The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.
The MLCI blog series, launched January 15, 2014, is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.
This fourth installment of the blog series, begun April 9th, reflects on the practice of mentoring as a means to overall health and well-being.
Clergy Health and Well-being: Mentors, 6
–by Rev. Kimberley Proctor-White, M. Div., Lexington Theological Seminary, 2011
When I think of the word “mentor,” I think of someone who has the ability to teach people how to carry out certain gifts, talents, and potential that lie within them.
While the Bible does not use the word “mentor,” there are examples of how someone invested time, knowledge, and wisdom into another person in order for him/her to become all that God created him/her to be. As part of my testimony, I often share how I was raised in a very reserved church, in which women were taught how to be good wives, Sunday school teachers, and missionaries. I cannot recall hearing that I could be anything besides those three things when it came to ministry. That was a man’s job, and I was to become like Eve was to Adam, a good helpmate to my husband.
But somewhere along the way, I felt like God was calling me to ministry.
Because of my background, I needed a lot of reassurance and confirmation to take this huge leap of faith. While watching TV one day, that confirmation came from a woman named Paula White, who is the pastor of Without Walls International Church in Tampa, FL. While Pastor Paula and I have never met, I have watched her TV ministry, attended her conferences, and truly consider her to be the first female to be a great influence for me in ministry. Not only is she a dynamic preacher and teacher, but she has helped me to realize how some areas in my life were so fragmented that it hindered me from moving forward in my God-given potential.
I mean, how could God use me when I did not feel worthy or confident enough to inspire anyone?
Pastor Paula taught me that everything I have experienced in life, good or bad, has a purpose. People need to see that ministers are human and far from perfect. Because of her, I can share my tragedies and triumphs with confidence and boldness in ways that can save lives.
While in seminary, I really appreciated the love, support, and care that I received as a student minister at East Second Street Christian Church in Lexington, Ky. I was grateful for the leadership and laid-back personality of the Rev. Dr. Don Gillett. I always tease Pastor Gillett that I want to be like him when I grow up! He wears a lot of hats, yet he always made time to sit with me and allow me to just vent about the stresses of school, work, ministry, or whatever other difficulties I was facing. Not only would he provide great insight, but he knew how to lighten the mood with his big personality, contagious laugh, and his overall love for God and for God’s people. I was grateful for the example that he set, and for his support whenever I preached, led worship, taught the children, etc. Even after I graduated and moved away, we kept in touch. Because of him, I am reminded to always be myself, to remain humble, and that God will continue to be faithful to provide the support and encouragement I need to reach my goals.
And finally, I appreciate the ministry of Minister Damien Durr, who is the youth and young adult minister in our church. He truly understands what it means to meet people where they are. From him, I continue to learn that there are people who need God in such a strong way that they are not interested in debates or big theological words, or whether I have a degree at all. In other words, using my life experiences, I can do some things in ministry that textbooks could never teach me. I ask myself, “What can I do or say to keep someone from jumping off the ledge–literally or figuratively?” Minister Durr understands that we are living in a world in which people are not looking for complicated access to God, and those in leadership have a responsibility to lead the people to an authentic relationship with God.
As I continue to strive to become who God created me to be, I constantly reflect on the mentors I have had and their continual influence. I know that with God’s help, I can continue to be an extension of Christ’s hands and feet, and be a beacon of light and hope for every person on the path to self-discovery.