Mentoring for effective clergy leadership
As a seminarian, I served as a student pastor in a very large church for three years.
There were several full-time “real” pastors on that staff, and one of them became a mentor for me. He was there to listen when I was unsure about some aspect of my ministry, he provided suggestions about how to move ministry forward, he encouraged me, and he taught me a lot of important lessons that I still apply in my ministry today.
Good mentoring is vital in the journey toward becoming a clergyperson. In The United Methodist Church, there are two ways of officially mentoring those who are responding to a call to ministry: candidacy mentors and clergy mentors. Each one has distinct functions and responsibilities.
“Candidacy mentors are clergy in full connection, associate members, or full-time local pastors who have completed the Course of Study trained to provide counsel and guidance related to the candidacy process.
Candidates will be assigned a candidacy mentor by the district committee on ordained ministry in consultation with the district superintendent. Candidacy mentors will work with the candidate until that candidate begins serving in an appointive ministry as a local pastor or a commissioned minister.” (The Book of Discipline ofthe United Methodist Church, 2008; paragraph 349.1.a)
Candidacy mentors are part of a person’s preparation and growth in responding to a call to ministry. As such, candidacy mentors have two basic roles:
- Guide to the candidate (as a co-discerner, consultant, and adviser to encourage and support the candidate in making vocational and ministry decisions)
- Represent the process (by informing and explaining UM understanding and accountability to the teaching and polity under which the candidate may be serving and leading)
The relationship between candidate and mentor is to be a very open one, in which the mentor creates a safe place for the candidates’ reflection and growth. The mentor is not an evaluator of the candidate, and should not be considered an automatic “pipeline” of information to the district superintendent or the district committee on ordained ministry. The role of the mentor is to represent the candidate, making sure his or her story is told and heard throughout the process of candidacy. The relationship might be characterized as a sacred, holy place outside the evaluative process.
Training for candidacy mentors took place last fall for all IGRC districts, and a large number of persons are now prepared to provide candidacy mentoring.
“Clergy mentors are clergy in full connection, associate members, or full time local pastors who have completed the Course of Study trained to provide ongoing oversight and counsel with local pastors and with provisional members pursuing ordained ministry. Local pastors will be assigned a clergy mentor by the district committee on ordained ministry in consultation with the district superintendent. Provisional members will be assigned a clergy mentor in full connection by the conference Board of Ordained Ministry in consultation with the district superintendent. A candidacy mentor may continue with the same person if trained to serve as a clergy mentor.” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2008; paragraph 349.1.b)
Clergy mentors serve as guides for those new to the vocational roles of clergy. As such, clergy mentors have three basic roles:
- Helping individuals discover who they are and how they are to be used in God’s service, including exploration of the various roles in ministerial life
- Assisting in the discovery and affirmation of gifts for ministry
- Challenging growth in effectiveness, including theological reflection on the difficult questions where faith meets practice
A clergy mentor may be assigned to work with one individual, or with a group of local pastors and/or provisional members. The relationship between mentor and clergy is covenantal. It is a dynamic process, not a legalistic procedure. Trust is one of the fundamental building blocks of a successful mentoring relationship. Here again, the mentor is not an evaluator of the clergy, but rather one who guides, builds up, and supports the person.
The Mentor Coordination and Training Team of the Board of Ordained Ministry encourages all clergy in full connection and local pastors to recall who your own mentors have been over the years, to express a word of gratitude to those persons (if possible), and to offer yourself as a mentor to someone who needs the benefit of your experience and guidance, either in the role of candidacy mentor, or clergy mentor.