Woven together through Mentoring Communities
by Mary Kate Morse
‘When I look back at the past decade… this group is the thing that’s kept me in ministry.’ – Mentoring Community member, Australia
I know several individuals who would echo those precise words. Vocational gospel ministry is tough, perhaps the toughest gig in town. How we find encouragement and support along the way is a critical issue for the longevity of ministers and the progress of gospel ministry. Lifelong Leadership tells the story of one powerful solution. It declares its purpose up front:
‘…this book serves as a comprehensive, step-by-step, practical guide for experienced leaders in any country to learn how to create and launch a Mentoring Community.’
The book is part practice manual, part biography of a movement, part spiritual devotional. I loved it because I am part of its story and I’ve experienced the love and ministry of the authors and others involved in this work.
Part One outlines the urgent need for leaders and the urgent need of leaders for long-term spiritual mentoring.
The book tells the story of Mentoring Communities beginning with Leighton Ford and the forming of the Point Group. One of its members was and is Stephen Abbott, who was once the EFAC Victoria Training Officer and taught evangelism at Ridley.
My connection with Mentoring Communities began shortly after ordination when Steve invited me into what became the REFRESH Mentoring Community. We had each been his students at Ridley and were fresh out of college. He sensed rightly that the group would be critical to our longevity and health in ministry. We’ve tracked together for over a decade and are now spread across Australia with one in the UK.
Six years ago, I gathered younger clergy into the Resilience mentoring community, a third-generation group that is able to trace its links back to Leighton Ford.
We are part of a world-wide movement and international community of practice, the patterns and culture of which are the subject of the book. The aim is to draw together ministers who want to, ‘lead like Jesus, lead others to Jesus, and lead for Jesus’.
Groups come together annually in, ‘a safe space and time, with safe people’, to engage in a process of peer spiritual mentoring. The process includes practices that make up the chapters of Part Two of the book: Solitude, Prayer and Bible Reflection, Listening, Questions, Discernment, Group Listening Prayer. These chapters form the bulk of the book.
These practices have pushed me to lean into the immanence of God and the intimacy of the Holy Spirit’s knowledge of my life and care over me. In a Mentoring Community, we express God’s care for each of us in the context of the people of God. It’s an amazingly powerful and tangible expression of wise, prayerful, loving support – vital encouragement amidst the challenges of ministry.
Each of my two groups’ members would attest to that. Part Three reflects on the experience of Mentoring Communities – what are they like to be a part of? How are they gathered together and sustained? Read Lifelong Leadership to grab a sense of what Mentoring Communities might mean for you and your longevity and health in gospel leadership. If you’re a more senior leader, what might they mean for your capacity to multiply ministry and invest in a subsequent generation of leaders? What would EFAC’s ministry look like if Mentoring Communities proliferated among us?
(Feel free to chat with Steve or Wei-Han too.)
Wei-Han Kuan is the Director of CMS Victoria