Using Mentors in Seminary

MentorDo you have a mentor? I’ve always envied guys who talk about their ministry mentors. There have been a few pastors and Christian friends that have played this role in my life, but I always wished it could have been more consistent.

The one exception was a guy named Jason. After I graduated Boyce College, I was going through some questions about my calling to ministry. It was a dark time for me. My wife and I were active in our church, but we really struggled to connect with others.

I’m not sure how it began, but Jason started meeting with me occasionally to encourage me and to pray together. He was on staff at the church and a Ph.D student at Southern. He got me involved in a small group and eventually asked me to lead it. God used his influence to clarify that I should go back to SBTS and start another degree.

During his last semester in Louisville, we meet every-other-week. We basically talked, prayed and looked to the Bible for guidance. Looking back, those were some of the most fruitful times of discipleship in my life. About 6 months later, God brought me to my current church to serve full time on staff.

That was the only mentor I’ve known in my Christian life. I’m writing all this because I doubt my experience is unique. I’d like to hear from you.

  • Do you have anyone mentoring you?
  • Do you have someone that you’re trying to mentor?
  • What can churches and seminaries do to help?

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UPDATE: Tonight I ran across some Southern bloggers writing about mentors, I wanted to add them to the post as a reference. Thanks for all the great feedback.


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    13 Responses to Using Mentors in Seminary

    1. Terry Lange says:

      1) Not formally

      2) Not formally or officially

      3) Provide opportunities for such relationships similar to the shepherding groups at SBTS and address the issue directly instead of the standard “drive-by” or “hit and miss” approach

      Terry Lange’s last blog post..Praying through Scripture revisited

    2. 1) Informally, yes, and it’s SWEET. More like getting together and hanging out, rather than super structured. She is super encouraging, the leader of music and worship at my church, very much a leader by encouragement and example. She has provided me with opportunities to lead songs within the worship set. I feel pretty blessed.
      2) Not formally.
      3) Churches should create a culture of building into others as an expectation for anyone leading any ministry at any level.

      Julie Halitzka’s last blog post..Summer and Fall Classes

    3. 1) I have been blessed by many mentors at various points in my Christian life. I would say the most consistent man has been Scott Lee who was my first Systematics prof at MoBap and then became my pastor and is now a really good friend. I also have a prof at SBTS that I would consider (and have told him so) to be a mentor.

      2) Actually, I have two young men who have come to me and pretty much point-blank asked me to mentor them in various areas. Both are becoming much more intensive than I think any of us thought at the start to the glory of God.

      3) I think churches need to be very intentional about the whole concept of mentoring. I actually told Scott (see 1) that while he was good about it, he lacked intentionality.

      I think at the seminary level, the student ought to seek out a prof who is willing to be a mentor of sorts. I was given some advice by some who had “been there done that” and they told me that God will set up opportunities to get to know your profs at a deeper level. Be sensitive to those opportunities and take advantage of them without becoming a burden.

      Terry Delaney’s last blog post..Going Toe to Toe Spiritually

    4. My mentor is Todd Robertson. He’s the “Pastor for Missions and Outreach” at our church. I’m glad to have him as a mentor. He has enough interest in intellectual/academic discussions to not bemoan the sort of quandries my seminary eductation has me thinking through, yet he keeps my hands and feet grounded in street level ministry here in the downtown area of Louisville.

      He actually is mentoring me (informally) through mentoring a 40 something year old man from NY, NY who is a recovering drug addict and new Christian (at least, new in the sense of about 2 years now and counting). We are all three mutual friends, so me and him put our heads together all the time on how to best disciple this guy; we strategize together; we pray together; we split up the minsitry needs and share the joy’s and the pains of discipling a man who is prone to relapse, yet extremely passionate about his faith. It’s been a wild ride.

      It’s an interesting thing. Through my mentoring of this guy from NY, I’m being mentored in how to mentor. Skrilla or what?

      As far as what churches can do to help; I think the best mentor relationships flow naturally out of love. Being “assigned” a mentor can be of some benifit, but the most ideal mentor relationships grow out of the deep bond of friendship (i.e. affectionate love). One brother sees the need and potential in another brother, invests in him relationally and goes out of his way to be there for him through thick and thin. He earns the respect of that brother through love, so then that brother comes to him for advice and council when he really needs it, yet the mentor aspect is always at work, not just when you have official “meetings.”

      Friends make the best mentors, not the guys you get “assigned” to and meet with you once a month or so to talk. I’m not sure how the seminary could best cultivate those kind of friendships. They are hard to “assign.” It’s a tough question.

      Bradley Cochran’s last blog post..T4G 08: Mixed Afterthoughts

    5. (1) When I was first called into the ministry in college (1992), Pastor Chris Whaley took me under his wing and gave me opportunities for service and ministry. I’ll always be grateful.

      (2) Right now, I meet with four college students who attend our church who feel a calling into ministry (two into preaching ministry, one in college ministry, another in music/youth). We’re going through Spurgeon’s “Lectures” and it’s been quite helpful!

      (3) My DMin project is on the role that churches have in training aspiring ministers. I believe that churches have completely abdicated their role to the seminaries. There needs to be more of a partnership and an understanding of the local church’s responsibility in this area.

      Matthew Perry’s last blog post..“Brothers, We Are Not Professionals” by John Piper (A Book Review)

    6. Tony Kummer says:

      Matt – That sounds like an interesting D.Min project. I think the more we get away from “professional” models of pastoral leadership the more churches will value Paul-Timothy type mentoring.

      Brandon – Thanks for sharing your story, that sounds like a great way to get mentoring into the DNA of future pastors.

      All – I think we’re all wishing churches and seminaries could do more, but this may be something that will be ‘on us’ once we’re leading churches and seminaries.

    7. toney sauls says:

      i have never been formally discipled, although i have had a bunch of guys “assigned” to me. in retrospect, i would have been better off staying home a playing video games or something else more fruitful than meeting with these jokers.

      i have not had any formal disciples myself, but i have had chances to influence the lives of young men in the ministry. these were wonderful relationships and i miss them since coming to Southern.

      i think it is wonderful if students can find professors to attach to and glean their wisdom and biblical understanding, but i am not sure that it is the seminary’s responsibility to find us mentors. that responsibility falls squarely on the local church. i think Tony is right when he says that we will have to be the ones to implement this, as it is not present in the majority of our churches.

      this is a great thread, thanks for starting it Tony.

    8. Santiago says:

      My church has a program where older youth can intern with any of the staff members prior to college. This is beneficial on many levels.

      As for myself, I have difficulty building friendships with others. It’s unlikely that a friend would be my mentor since I don’t have friends that are close enough to do this. Therefore, I’ve never really had the benefit of a mentor.

    9. Santiago,

      This seems like a most depressing confession that you make. Friendships are among the greatest gifts of life. Why do you have difficulty building friendships?


      Bradley Cochran’s last blog post..T4G 08: Mixed Afterthoughts

    10. Tony Kummer says:

      Re: building friendships & mentoring

      I think this might be a part of the problem for many of us. Our alienation from others is a symptom of the fall in our lives. So, Christian fellowship is both a restorative act and a sign of our restoration by God.

      Growing in our community with God and one another is part of sanctification. Mentoring is one intense and intentional form of this kind of fellowship.

      This is another reason why pastors should be examples of mentoring. I think our tendency is to be isolated in our ministry, which sets a bad example and is dangerous for our piety.

    11. On building relationships…
      In today’s culture, broken relationships with others are almost to the point of being normalized. So many people are children of divorce, have dealt with abuse or neglect.

      We are also caught in an entertainment obsessed society where people may spend more time developing sympathy for characters on television than relating to real people.

      The relationships we do have with real people may happen through technology, allowing us distance and detachment that we wouldn’t have through direct human contact.

      The church may be the first place that some people experience deep and meaningful in-person relationships.

      Julie Halitzka’s last blog post..Summer and Fall Classes

    12. Tony,

      Well Said.


      Bradley Cochran’s last blog post..T4G 08: Mixed Afterthoughts

    13. You too Julie. Well Said.

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