Do pastors need mentoring? Aren’t they the ones who are to mentor others? Why is it crucial for pastors to be mentored? The biblical example, the challenges of pastoring, the importance of character development, and the need for encouragement are some reasons why pastors need mentoring.
The Biblical Example
Those in ministry need others who are more seasoned to provide guidance and support. It was Barnabas who was called to work with Saul, better known to us as the Apostle Paul. Barnabas got to know Paul, vouched for him before others, and worked alongside him in ministry. Then in turn, it was the Apostle Paul who worked with his mentee Timothy to provide him instruction on how to carry out ministry and use the gifts God had given him to serve as a pastor. Much of that mentoring was done by letter, as encompassed in 1 and 2 Timothy. Today, some of that correspondence might have been done by e-mail! Or by Skype or Face Time.
The Challenges of Pastoring
The nature of ministry easily makes it a highly stressful and challenging career. How many other careers are 24/7, involve the entire family with even designations like PK’s (Pastor Kids), and can encompass one’s whole existence where work life, family life, and personal life often intertwine? While everyone can evaluate stress-related life change using the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale, clergy and clergy spouses have additional Rating Scales to identify factors augmenting their stress. Pastors are often like General Practitioners who need to have a wide range of knowledge and skills. No wonder the term “seminary” means “seedbed” where one only plants a foundation for ministry and then enters the school of experience.
The Importance of Cultivating Character
Externals – in numbers, dollars, and size, often measure ministry. The great temptation for pastors is to conform to chasing the externals more than cultivating character. Of course this begins with the pastor. The pastor is to lead by example. Character development takes intentionality and time that a mentor can help encourage and hold the pastor accountable. We hear of too many fallen pastors. There are those who have even fleeced the sheep! Ministry needs to flow from character. Mentors play an important role in prodding pastoral character development.
The Need for Encouragement
Pastors need encouragement as they are prone to get discouraged. Pastors often have great expectations for the congregation, expectations for oneself, and even for God to do a mighty work. These expectations can be unrealistic and even beyond what God might desire. It is often noted that pastoring is a lonely profession. Pastors need a mentor/companion to view the situation from the outside, to note what good things are happening, and to offer perspective and prayer support.
Personally, I have mentored pastors for many years. Some have served as pastors or interns in my previous churches and those who serve in other churches. I not only provide encouragement to others but I myself am encouraged and inspired as well. The pastoral waterways are not an easy to navigate. A mentor is a spiritual guide along that journey. Even I myself have a mentor who is also a certified spiritual director who really points me to the ultimate source of hope and help, our God.
Dr. Daniel L. Wong is Associate Professor of Christian Ministries, Tyndale University & Seminary, Toronto
 Roy M. Oswald, Clergy Self-Care: Finding Balance for Effective Ministry (Bethesda, MD: The Alban Institute, 1991), 30-33.