with your help, we seek to change that. Before we embark on this journey, let us briefly discuss the vast subject of mentoring, specifically, a pastor mentor initiative, and what it could look like in the church. We will begin with a few faithful examples of some of the most prolific mentors in all of history.
From where do we get the concept of mentorship?
Some say the idea of mentorship, advising or training of a student by an experienced teacher, comes from Homer’s classic Greek poem, “The Odyssey,” written around 700 BC. It portrays a character around 1200 BC named Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who travelled and fought for 10-20 years. Odysseus wanted to ensure there was a trusted person who would ultimately take care of his infant son, Telemachus, while he was away. This guardian’s name was Mentor.
The Bible paints a perfect picture of what it looks like to be a mentor and mentee through the relationships between Jesus and his early disciples.
It’s important to note that the first word for Christian was not the word “Christian” but the word “disciple,” (Mathētēs). This Greek term gives us our English word for mathematics and describes a person who learns from another by instruction, whether formal or informal.
There are many passages we could pull from, but John 13 gives us a wonderful glimpse into the mentor-mentee relationship:
“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:13-15).
Next, we will take a look at the apostle Paul’s ministry of mentoring. When we closely examine the Pastoral Epistles, Paul’s motif throughout his letters urges his young apprentice, Timothy, to “receive his instructions” and “to learn” not only the theology but also the practicality of gospel ministry. “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Jesus and Paul’s examples alone are enough for us to perceive the urgency and mandate that was communicated to the early disciples and young pastor Timothy for a mentor-mentee ministry. This is where the Pastor Mentor Initiative enters.
The practical purposes for this initiative are to:
- Provide a healthy example of personal growth (between mentor and mentee) as a follower of Christ.
- Provide a healthy environment in a local church to equip, affirm and send men into pastoral ministry.
There are several necessary elements to make this initiative a success for both the mentor and mentee.
Intentional And Relational
Before the process begins, there must be a commitment from the pastor mentor, church leadership, church membership and mentee. As a pastor of the same church for 10 years, I found that if I passionately explained the process to the church members and asked for their blessing, they expected me to mentor a group of young men from a local Bible college or seminary and came to embrace the initiative. We intentionally gave the mentees the specific title of “pastoral intern.” Because of that, the intern was able to gain experience in various areas of pastoral ministry, such as youth, children, worship, etc.
Additionally, there is a suggested commitment for one-year (or two semesters for students), if possible. A time commitment of at least 10 hours a week is also recommended. Of course, both parties should allow for flexibility, but with an understanding that time is vital for this kind of initiative to work and for the mentee to learn the practical elements of pastoral ministry.
Ultimately, mentors and mentees strengthen the skill of being relational through the nurturing of their own relationship. They must intentionally spend regular time together. Here are some simple ways to do so: hang out before, during and after church services; share a meal; enjoy a ball game; attend a local associational meeting, state convention event or any conference; and discuss life and leadership, faith and family and ministry.
Experiential And Practical
It is vital for a pastor mentor to empower and show his mentee how to be involved in the daily aspects of pastoral ministry. Several examples include: hospital and nursing home visits, funerals and weddings, counseling sessions (when approved by all parties for confidentiality purposes), conflict resolution, calendar planning, church business meetings, cleaning bathrooms, and staff and church leadership meetings. It is also important to include the young preacher in often overlooked community involvement with schools, municipalities, first responders, etc. Of course, he should also be encouraged in the activities of personal evangelism and sermon preparation.
Furthermore, the mentor needs to intentionally commit to include the mentee in the preaching/teaching ministry of the church, with an evaluation process and a game plan for improvement. I’m not just talking about Wednesday and Sunday nights. While those services are highly important for young pastors/preachers to gain invaluable experience, Sunday mornings are significant as well. I realize in some contexts this is not a reality. However, if statistics are true, and two-thirds of our churches are 100 people or less, then I’m personally convinced we could and should be seeing novice and inexperienced preachers taking the stage on Sunday morning in most of our churches.
When we made this a regular practice in my previous pastorate, I would educate our church body about what would be taking place days and weeks in advance. From the pulpit, I would openly talk about the potential for these beginning preachers to make mistakes while delivering a sermon. It took pressure off the church, preacher and me.
By learning this information upfront, the church knew it had a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to play a significant role in the development of these young preachers. The church then embraced it and expected to have a regular rotation of unseasoned preachers in the pulpit.
If possible, there should be a commitment to an ordination process, which I strongly recommend be more robust than what many of us are accustomed to. For instance, over a period of six to eight months, I have taken each of about a dozen young mentees through an ordination process. Hopefully, in the near future, there will be more published on this subject.
What a wonderful opportunity the Lord has laid before the church! Will you join us as we wholeheartedly embrace this great responsibility?
Are you currently serving as a seasoned pastor and interested in being a pastor mentor? Are you a student enrolled in Bible college or seminary and/or a new pastor in your first years of ministry and interested in being mentored? If so, contact your Pastor/Church Relations department today.