This series offers resources from the Mentoring Focus Group of the Women in Leadership Project. This group has met since the beginning of 2012, brainstorming ways to encourage mentoring of women leaders across Mennonite Church USA. These articles are one outcome, and are commended to individuals and organizations who are involved in mentoring or want to get started.
By Kathy Neufeld Dunn
Mennonite Church USA area conferences take seriously resourcing new pastors on the ordination track. There are requirements for every pastor who has been licensed toward ordination. For instance, every licensed pastor must have a mentor.
The seasoned and new pastors are to meet once-a-month during the licensing period. What that mentoring relationship looks and sounds like after the pairing is made is anybody’s guess. Perhaps some mentors base the conversation on the new pastor’s presenting issues. This approach might or might not get at the deepest challenges facing new pastors.
To respond to mentoring needs of beginning pastors, there is a new program for those transitioning into ministry, coordinated by the Leadership Development Team of Mennonite Church USA. There is also a helpful conversation guide offered by one area conference.
Virginia Mennonite Conference hopes the mentor-mentee relationship will include fruitful conversations that cover all major ministry competencies. They have developed a detailed list of discussion questions within each of the six ministry core competency areas: Biblical Story, Anabaptist Mennonite Principles, Christian Spirituality/Discipleship, Self-Understanding/Awareness, Contextual Awareness, and Leadership. Find a complete list of their Ministry Effectiveness Training and Enhancement Reflection (METER) resources at: www.virginiaconference.org/documents/credentialing/.
A sample of these questions includes:
- Describe a time when sincere Christians had disagreement about biblical interpretation. How did you respond?
- Describe a distinctive Anabaptist response to a social concern today.
- Reflect on your personality type in relation to your favored spiritual disciplines.
- What have you learned about yourself as a ministering person?
- What are the appropriate sexual boundaries that you will maintain in your life and ministry?
- What are the sources of influence within the community where you minister?
- Describe a time when you provided healthy leadership. Describe a time when you did not. What did you learn from each?
Even in the midst of such a seemingly comprehensive group of ministry topics, two mentoring contexts deserve attention: Gender and racial identity in ministry. Here are a sample of questions that might be added specifically for women in ministry (but it is important for men to think about gender and race as well):
- How have you experienced your leadership this month? How has this brought you comfort or discomfort?
- How have you exercised your authority in a way that feels congruent with being a woman? How do you experience being a woman of color or a white woman in your ministry?
- What awareness do those around you have of gender and racial realities, and how does that affect your ability to minister?
- Name some people within your congregation who offer you constructive feedback.
- Name some people outside of your congregation who offer feedback.
- How do you work at self-care?
My own conference is just beginning a review of Virginia’s mentoring model. Western District Leadership Commission has updated the list of articles, books, websites and other resources available to mentor-mentee pairs. We will review these questions, as well.
What questions have helped you gain insight into who you are as a ministering person? Feel free to post them.
There are few mandates for these mentor-mentee pairs in Mennonite Church USA other than agreeing to meet regularly for conversation. Whether based on book discussions, in connection with the METER questions, or through some other method, it is up to each pair to make of the relationship what the new pastor most needs it to be in order to become the healthiest minister possible.
Click here to find the first article in this series: The Three C’s of Support