The gift of a good question from a trusted mentor
It has been a joy and a privilege to listen to people’s stories over the recent months. I have been investigating how the Period of Discernment has been functioning in the Synod of NSW and ACT, listening to what is working and what needs more support, where discernment is flourishing, and where we may have lost some of the essence of discernment for the sake of administration and process.
Throughout it all, I have been asking people to tell me about their ministry and service, and how they discerned their call to it. These stories are varied and rich, rarely simple or straightforward, and often peppered with accounts of God’s grace, and the faithful obedience of God’s people. It has been a delight to hear about how people find their way to both lay and ordained ministry, and how God speaks – sometimes insistently – until we respond with a “Yes! Ok! I will do that!”
More often than not, when someone recounted their journey of discernment, they told me of a faithful figure – someone in their life, perhaps a minister, trusted friend, or respected role model – who asked them a timely question along the lines of: “Have you ever thought about…” It was a question of encouragement and wondering. A question that offered the possibility of some other form of service and ministry that they perhaps had never envisaged for themselves. This person knew them, saw them, and valued them. Not only did they celebrate what they were currently doing, they used that beautiful and often underused gift of imagination to stretch a vision into the future of what could be. This simple question often inspired, sometimes affirmed, and occasionally surprised.
I can’t help but wonder what might have been lost, or delayed, if the question was never asked.
If you recall your own journey through the years, I am sure many, if not all of us, can recall a person in our life who has gone before us, and has seen us – our gifts, our passions, our potential – and cheered us on. Perhaps they have nudged you towards using your gifts in a particular way. Perhaps they have provided opportunity for you to serve. Perhaps they have simply affirmed and encouraged you when you have stepped into a new opportunity, celebrating with you as you have faithfully offered who you are.
As you read this, perhaps you lament the absence of a person like this in your life. Perhaps you have longed for someone who has gone before you who could support you in your own journey from a place of wisdom and experience. Perhaps, due to your own circumstances and context, or due to the absence of people who could fill this role, you have struggled to find someone who could be a trusted guide and mentor.
Mentors can play many roles in our lives. Sometimes, we can be inspired from afar at someone’s life and work. We can look up to them, and seek to emulate their ways, inspired by their wisdom and the path they are treading. There is an important place for this kind of encouragement. However, when we have the opportunity to walk closely with a mentor, to be supported, guided and encouraged, through intentional and authentic relationship, there is rich and deep blessing – for both the mentee and the mentor.
In Mentoring To Develop Disciples and Leaders, John Mallison suggests, “Christian mentoring is a dynamic, intentional relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximise the grace of God in their life and service.”
When you recall your own story, I wonder who has enabled you to maximise the grace of God in your life? Who has spoken words to you, asked you questions, or simply been there in crucial moments, to help you see what God is doing in your life and in the world, and how you might respond?
On the flip side, who in your life have you had the privilege of walking with, in a way that enabled them to maximise the grace of God in their life and service? How are you intentionally supporting someone else to become the fullness of who God has made them to be, to walk with them as they navigate their life and ministry? Is there someone in your life or your community now, that you could play that role for?
The truth is, we need each other. We need each other to help us see who we are, who God is, and how we can live in response to these unfolding truths.
In the Uniting Church we have multiple opportunities for formal mentoring relationships. One of these is within the Period of Discernment, where the mentor plays a crucial role in supporting a mentee to discern who they are, what their gifts are, and how they might use them to serve in the Church and the world.
If you are interested in the potential of becoming a mentor, either for the Period of Discernment, or in a less formal way, or if you would be interested in learning and refining how to develop healthy mentor relationships and practices, join us for the Synod Mentor Training happening very soon – details below.
Wherever you find yourself in your own journey, I hope that we may each be people who maximise the grace of God, both in our own lives, and in others’. May we walk alongside each other, faithfully calling one another on to new life in Christ, expectantly and imaginatively open to what the Holy Spirit is doing in and through us. And may we have both the wisdom and the courage to ask the good questions.
The Synod Mentor Training course will be presented via Zoom, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. over three sessions: 6, 13 and 20 November 2023. For more information, visit the official website here.
Rev. Greer Hudson is the Period of Discernment Co-ordinator within the Vital Leadership Team.