Equipping Pastors Part One: Mentoring Matters

[NOTE: This is the first of a series of Monday posts emphasizing a few of the ways Southeastern Seminary seeks to equip pastors for their role as shepherds of local churches.]

I met Bruce during his senior year in college. After being introduced by his buddy and new Southeastern student J. D., I saw in Bruce a great earnestness for God. I met him at his university at an event where J. D. had asked me to speak. God moved very powerfully that night, and I understood clearly  that both J. D. and Bruce were the two young men in whom I wanted to invest. Getting to know Bruce better the next year in my class only confirmed that initial observation.

Bruce continued on, and we stayed close. We shared a passion for the younger generation and were both heavily involved in itinerant ministry. I helped him with a retreat or two early on in our relationship. He went overseas to serve as a missionary for a couple of years before returning to our school to earn a PhD in theology.

Our relationship continued to grow. On occasion he accompanied me to speaking events. Our administration wisely hired him to be on our faculty, and now Dr. Ashford serves as provost. We developed a relationship with me serving as his superior and at some level a mentor. He now serves as my boss. You should treat your protégés well—one of them might be your boss one day!

It’s great to do life together. I so enjoy doing this with men like Bruce.

Speaking of doing life together, I should add that I played at least a supporting role in Bruce meeting his future wife, Lauren. Lauren was a young women for whom I’d found a job working in our Center for Great Commission Studies when Bruce was its director. Today Bruce and Lauren are wonderful parents and role models to our students.

Mentoring is a big deal at SEBTS. I watched Bruce grow from a college student to a college dean to the provost of a seminary. I watched Lauren grow from a college grad to a wife and mother. My colleagues and I have mentored countless pastors along the journey as well. One of the most gratifying features of teaching is to have a student you mentored while earning his masters return for doctoral work, having served several years as a pastor and hungry to learn more. Life is an amazing thing when you live it with others. From D-groups (Discipleship groups) and groups who gather to read theology, to one-on-one coffee shop meetings and academic mentorship in our PhD program, Southeastern values a variety of approaches to mentoring.

I personally mentor formally, like the group of ten men I will meet with at 7 AM on Wednesdays this fall, or informally, with the dozens who travel with me to speaking events each year. Increasingly the mentoring role I take with doctoral students has proven to be extremely gratifying. We can’t mentor every student nor should we necessarily; many local churches come alongside us and offer more formal mentoring via internships or other means to offer credit, or informal means as pastors invest in younger men.

We seek to create increasingly an environment of mentoring. As Thom Rainer reminded us at Faculty Workshop, the Millennial generation we now teach longs for mentors. Who are you mentoring? Here are some ideas for informal mentoring, investing in young men in the course of living life:

• Do things you would ordinarily do, but now do them with others. That includes running errands, going to the coffee shop, cleaning your office, etc. Do yard work—I pay guys for the physical labor they do. Adjust your lifestyle to include people, not your calendar.

• Plan times to hang out that fit your lifestyle. In my case it involves driving to places where I will be speaking.

• Let those whom you’re mentoring experience your hobbies/free time. Let them see and experience all areas of your life and how to keep life in balance.

• Have them join you in a commitment to change. For instance, I have recently lost forty pounds due to a serious change in my commitment to exercise and diet, and have walked with several students on a similar journey.

As you do this, make sure you encourage those you mentor to do the same with those they mentor as well.

Paul gave us a glimpse of this kind of consistent, pastoral lifestyle mentoring through his teaching relationship with young Timothy. Paul told Timothy: “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

Here is the question: not, how many do you have attending on Sunday, but who are you mentoring?

[Much of this article is adapted from my ebook with NavPress called With: A Practical Guide to Informal Mentoring. You can get it here.] 

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