By Carl Addison
Why should a pastor have a mentor? Why should a pastor choose to be a mentor? In many ways, the answer to both of those questions is the same. The value added to the lives of those engaged in mentoring relationships can hardly be underestimated. Research consistently documents the reality that most of those in ministry who consider themselves to be thriving have a mentor.
So, then, what exactly is the value added? First, mentors bring objectivity to those they mentor. Most of us, especially when feeling stressed or pressured, find it difficult to navigate many of life’s challenges without emotion sometimes clouding our vision. A mentor, conversely, doesn’t have the emotional connection to our life challenges and can create the capacity to see with greater objectivity.
Secondly, mentors bring experience to the lives of their mentees. Many of us have found ourselves in the trenches of life and ministry, wishing we had prior experience to draw from. When we have a mentor, we have that person’s experience to offer perspective and guidance. Mentors offer experience.
Thirdly, mentors offer wisdom. In some ways, it makes sense to think that the sum of objectivity and experience equals wisdom. We all find ourselves in circumstances in which we need that voice that speaks beyond our own life experiences, a voice that can pierce the clouds of emotion and inexperience. Mentors bring wisdom.
Those three pieces of the mentoring relationship have formed the foundation of Thrive. But as time goes by, it makes sense to consider adding a fourth element to the discussion, one that provides the final corner to the foundation.
It is time to consider safety as that fourth component. Pastors, maybe now more than ever, need a place of safety in their lives, a place where they are not judged, where they can be unafraid to vulnerably address the inevitable struggles of life and ministry.
What does that place of safety look like? It stands to reason that we ought to have some sense of that if we hope to create that place in our relationships.
In a relationship characterized by safety, there is:
- Trust. We have to know, not just hope, that our connection is built on confidentiality, that we will not be betrayed, and that others have our interest in their hearts.
- Mutual respect. We have the right to expect appropriateness, learning that is a two-way street, and honor as one who is called by God not only to be his child but to serve in ministry.
- Honesty. While this can be challenging, the truth spoken in love is a hallmark of a safe space.
- Emotions are validated. None of us should be told how we should feel, and in a safe space even unhealthy emotions can be processed and healthier expressions developed.
What else would you add?
Safe spaces in mentoring relationships are created by:
- Consistent connection. Consistency means we are not just an item on someone’s to do list, but we are valued enough to be a part of one’s life – not just consistently, but in a personal way.
- Maintaining confidentiality. While this was already addressed somewhat, the ongoing demonstration that one’s most precious information is guarded in love builds a sense of safety like nothing else can.
- Modeling vulnerability. No one feels safe if the open expression of the heart is a one-way street. Safety is experienced as vulnerability is valued and practiced.
- Authentic prayer with and for one another. While this would seem to be obvious, let’s say it anyway. Jesus is at the heart of a safe relationship, so invite him in.
What would you add?
These are some thoughts to get the conversation started as we strive to thrive. Let’s talk more about it.
One last thing, there is no magic formula for the creation of this safe space. Intentionality matters, and it helps. But safety in relationships also has an organic element. We can’t force safe connections. Let’s say that it is organically intentional, or maybe, intentionally organic. You decide!