One of my more or less constant areas of concern is mentoring. It’s really been on my mind this week.
Last week, I spent 3 days at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) in San Diego as part of a regional Ministerial Candidates Workshop (MCW). It’s an annual event where we meet with new district licensed ministers from all over the Southwest US (Church of the Nazarene) to give them a “boost” on their journey towards ordination.
My role, for the candidates from Northern California, is to start them on a new mentoring journey. I went to help others, and got some help for myself.
The Center for Pastoral Leadership at PLNU, led by Dr. Norm Shoemaker, which is the organization that hosts the MCW, also brings in a special speaker for the district representatives who are there. This year’s speaker was Tom Nees, president of Leading To Serve, Inc. in Baltimore, MD, and the former director of both the USA/Canada Department of Evangelism for the Church of the Nazarene and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Tom’s current ministry, Leading To Serve has a focus on leadership and mentoring in the church, and he spoke to us about efforts to generate mentoring opportunities for pastors across the denomination.
The ensuing discussion, along with some subsequent e-mail exchanges between Tom and myself, has opened the door in my thinking to a couple of dynamic possibilities for mentoring.
First, he presented a case for cross gender mentoring. My stance has always been that mentoring of pastors should follow the straightforward “men mentor men; women mentor women” formula with no exceptions. There are good reasons for this stance, and they have not gone away.
At the same time, there has been an almost constant outcry among women in the clergy that maintaining this stance essentially cuts women off from two valuable resources. It limits the number of available mentors and it prevents women from having an open access to much (most?) of pastoral leadership personalities and, therefore, creates a “glass ceiling” within the church that makes it harder, and sometimes nearly impossible, for women to navigate their way to leadersip positions for which they might be otherwise qualified.
Look, I know that the reasoning basis here on the second issue sounds pretty secular. In fact, it is pretty secular as a viewpoint. At the same time, it also prevents the Church from realizing a valuable potential source of God called and led leadership by creating an obstacle for women in clergy.
I understand that, despite my best efforts (this was a poor attempt at humor, and after I wrote it, I felt I had to identify it for the severely literal minded among us), there are still many who believe that women are not supposed to be in leadership in the Church. They even quote Scripture, errantly, in my view, to support that belief. This is NOT another discussion about that; we move on.
In truth, none of this revelation was completely new to me; I knew what the problems were, but not how to solve them and whether there was any body of desire to do so. But, when a guy like Tom Nees says we have to do something about this, and quotes female leaders that DO exist in the Church as being in support of that position, then doors begin to open. Now, I’m trying to begin a new conversation about how to do this and retain protection for both mentors and mentees.
Clearly, the solution is in building those protections. Tom has some suggestions about it, but it’s not my intent to lay them out. I want you, the reader, to enter this conversation and start bringing your thoughts to the table.
The other area of mentoring that Tom has brought to my thinking is that of group mentoring. In the near future, I want to try to experiment with this concept and attempt to apply it to yet another area of ministry challenge for me, developing alternative ministry opportunities to reach age and interest groups currently being lost to the Church.
I’m interested in your thoughts about these opportunities to “break the mentoring code.” Why not jump on the Comment section and tell me what you think?
Finally, after talking with Tom, I’d like to recommend an alternate reading site to you. His blog is found at http://leadingtoserve.com/. Why not take a look and see what you think.
Always Praying For You,
Your Older Brother,