Since 1982, all newly-ordained CRC ministers are assigned a mentor to walk with them through their first five years of ordained ministry. In February 2020, Pastor Church Resources conducted a survey of these newly-ordained ministers, asking them about their mentoring relationship.
Attached, you'll find a summary of the key findings of the survey.
Here are some takeaways and best practices:
1. Mentees and Mentors should routinely (once a year, at least) talk about expectations for the relationship. What is the mentee hoping to gain from the relationship? How does the mentoring relationship fit within the larger constellation of collegial supports the mentee sustains?
2. Mentees need more than a mentor. One of the great gifts a mentor can give to a mentee is encouragement for the mentee to seek out and develop other intentional, supportive collegial relationships with pastors outside their immediate context.
3. Video and phone is fine. Relationships that relied primarily on phone or video technology (even before the pandemic) reported being just as meaningful as in-person relationships. This finding also suggests that the pool of possible mentors may not need to be only those pastors geographically nearby. In fact, many mentors and mentees are not from the same classis. However, if distance is an issue, (and pandemics allow,) consider encouraging mentors or mentees to apply for a peer-learning grant to help them spend time together.
4. Mentors and mentees should remember that after this five year period, there is no formal institutional oversight to ensure a pastor has collegial support. If a pastor wants to be a lone-ranger in our system, the system allows it. Consequently, it's vital to invest early in the habit of forming and prioritizing intentional, supportive collegial relationships.
5. Some mentees said their relationship could use some more structure. One structure that was named by many mentees was to follow the chapters in the pdf booklet, Toward Effective Pastoral Mentoring, now available in English, Korean, and Spanish. Others of you have tried going through one or more of the books recommended at the bottom of the Ministry Description. We also recommend the Pastor's Spiritual Vitality Toolkit for ideas. But often what works best is for mentors to ask mentees to set the agenda, bringing a question or observation to each mentoring session.
6. One of Pastor Church Resources' core convictions is that pastors are much more likely to thrive when they are investing in intentional relationships with colleagues outside their immediate ministry context for the purpose of support and continued growth. Mentoring for newly ordained ministers happens to be the way Synod has tried to get at these dynamics. Obviously, mentoring is not the only way to get at such relationships, and some pastors have found other ways. God bless them! Our hope is that the mentees in your classis will catch the vision and continue to seek out meaningful collegial relationships and continue to find ways to grow.