Mentoring in 5 key areas

by Keith Farmer

The role of the Christian leader, particularly the role of leading a local church, is one of the most diverse and difficult vocations in our society. The pressures and stresses of Christian leadership have led many to abandon ministry, and in some cases to abandon church and faith altogether.

My personal experience as a leader and mentor has led me to conclude that although the skills of ministry leadership are important, character issues are even more important. Effective ‘doing’ comes out of effective ‘being’. What we do is based on who we are. Effective transformational leadership over an extended period of time depends deeply on the Christian character of the leader. If character unravels under pressure, then ministry leadership is severely and adversely affected.

Mentoring is therefore an ongoing relationship of choice on the part of both the mentor and the mentoree. It is the equivalent of the GP medical checkup that is designed to monitor the vital signs for ongoing health. It monitors 5 key areas of the leader’s wellbeing:

  • Spirituality (how are you and God?)
  • the health of key relationships (how is your relationship with ???),
  • emotional health (how are you coping with workload, ministry, people, conflict, staff relationships, how is your level of emotional exhaustion – give me a 1 – 10 score)
  • general lifestyle health (are you sleeping well, eating well, getting time off, how was your last day off?, last retreat day?)
  • vulnerabilities (what vulnerability at present could the evil one exploit to take you out of ministry?).

The key qualifications required for a mentor of Christian leaders is that the person has had significant experience as a Christian leader themselves (probably at least 10 years and preferably longer), and that they are still in good shape i.e. they still love God, their family, the Church and people in general.

Christian leadership is such a personal and multi skilled vocation that I would suggest the Mentoree also has a Coach (for what they do), and that they are strongly embedded in a ‘Ministry Leaders Support Group’ where honesty is fostered by each confessing – “I am a pastor” etc.

My experience tells me that Mentoring is best seen as having a “Relational” emphasis where the mentoree is asked – “How are you going?” – and he or she is able to talk about whatever is on their heart and mind. It then gradually evolves into the Mentor checking, through pertinent questions, each of the 5 key areas mentioned above.

The regularly, length, mode and place of mentoring have many options! I find 4 or 5 contacts per year each of 2 hours for an individual and 3 hours for a couple works well for most leaders.

Mentoring overlaps with, but is not synonymous with pastoral care, counselling, coaching, and supervision. I believe at its heart mentoring is basically about discipling and is vital for Christian faith as well as leadership.

Mentoring Network Training in 2012

We invite you to participate in a three day retreat offering two streams of mentor equipping:

  • A peer-learning Forum for experienced Christian mentors
  • Introductory training for those sensing a call to this ministry

9-11 May at The Tops Conference Centre, Sydney, NSW


The Tops Conference Centre
Speakers include: Mindy Caliguire, Les Scarborough, Keith Farmer, Andrew McCafferty and Rick Lewis
Cost: $295 includes registration, accommodation, meals and transfers from nearby Helensburgh railway station

Mark the dates in your calendar now!

For further information please contact us

Email: info@mentoringnetwork.org.au
Phone: +61 7 3291 5956
Post: The Mentoring Network
c/- Willow Creek Australia
PO Box 2086
Mansfield BC, QLD, 4122

Ancient Art for a Postmodern Context

By Rick Lewis

We maintain that spiritual mentoring is a thoroughly Christian discipline, and an ancient one at that. But if that is so, why has it not been on our radar until relatively recently?

Although the term mentoring wasn’t used in its current sense until 1699 in the writings of Francois Fenelon, the practice of people journeying alongside someone else to help them discover and get onto God’s agenda for their lives is well attested in the Bible and in literature from the early church, the Middle Ages, through the Reformation afterwards, right up to the time of the Enlightenment in the 18th century. At that point things began to change. What was it about the Enlightenment that inhibited the practice of what we call mentoring?

The Enlightenment stressed reason as the basis for authority. The authority of the Bible, of the church and of God was rejected in favour of what could be worked out through human reasoning. This challenge had a profound impact on the church and flowed through to influence the way discipleship and spiritual formation were pursued. In order to combat Enlightenment arguments, influential Christians fought fire with fire, using reason to establish the truth and authority of God and his Word.

Within 100 years, matters of spirituality and discipleship were being addressed through the exercise of reason alone, especially in the Protestant tradition to which most of us in the Mentoring Network belong. The ancient art of mentoring, with its prayerful processes of discernment and encouragement of the heart gave way to more ‘rational’ and ‘scientific’ approaches to Christian growth. Maturity in the faith came to be measured more by what was known in the head, rather than by a transformed inner life.

The Enlightenment formed the philosophical framework for the Modernist worldview – which has been the dominant worldview in the West for the past 200 years. Now, there is a new worldview emerging, called Post-modernism. There is a growing sensitivity to context, appreciation of wonder and mystery, craving for authenticity, openness to all kinds of spirituality, valuing of subjective experience and cherishing of community.

Once again in our time, just as at the time of the Enlightenment, the issue of authority is the hot potato. But this time, the suspicion is aimed at those who think they can claim authority on the basis of science and reason. Modernist Christian teaching often comes under the same suspicion.

When today’s post-moderns are looking for a guide through life, they are not necessarily looking for teachers who have all the answers in terms of propositional truth. They are more likely to look for a mentor with integrity and practical wisdom who is prepared to walk a journey of discovery with them, and help them grapple with the questions. Now, that sounds a lot like the way Jesus brought his message of the kingdom of God and worked with the disciples to shape them for ministry and mission.

If you want to be involved in forming the next generation of disciples and leaders, it’s time to look back to the way Jesus did it, the way Barnabas and Paul and Timothy related. This may be welcome news, or it may create waves as we re-tool for forming Christian leaders in a different way. But the message is unavoidable: we need to recover the ancient art of mentoring not only because it is Biblical but also because this generation is hungry for it.

Mentoring appeals to post-moderns because it goes beyond what a person knows to the condition of a person’s soul. It gives people space and time, within the context of a sacred relationship, to journey toward transformation not by the power of propositional truth but by the power of the Spirit of truth. A spiritual mentor is not so much a person with the right answers as a person with the right questions who walks the road of discovery with others.

Jer 6:16 This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.