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Following a link from today's BUGB e-News Sweep I read through an article by Rick Warren that left me somewhat irritated because I find its apparent understanding of mentoring too slick and too superficial.

Essentially, Rick Warren undertook to pray for a 'long list of up and coming young pastors' a decade ago and now many of them are out of ministry.  In citation of a glib phrase I've seen elsewhere, it is important that they 'finish strong' he says.  Well, yes, but how are they to be enabled so to do?  An equally glib response could be that Rick Warren's prayers aren't all that effective - since they failed to keep half of these men (I assume) in pastorate.  I'm not saying that is the case - one could equally argue that his prayers mean less fell by the wayside than might otherwise have happened - I just wonder if there is something about real mentoring that is being missed here.

Firstly, I don't believe it is possible to mentor 'long lists of people' or even to pray intelligently for them all.  Mentoring requires a depth of relationship, not being another name on a prayer list.

Secondly, mentoring is not about teaching skills - how to bring loads of people into church, bring them to a point of Christian commitment, organise meetings, prepare whizzy presentations or anything else - it is about coming alongside and sharing with someone as they discover for themselves what their vocation looks like.  It might involve some skills training but it might not.

Of course Christian mentoring includes praying with and for the person involved, and most likely it will include some transfer of skills and knowledge, but above all it is about two disciples of Christ travelling together on a road where Jesus can surprise them as their hearts burn within them.

Rick Warren and his Saddleback church do some great stuff, and I certainly don't want to knock that, but in terms of mentoring people for ministry I'm not sure I'm on the same wavelength.  Since BUGB introduced mentoring for NAMS the drop out rate fell from around 20% to less than 5% indicating this process is helpful and worth the personal, spiritual and emotional investment.  When ministers crash and burn, and they do sometimes, rather than seeing them as morally lacking perhaps we do well to question our own commitment to supporting them in the ways that would have avoided such tragedy.

'Finish strong' by all means - but 'journeying strong' with the risks, vulnerability, openness and slog that requires seems a more profitable avenue of exploration.


  • I found the whole article slightly ironic - no more fads and therapies from the man who has given us multiple purpose-driven books and merchandise and a downloadable sermon each week.

  • Indeed it is.

  • You may be reluctant to "knock" Warren and Saddleback, but I find most of his stuff not only "irritating" but deeply disturbing. But enough about them. The success of the BU mentoring for NAMs is something truly to celebrate. Perhaps this should also be a downloadable global phenomenon! Send Warren a copy for free.

    The problem of course is the kind of mentoring you are talking about is not available in package form. It involves people being honest face to face and walking, praying together. And it may not necessarily result in finishing strong or actually ever being "strong".

    Pauls' advice was "I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." or "I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses." Not sure how Warren translates these in PDL though!

  • Hmmmm
    Am I allowed to point out that Jesus "crashed and burned" within 3 years of starting his ministry? (or is that rather wicked?)

    And from my own situation - who teaches churches how to behave towards their pastor? Why do the pastor and their family end up paying such a heavy price? At what point do you leave the pastorate to try to keep your own sanity/ health/ marriage/ family?

    Why is serving God in a different sphere a failure? Or is the pastorate the only job that really counts?

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