While the ministry of a pastor is very different than the career of a businessman, pastors also can benefit from having mentors. New pastors especially may need extra encouragement and advice as they start their ministry. But even experienced pastors can profit from the reinforcement a good mentor can offer. In fact, mentoring can be a very vital part of the church body.
There are many advantages to a mentoring partnership, both to the mentor and the protégé.
In addition to helping you learn how to manage stress, a mentor can help you explore your strengths and weaknesses, establish personal and ministerial goals, evaluate problems and develop solutions.
You also may find that being mentored can help you increase your self-confidence, provide a deeper understanding of the ministry, improve communication skills, resolve conflicts and learn how to balance ministerial obligations and personal responsibilities.
By listening to someone else and sharing knowledge, a mentor has the opportunity to "give back," not only to an individual but also to the church as a whole.
While The United Methodist Church has a mentorship program for ordination candidates, mentoring doesn't have to be relegated to organized programs or for new or young pastors alone. In fact, the resources offered for candidates and clergy might be beneficial for anyone seeking a mentoring relationship.
If you think you might benefit from having a mentor, here are a few steps you can take:
Find someone you trust and admire.
When trying to find a great mentor, consider looking for someone who shares your values, is both a teacher and a listener, and who demonstrates a sincere care for others (particularly you). Look for someone you might want to emulate in your ministry.
Get to know the person, but don't put that person on a pedestal. Everyone is human. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Consider both.
Writer Jeff Goins, in his article How to Find (and Keep) a Mentor in 10 Not-So-Easy Steps, recommends asking yourself a few questions, such as:
- Do I like spending time with this person?
- After spending time with this person, do I feel better about myself?
- Do I feel connected to this person in some way?
If the answer to those questions is yes, then it may be worth moving on to the next step. If not, consider finding someone else.
If you really feel that you could benefit from having a mentor (or really want to be a mentor), but you have no idea who to ask, consider a mentor-matching website such as Findamentor.com or Mentoring.org.
Approach the person about being your mentor.
While some people recommend just letting a relationship occur "naturally," the most direct route to developing a mentorship is to simply ask the person to be your mentor. When you do so, be open about why you are looking for a mentor and what you need.
Also, be flexible with your expectations. For example, are you looking for a mentor who will hold you accountable in some area of weakness? If so, you may need someone who can talk or meet with you at least once a week.
Or, are you are looking for someone who can just share points of interest and encourage you in the ministry? Then you may only need to connect once a month.
Are you looking for someone who can help talk you down when you have the occasional meltdown? If that's the case, you need to discuss the person's willingness to be "on call."
Be clear as to what you expect so that the person you admire can make an educated decision on whether or not he or she has the resources for such a relationship. Also, be realistic and considerate in your expectations. Remember, you are asking this person for a huge favor. Do not be demanding in your approach.
Make a plan.
If a mentorship is agreed upon, make a plan of action.
When will you meet again? Is it OK for you to call or text if you are having a difficult day or need help. What is his or her preferred method of communication?
Mentoring is like any relationship, and growing great relationships take time. So, don't expect life-changing results after one meeting. Make a commitment to be patient, and be mindful of your mentor's time and energy. Don't unnecessarily wear them out.
Be willing to listen and learn.
A mentor should be someone who can guide you, encourage you and help you make positive changes to your life and ministry. That being said, you have to be willing to listen and to learn in order to take advantage of the mentoring relationship.
You need to accept challenges and rebukes with a teachable spirit. You have chosen this person because you trust him or her; so don't run away the first time you feel uncomfortable with what you hear.
Consider being a mentor as well.
Just as everyone can learn something from others, everyone has something to teach. Perhaps you are at a point in your life where you feel that you have time to share and wisdom that you could pass along to someone else.
If you want to be a great mentor, the steps to finding a mentee are very similar to those above:
1. Find someone with whom you would like to develop a mentoring relationship.
2. Approach the person with your idea, always being wary not to appear conceited. You are not saying that you are perfect or that you have it all together. In humility, let the person know that you feel you might have some insight into what he or she is going through and that you would like to be an encouragement in his or her life.
3. Make a plan, taking into consideration the needs and desires of the other person.
4. Always be willing to listen. Believe it or not, you don't have to know everything or appear to have all the answers; the vital component to mentoring is a willingness to listen. You should also be a good role model, honest, patient and compassionate.
In addition, you may find that mentoring relationships can be beneficial in other areas of your congregation (pairing senior citizens with youth, for example). If you are interested in implementing a mentoring program in your church, you may be interested in mentoring software products such as MentorcliQ, Mentor Resources or Chronus.
Proverbs 27:17, which says, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another," is a reminder of the benefits of partnership. Whether you choose to have a mentor, be a mentor or both, there is great value in teaming up to share wisdom and inspiration.
Why not consider mentoring as a way to improve your ministry today?