Just this morning I was meeting with two candidates, reviewing their psychological reports and going over their mentor reports with them, preparing them for their upcoming meeting with the District Committee on Ordained Ministry. At the end of the second meeting, the candidate looked at me and asked, “Do you mind if I ask why you do this? It seems like a lot of extra work on top of everything else you do in the church.”
I told her I was more than happy to answer that question.
Why do I do this? In my experience, mentoring is one of the most important gifts we give to a candidate and to the church. In this amazing process, I have the privilege of helping people listen for and discern their calling — be it into licensed or ordained ministry, or a calling into the laity. I am given the opportunity to pray with people, to study scripture with people, as they seek to discern the gifts that God has given to them for the work that God is calling them to. Together, we remember who our God is, who God has created us to be, what God is doing in the world through Jesus Christ. We remember our heritage as United Methodists and we remember our destination: the kingdom. It is always exciting to watch each candidate discover, or rediscover, the part they are being invited to play in this kingdom work.
Recently I have enjoyed watching the mentoring experience grow in its richness as we have entered into the group mentoring process in Florida. Right from the beginning we are connecting our new candidates with others on the journey. They pray, laugh, listen and learn together. Each one encourages the other. As they listen to each other’s calling and journey, their own becomes further defined. There is little more rewarding than watching a candidate emerge on the other side of the mentoring process with a clear understanding of who they are and what God has called them to, be it clergy or laity.
With this clarity they are ready for the next steps. Some will return to the local church to serve as Sunday school teachers, trustees or office volunteers. They will do so with an enthusiasm and celebration for their unique and wonderful calling as laity. Some will prepare paperwork to go before the District Committee on Ordained Ministry for certification as a candidate, and they will do so with clarity about their calling and the process. They will be prepared for the joys and struggles that may come with that process and, most importantly, they will know that they are not alone. Someone — their mentor — will be sitting right beside them, praying for them, encouraging them and guiding them along the way.
Why do I do this? How could I not? It is such a gift: to the candidate, to the church … oh, and yes, to me.
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*Pisco is pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.