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.