Do Pastors Need Mentors? By Jim Martin

Do Pastors Need Mentors? By Jim Martin June 4, 2014

This post, by my friend Jim Martin, Vice President at Harding School of Theology, puts into print a dimension of Jim’s ministry at Crestview Church of Christ in Waco for which he was well-known.

Could A Mentor Help You?

In Mentor Like Jesus (p. 12), Regi Campbell tells of some people in their 90s who were surveyed several years ago and asked this question: “What are the three things you wish you had done that you didn’t do?” They responded:

“Take more risk.”

“Reflect more.”

“Focus more on things that will live beyond me.”

You might also consider these questions regarding your spiritual journey:

• How do I learn what to do in this life? How do I manage myself as a believer or perhaps a church leader?

• Why do so many people fizzle out at some point in their spiritual journey?

• Why do some believers make poor decisions and then crash and burn morally or ethically?

Many people have discovered that one way to navigate this life is to allow oneself to be mentored by a few others. Many want to know that their lives are making a difference. They want to finish well.  Yet, in order to do so, we may need to make some adjustments.

I was a young minister who was eager, passionate, and committed to ministry. I kept a counseling schedule that was intense and demanded long hours. I saw people not only from our congregation but also from other congregations in our community. These conversations often were difficult and emotionally raw situations. Afternoons were filled with listening to stories of marriage conflicts, rebellious teenagers, and drug/alcohol abuse. It seemed as if each day was filled with more and more stories of heartbreaking loss.

One weekend a guest speaker led a family seminar at our congregation. At one point during the weekend when he and I were walking across some beautiful Alabama farmland, he asked me about my daily schedule. After sharing my typical schedule with him, he said, “Jim, this is way too much. You are going to burn out seeing this many people each day. If you are going to last, you need to make some adjustments.”

He was right. Furthermore, he helped me realize that I needed others who would speak wisdom and perspective into my life and ministry.

For much of my adult life I have had the desire and the opportunity to be mentored. As a young minister, it was very clear to me that I had much to learn. Consequently, I was very intentional about seeking out people from whom I could learn.

For many years I wouldn’t have used the word “mentor” to describe what I needed from these people. I knew, however, that I had much to learn from others.  I learned from the following.

Several trusted ministers who were very patient as I went to them again and again with my questions and difficult situations. Some became long term influencers.

Relationships I had for a particular season of ministry. That is, for a season I learned from these people and stayed in contact.

Occasional coffees and lunches with various people. These were more than casual conversations. These were moments of learning in which I asked prepared questions and sought to learn from the strengths of others.

Individuals through whom I learned from their biographies and autobiographies. I have read many biographies of Christian leaders, looking over their shoulders as they experienced both the joy and the intense pressure of ministry and life.

Who are you learning from?

Jim Martin, Vice President

Harding School of Theology

Memphis, Tennessee

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