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  • Mentoring...?

    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.

  • Terminology

    Now and then I go to the coffee shop shop opposite the Gathering Place where I can read the local rag for free whilst supping my beverage of choice.

    Unlike most coffee shops, lattes come in three varieties as well as three sizes...



    skinny latte

    skinny skinny latte


    I have the last of these.


    Latte - blue milk

    Skinny latte - green milk

    Skinny skinny latte - red milk.


    Of course, if you aren't a Brit or don't drink cow's milk this is all meaningless.

    For the record, the coffee shop ticks boxes for fairtrade and rainforest alliance.  It sells healthy soup, bacon sandwiches and very unhealthy gloopy cakes.

    Just so's you know!

  • Rewarding Good Behaviour

    Recently Craig posted on the experience of eating his first faitrade Kitkat (here). Yesterday I went out and bought one too.  Not having eaten one in, ooh, fifteen years or more, I'm not sure I correctly recalled the taste, but it was fine.

    Craig was wrestling with the morality of eating this Kitkat, after all, Nestle have not abandoned all their practices that caused people to 'boycott' them in the first place.  Should we reward their good behaviour when they are still doing things we perceive as bad?  Comments on his blog varied.

    So what do I think?

    I think it is complicated (my usual answer to everything!) and that there is no precise answer to this.  I choose to buy Fairtrade products where I can but recognise that even that choice impacts those who produce the 'not Fairtrade' products I am not buying.  I choose to buy 'Farm Assured' products, look for 'Rain Forest Alliance' or 'Dolphin Friendly' or 'Free Range' labels on products but at the same time am oblivious to the ethical practices of the majority of manufacturers, distributors and retailers.  I like BOGOF and 2 for 3 offers, but am aware that someone, somewhere has to pay for these (and the share holder it isn't).  Retail staff rarely get paid much over minimum wage.  Small suppliers struggle to win and then retain contracts with the giants. If we want to go down the 'punish everyone for everything they do wrong' route we aren't going to be buying much at all - with inevitable consequences for our own comfy lifestyles.

    On balance, I think it is right to reward the good behaviour.  After all, that is how we want to be treated ourselves.  "Whoever claims to have no sin deceives themselves" so the Good Book says, and it's true.  We are all a 'work in progress.'  Part of the mystery of what we believe as Christians is that at Calvary atonement was accomplished, yet the transformation of our lives is ongoing.

    Nestle haven't got everything right, and it is important that people go one encouraging and cajoling them to change what is wrong, but they have got something right and they should be rewarded for that.  It is so easy for us to criticise their practices, but what actually are we doing to overcome the problems of accessible clean water in African nations?  How much do we really know about the situation, and how much do we just jump on a judgemental bandwagon?

    Forgive us our sins as we forgive... dare we really pray this?

  • Toilet Twinning!

    Now that Chris Evans has taken over the Radio 2 breakfast show, it has a new feel to it.  Not 'better' than Terry Wogan, just different.  And I am enjoying it.

    Today he was talking to a 'Rev' who was with the landlord of her local pub and the conversation reflected the place of each in their local community, and she commented on the inter-relationship of the two.  Chris always comes across as respectful of people of faith - and his former tea time show is the only one I know of that played 'There is a Redeemer' as a listener request!

    A few minutes later came the bit that caught my attention though, as Moira Stewart reported the example of a Methodist church in north east England who had done a 'toilet twinning' exercise.  By charging people a penny to "spend a penny" they had raised the necessary £60 to sponsor a toilet, presumably through this organisation.  I think it's a great idea...

  • Back to College...

    Today was the first session of a new module in mentoring being piloted at/by the Scottish Baptist College, and which I am taking.  Whilst I find it hard not to groan at the prospect of yet another round of enforced theological journalling (sorry Stuart, this is year 11 and the umpteenth iteration of this...) I am looking forward to what the module has to offer.

    It was good to see the college 'in the flesh' and to meet those who I'd only spoken to on the phone or in the ether, and good to meet some other ministers with varying experiences of mentoring/supervising those involved in workplace/work-based learning.  It was interesting to compare how students here work with how I was trained/formed in Manchester and I will at some point give some time to reflecting more on this.

    However, I am not sure whether to be amused or annoyed that the University of the West of Scotland cannot spell my first name... I mean, c'mon, it's not like it's English or anything...

    Anyway, a good day all in all.