Love your calling.
Out of love, God calls us and desires for us to enjoy our callings. Mentoring provides a specific kind of friendship that helps you love your unique call to God’s restorative and redemptive work in the world. Mentoring is also fun and gives energy to the mentee and mentor as a form of renewal. Click below if you would like more information or would like to apply to be a mentor or mentee. You can apply any time!
Why a Mentoring Community?
Studies have shown that one of the main contributors to sustainable ministry is maintaining a close friendship with another minister. It’s not just having someone you can call now and then, but it’s being in regular contact with another minister who is willing to collaborate and listen on a regular basis. So, it’s really about connection and trust.
Walter Brueggemann, in his essay on “Mentoring in the Old Testament,” writes that for mentoring to be successful it has to have both “continuity and discontinuity,” meaning we have to both honor past learnings while recognizing that new opportunities call for “new duties” and mutual learning. This required discontinuity also requires “a leap of imagination to new social reality.”
Being a mentor or a mentee with us is not just about meeting with one person but being a part of a mentoring community. We also invest in our mentors. We hope that the ripple effects of this group will benefit your own ministry and the larger community in ways we can’t even imagine now.
Participants in the program are each assigned an individual mentor and are connected to a larger network of mentors through retreats, online gatherings, and other growth opportunities. Our mentor pairings begin at graduation and can continue up through the first five years of vocational ministry. Our hope is that then the mentee will turn around and become a mentor for the next graduate. We officially invite new mentors and mentees into our program every spring as part of the final Theological Integration class at Emmanuel Christian Seminary.
“Mentoring provides a place to laugh and swing back and forth between the hard things—the things you can’t always talk about with the people you are in ministry with.”
We believe mentoring is a spiritual discipline. As Richard Rohr once said, “Spiritual disciplines remove illusions, so we can be present.” Consistent, honest, spiritual conversations in community with mentors and our peers can teach us how to be present with ourselves, others, and God.
A lot of mentoring is about advice and advocacy. There are, of course, times for practical, tangible advice, where we get in the weeds a bit on fundraising or outreach or preaching or pastoral care. There are times where mentors will provide references for mentees. These are helpful moments that show how mentors can support someone in ministry.
But we are also here to have a spiritual conversation. Asking the questions “Where did you see God work in the past month?” or “What are you learning from God right now?” is important to help connect the practical with the spiritual. Giving advice on how to practice sabbath or time management skills is great. But ultimately, the mentoring relationship is about growing one’s relationship with God because that is what sustains us.
Mentoring relationships go through seasons. After three years of being in our program we often encourage mentees to become mentors. It can be helpful to formally close one mentoring relationship before starting another one. Here is a resource for formally closing a mentoring relationship.
Derek Sweatman has been the lead pastor of Atlanta Christian Church (Midtown, ATL) since 2004. He and his wife live in the city with their two kids and pug named “Yoda.” Derek is also an adjunct faculty member at Point University in the College of Biblical Studies. He was born and raised in Atlanta, and schooled at Cincinnati Christian University, Columbia Theological Seminary, and Johnson University, where he received his MA in New Testament studies. He is currently in the DMin program at Emmanuel Christian Seminary. Trivia: Derek has a tattoo of Jerry Garcia on his right ankle.
In Derek’s words:
“When COVID-19 interrupted the world, churches were not immune. I’ve had to become skilled at leading meetings, classes, counseling sessions, and prayer gatherings over Zoom. Hardest of all, I’ve had to learn to trust in stuff I can no longer see. Without an in-person setting, most of my work is a message in a bottle. I create and package and send things out with only a trust that it will reach someone.
Ministry has never been more remote. I don’t like it. But I like what God has been doing in me through all of this. I like that my work is based more in faith than ever before. I like how this has brought churches together in the sharing of ideas and resources, and how we’re all learning that our congregations are stronger than we may have first believed. I do believe that God is working within to bend our churches into new–and perhaps, stronger–shapes. He is, at the very least, doing that with me.”
Justin Miller, MDiv ’20
Justin grew up in Norfolk, VA, and was the first person in his family to go to college. He has been involved in church as a volunteer since the age of 13 by playing worship music. Justin has a BA in Youth Ministry & Preaching from Johnson University and graduated from Emmanuel Christian Seminary with an MDiv in Christian Care & Counseling.
In Justin’s words:
“Finishing seminary and entering into full-time ministry during a global pandemic has been challenging. There have been days where I feel like I can’t connect with the community. The church has experienced grief from the unexpected loss of loved ones. There have been growing pains of learning to work with people who are different than myself.
Through the mentoring relationship, God has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve wrestled with questions about future ministry plans, what my passions are, where I find joy, and how to manage conflict.
I’m learning how to connect and have relationships with people who, in any other circumstance, I probably wouldn’t know. The way people learn, experience grief, love, and joy, is all so different. Finding those appropriate connections is difficult. I’m learning that the work we do in ministry isn’t easy and that’s okay. Listening to God during this time and having a mentor has been a big help for me in realizing that ministry will always have many challenges but I’m not alone and there is joy in doing the work.”
“Having someone who can help me think through problems or hurdles—especially this year—has been invaluable. My mentor helped me think through how to start my ministry and encouraged me when things went “wrong.”
Mentor—Guide, Advocate, Friend
We’re not asking mentors to teach someone everything they know. Mentors are to be guides, advocates, and friends. We’re asking you to listen, ask questions, model learning, and help others find their own voice in ministry.
We’re not asking mentees to be passive learners. Mentees benefit from mentors’ hard won wisdom. But they also help the mentor see ministry anew through asking good questions and sharing their own reflections and insights.
We believe God is always calling new people to the beautiful, redemptive, and limitless work of God’s community. A mentoring community is one way God helps us all re-imagine what it means to thrive in community.
Saying yes means committing to meet once a month with your mentor or mentee, and attend, either remotely or in-person, online gatherings and the fall retreat. All retreat costs are covered through a generous grant by the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative.