An Introduction to Mentoring

“You cannot lead people a place you have not already been.

You cannot accompany people to a place where you are not going.”

What is the value of mentoring?  A mentoring relationship is established by mutual recognition and consent, with both parties agreeing to enter into the learning experience together. This may be done informally, or may include a formal mentoring covenant that outlines the commitments and expectations. Rarely do we encounter an untraveled road. Even Robert Frost states, “I took the one less traveled by…” suggesting that it had, nonetheless, been traveled by some. (“The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost, 1920.) Among other things, Frost’s poem is a wistful reflection that we can not take every road, but rather must make some choices which then eliminate others. The title refers to the road that the narrator did not take, the one, “left for another day.” Mentoring puts us in conversation with others along the roads of life, giving us the opportunity for companionship and insight that they may offer from their experiences. As a Mentor, Frost could come along side another and talk about why he made the choices he did, thus illuminating the path ahead. Frost does not say, but it is likely that he had mentors as well, those who helped him gain the wisdom needed at such moments of decision.

The difference between mentoring and coaching: A mentor leads someone in her/his own journey, by virtue of the mentor’s insights gained from personal experience in a similar journey. A coach, by contrast, does  not need to have walked that path before, but rather brings more general insights and principles to bear on the journey of the individual being coached.

How to find a mentor: Typically your mentor will be someone you respect, whose company you think you will enjoy, who has demonstrated abilities and approaches to work or life from which you wish to learn. It will also be someone who is willing to give energy and time to the relationship. Look around in your circles if relationship for such a person. If you do not find one, then ask others who they might recommend. When you approach the prospective mentor, ask for a brief conversation to gain wisdom or insight into a particular situation about which the prospect might have something to say. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, and you don’t want to ask for a big commitment up front. A series of brief conversations to establish the relationship will be of benefit, and will answer many of your questions regarding whether this person would be a good fit as your mentor.

How to be “mentorable”: Be teachable. Listen to your interactions with others. How often do you respond to someone with an observation that contradicts what has been said? Are you able to receive challenging information without anxiously needing to figure it out immediately or sweep it away? Be dependable. Do what you say you will and more. You are asking this person to donate their time toward your personal and professional growth – respect that time by doing your homework. Come to each conversation prepared with meaningful goals.

How to be a mentor: Be teachable. Remember that we can learn from anyone and any situation. Listen for the wisdom of the novice. Be dependable. Give thought to what you have to offer and how best to offer it. Be clear when a request or topic is outside your purview so no one’s time is wasted. Look for opportunities and relationships to recommend for the mentee – help them build their network and be self-directed learners. Do not take responsibility for the Mentee’s learning. Gently but clearly help them be accountable to self for their growth.

See: “A Bibliography of Spiritual Mentoring and Coaching” for an introductory list of resources.

A Mentoring Process:

1)     Establish meeting parameters. How frequently and for how long will you meet? Is it a regular weekly or monthly meeting, or something less formal? Think about locations that are most helpful. Keep in mind issues of cross-gender relationships – avoid uncomfortable or potentially compromising situations, or even their appearance. Once a working relationship is established with clear expectations and boundaries, then…

2)     Establish Goals. Mentoring grows from a basic question – What do you want to achieve? It assumes some growth goals with which the mentor helps the mentee. If these are not clear, then that is the first work in the relationship – to determine the goals. In what ways does the Mentee wish to grow?  See the example of a “quarterly goal worksheet”. You may not use something this formal, but the more specific you can be, the more successful you will likely be.

3)     Consider who sets the agenda. Does the Mentee say, “Today I would like to learn/explore ____,” or will the Mentor have a series of topics and experiences to lead through? Or a combination of both perhaps. Either is fine, just be clear so that everyone knows what to expect and is prepared.

4)     Focus on experience. Something happened. How did it come about? What did you feel, think, say and do? What was the result? What might be learned from this? These questions apply whether the Mentor or Mentee is sharing. See the example of a Verbatim as one tool for this exploration. It can be used formally, or as a general guide for reflection.

5)     Focus on meaning. What is this situation about? What is at stake? What is of worth or value to each person involved? What is being gained or lost? Where are the opportunities for confusion or clarity? What other experiences or relationships might be impacting this encounter?

6)     Focus on identity. Who are you in this situation? Who do you want to be? What might be done to bridge the gap, if any, between these? What kind of leader? What kind of friend or spouse or child or parent? What kind of employer, supervisor, employee?

7)     Focus on God. Where is God in this situation? Who and where is God calling you to be? How is God present to you in the situation and the people you encounter? How is God present to them through you? What biblical/theological ideas surface? Are there competing claims to truth – i.e. how do you balance mercy and justice?

8)     Return to experience. Reflect on how the insights gained will be put to use in future encounters. What encouragement or help is needed to remember and act on them? What can you do now to prepare for future success in these efforts?

P.S. Jesus as Mentor: We can read the New Testament and see aspects of mentoring in Jesus’ relationship with the apostles, Peter’s relationship with John Mark and Paul’s with Timothy and Luke. In each instance, we see strength and wisdom being offered. We also see vulnerability and brokenness. Christian Mentoring means also sharing our sufferings and failures, and allowing the mentee to serve the mentor. We look not only to the successful, but also to the fragile and weak. To the hungry we say, “Teach me to be satisfied.” To the sick we say, “Teach me the meaning of health.” To the poor we say, “Teach me the meaning of riches.” To the captive we say, “Teach me the meaning of freedom.” To the dying we say, “Teach me the meaning of life.” To the Son of Man we say, “Teach me of God.”

Life Ministry Coaching Groups

Life Ministry Coaching Groups

A ministry of coaching ~ for your life of ministry.

~ Life ~

Feeling, thinking, speaking and acting in the world, through work, relationships,

hobbies and habits, growing toward the fullest expression of your true self.

~ Ministry ~

Expressing the fullness of who you are in ways that bless others,

bring you fulfillment, and honor the God who made you.

~ Coaching ~

Walking with an encourager and guide asking questions that prompt

deeper reflection, from which grows fuller understanding and truer living.

 Life Ministry Coaching is an expression of the ministry of Rev. Ken G. Crawford, pastor at Forest Grove Christian Church since 2002. Since 2003 we have had an intentional ministry formation training program within the church for equipping staff for a lifetime of ministry. After nine years, we are excited to offer this opportunity to clergy and laity, regardless of their connection to this or another congregation.

We will offer separate groups for clergy and laity (a religious word for non-clergy). Each group will follow a similar format structured as follows:

Commitment to participation for a 9 week Unit – (Fall, Winter, Spring) which includes

  1. Establishment of learning goals for personal or professional growth
  2. Weekly 2 hour group meeting which will include:
    1. Prayer and other spiritual formation exercises
    2. Presentation by the group facilitator
    3. Group discussion of the presented material
    4. Individual sharing of personal growth areas
  3. Weekly readings (averaging 5-20 pages)
  4. Weekly written reflection (2-5 pages)
  5. Participation in an online discussion group
  6. Three one-on-one coaching sessions with the group facilitator

This is serious work, requiring a commitment of time and energy and money. Admission to the program assumes this commitment to self and the group. It is estimated that participants will spend 5 hours per week between group participation and personal prayer, reading and reflection. Tuition for these groups is $150 per unit which covers the cost of time, materials and facilities. Partial scholarships are available based upon need; state your request with your application.

How to apply:

Groups will be formed with consideration to those who are most likely to benefit from the experience and contribute meaningfully to the process. If you would like to participate, please submit a written statement describing your journey that has brought you to this point, what questions or topics you hope to better understand, and how you hope to grow.

With your statement, please provide the following:

  • Your name, mailing address, email and phone
  • Your Church affiliation if any
  • References – two names (with contact information) who can speak to how you might participate in a group experience of this sort. Sharing this information with them would be helpful.

Email your application to

What the process is…

The philosophy of this program is built upon three components:

  • Spiritual Formation ~ Developing attitudes and habits that provide a solid foundation
  • Theological Reflection ~ Learning to ask “Where is God?” and “What is God doing?”
  • Ministry Integration ~ Learning to ask, “Who am I?” and “Who has God made me to be?”

These three elements work together to help form a healthier self.

This process has been developed out of experiences and conversations with Seminary Supervised Ministry Programs, Clinical Pastoral Education Programs, and Lilly Endowment Funded Pastoral Residency Programs.

Primary sources, in addition to the Christian Bible, include:

  • The Spiritual works of Thomas Merton, Henry Nouwen, Richard Foster, Ann Weems, along with Quaker and Jesuit Spirituality
  • Family Systems Theory as described in the work of Edwin Friedman, Roberta M. Gilbert, Jim Herrington, Ronald W. Richardson and others
  • Communication and Leadership works such as those by Kerry PattersonJoseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Marcus Buckingham, Marshall Goldsmith,

Participants will be encouraged to bring and share with the group those resources that have been particularly meaningful to them. Every effort will be made to honor the diversity and distinctives present in the group while seeking to form a community based upon shared goals.

What it is not…

This process is not group counseling. If it appears that you have unaddressed needs, the facilitator may take the initiative to speak with you about them privately.

This process is not a bible study or other similar group.

This process is not about ‘fixing’ other peoples’ ideas or behaviors.

“Spiritual but not religious…?”

Many people in today’s world describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious”. One common explanation is that they do not participate in any religious organizations (church, temple, synagogue, mosque), though they do practice spiritual habits (prayer, reading, meditation, service). If you or someone you know fits this description, and you appreciate open dialogue with people of differing views, then there can still be a place for you in this process. Submit your application, and lets talk further.

Slippery Slopes

What if the slippery slope is

     where God calls you to dwell

The place between a static confidence and

     the oblivion of hell.

If Jesus says, “Get out of the

     boat,” knowing you may sink,

Are you willing to trust in what you

     believe beyond what you can think?

And when he says, “Get up! Take

     your mat! Dance!”

Will you stay with what you

     know, or will you risk the chance?

“It’s clear, settled, and I

     know what everything’s about.”

Then Jesus cries, “Lazarus, come

     out!” with a mighty holy shout.

What comes of thinking

     you know what’s true

More than all

     who disagree with you?

How lonely the life lived

     over there

At high altitude in

     pure thin air.

God calls us all to move

     beyond what we feel we

think we know

     To the place out

there, beyond, which

     only God can show

Crisis Knee Jerk

Anxiety causes me to respond quickly to situations that do not require a quick response, but rather a thoughtful and prayerful and deliberate one.
Someone calls to say, there’s been a sudden health crisis event. I throw myself into action as though I were called to be a first responder on the scene. Do they want my presence – perhaps. Is it urgent – probably not. The situation certainly is, but my physical presence may not be. But my pastoral anxiety revs up and I throw myself into busy action. What is probably most needed of me at that moment is not to run to the scene as a physical presence, but to fall to my knees as an intercessor wherever I am. There will likely be plenty of opportunity to be physically present., and the time in prayer will also help me to discern how/when to respond most faithfully. Christ rarely hurried anywhere, and in fact when informed that Lazarus was dying, Jesus delayed his visit 3 days. Lazarus’ family and friends weren’t very happy with Jesus, but it was the faithful response none the less.
What does it mean for me to follow Jesus as I minister to people in the midst of crisis events in their lives? What’s the proper relationship between their urgency and my own agency? How will I grow away from being a crisis knee jerk?