You are here because you wish to work with a Gordon-Conwell student or a student has approached you to be their Mentored Ministry mentor.
- What is Mentored Ministry?
- What is an approved mentor, and how do I become one?
- Odds of Getting a Student: a "Disclaimer"
- What is New Mentor Orientation?
- How do students set up their Mentored Ministry?
- "I would like a student. How can we get one?"
- What denominational considerations are there?
Guidelines for Mentors:
- Mentoring Commitment
- Mentoring Sessions
- Written Reports
- Number of Students
- Titles for Students
- Acceptable Kinds of Ministries
- Mentor Responsibilities
- Helps for Mentors
Potential Topics for Mentoring Sessions
Commonly Asked Questions:
What is Mentored Ministry?
Mentored Ministry is the field education component of the Masters of Divinity program at GCTS. Students have the requirement, opportunity and privilege to be mentored by an experienced pastor or ministry leader, and gain practical experience in one or a variety of ministries during the time they are in seminary. There are three kinds of Mentored Ministry units:
The Orientation Unit (MM501) is expected to be the very first unit that a student takes. This consists of seven lunchtime meetings during the first semester. Students are encouraged to take this time to think and pray through their options for their field units of Mentored Ministry, as well as find a good home church for them and/or their family. This is also the time when students will be given the Profiles of Ministry character and ministry assessment, which they are instructed to share with their mentors once they have a Mentored Ministry situation secured.
MM Field Units (MM502, 601, 602 & 701), which normally follows the Orientation Unit, is when students engage in actual ministry on the field. Each unit needs to be 12 weeks long (a normal semester in length) and at least 10 hours per week. Up to half of the time allotted may be spent in preparation for ministry (e.g. Bible study, sermon preparation, etc.).
The final, Capstone, unit (MM702) takes place on campus and is intended to prepare students for vocational discernment and the job search process.
M.Div. students have four field units to complete. Students typically do one unit at a time, but if they work in a ministry at 20 hours per week, they may register for double units. Students may also do three field units over two semesters, if their ministry averages 15 hours per week. As a mentor, you would be required to meet with them personally once a week for an hour, committing yourself during that time to their spiritual growth and maturity, as well as their ministry knowledge and skills development. Written assignments are required at the beginning (Learning Covenant) and at the end (Progress Report or Final Evaluation) of each 12-week MM field unit. For those doing double units, there is also an assignment (Reflection Tool) due in the middle of the semester.
Here at GCTS Hamilton, we are fortunate to have many more churches and ministries interested in having our students work with them than there are seminarians to go around. Therefore, only about ¼ of all church or ministry requests actually find a student. A majority of our students (about 98%) find ministry opportunities by word of mouth, and in addition, do their Mentored Ministry within about a 20 mile radius of the seminary.
While we love the church and are happy to make potential Mentored Ministry opportunities known, we do believe that inquirers need to be informed of the odds, so that churches’ or ministries’ hopes for (or pressures on) a student may not be too high - and so that no inordinate amount of labor be done on anyone’s part to try to arrange for something that may not be realistic.
In summary, GCTS Mentored Ministry is committed to being student-centered. We reserve the right to decline or limit certain ministry opportunities we may feel do not offer a robust or supportive enough ministry environment for students.
What is an approved mentor, and how do I become one?
All mentors working in ministry with Gordon-Conwell students must be approved by the Mentored Ministry office of the Seminary. Prior to commencing a mentoring relationship with a student, the mentor must have completed an Application to Mentor, and have been approved by the Mentored Ministry office.
The school requires mentors to have had at least five years of full-time ministry experience before seeking the approved mentor status. It should be noted that long years of experience and excellent skills in ministry do not necessarily qualify one for supervising ministry students. Therefore, the Seminary requires training in supervision for new mentors. Mentors are expected to attend (once) the seminary’s fall or spring New Mentor Orientation program (a 3-hour afternoon, including lunch) prior to or simultaneous with working with their student. If a mentor is not within driving distance of the seminary, exceptions are granted with approval of the Mentored Ministry office. Normally, approval is made complete by participation in the orientation program. If a mentor has been trained in supervision at another seminary, Gordon-Conwell will recognize such training if the other school's program is comparable to ours. If a mentor does not attend the New Mentor Orientation within 2 semesters of written approval, they may not continue to mentor.
Mentors will also be expected to uphold the standards of the Mentored Ministry program in order to continue their status as mentors. This includes meeting the minimal commitment of meeting with their mentee an average of 1 hour per week for personal and ministry mentoring during the 12 weeks of the student’s Mentored Ministry units. It also presumes that the mentor is in basic agreement with the GCTS Community Life Statement.
What is New Mentor Orientation?
This is the half-day training and orientation seminar that each newly-approved mentor is required to attend, once. These events are typically scheduled for an afternoon in late August and in early February. A complimentary lunch is included.
If a new mentor cannot attend the New Mentor Orientation (NMO) nearest to their approval date (given in their approval letter), they must come to the next scheduled New Mentor Orientation. Mentors who do not attend the NMO within the first 2 semesters of being approved will not be allowed to continue to mentor GCTS students.
If a mentor’s application is approved for a local summer Mentored Ministry, upon written approval, they may mentor their student through the summer and make plans to attend the Fall New Mentor Orientation. If the mentor is at a location farther than a 2-hour drive from the seminary, they will not be required to attend, and the Mentored Ministry office will provide them with the appropriate resources.
"I would like a student. How can we get one?"
If you are already an approved GCTS mentor, then all you need to do is fill out the Position Description Form and scan, fax or mail it in to us. We will make a posting for your ministry opportunity and 1) Send it out by e-mail to the student body, 2) Upload it to the web site, 3) Post it on our bulletin board outside of our office for students to view, and 4) Keep a full description on file in our office for reference.
If you are not already a GCTS approved mentor, you must be willing to seriously mentor any student who would choose your opportunity, and to go through the process of being approved before we can post your opportunity. This involves completing an Application to Mentor and attending our ½-day new Mentor Orientation. Please read above under “Approved Mentors” to learn how to move forward.
First, it could make a huge difference in the kind of networking needed in order to get a ministry job after graduation. Particularly if a student is planning on or is even only open to the possibility of getting ordained or credentialed, we have found that students who are denominationally affiliated have a much easier time. We often say that unless God has clearly told someone to go non-denominational, students should seek to choose a denomination.
Secondly, it’s very helpful to unite and resource with other Christians who share the student’s theological and methodological convictions and approaches. Rather than figuring out later that they may not feel comfortable with a given ministry situation or environment, it’s important that they begin the process now of looking for the best possible fit. We do note, however, that even if/when a student selects a denomination (or association of churches), it does not necessarily mean that they are locked there. There is often reciprocity between denominations, and quite a few non-denominational churches are willing to hire credentialed people from outside their denominational group.
Third, even though a student may firmly believe that God is not calling them to ordained ministry or even a job in a church, there may come a time where it could happen. Students owe it to themselves to at least know their convictions and preferences, “just in case.” Plus – when a student does choose a denomination, the inquiry or candidate process can take a long time (one to two-plus years is not uncommon), so the earlier they start, the better.
We regularly urge students to research different denominations with the goal of selecting at least one which they feel fits them best. We have created a Denominational Chart to help them get started. The Chart is built from the list of the top denominations represented in the GCTS student body. The categories selected (polity, baptism, general theology, women in leadership) are based on what we find matters most to our students in the selection process. We have also included the contact information for these denominations’ national and regional representatives. As a mentor and/or member of a denomination, we would welcome any additions, adjustments, suggestions or updates you might want to share in regard to the distinctives of your denomination, so that we can keep the Chart as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
Guidelines for Mentors
All mentors are asked to review and sign our Mentoring Commitment, seen below. The seven elements of the commitment reflect the seminary's emphasis on certain values and approach to the mentoring relationship. Those who are able to do so will be added to the in-house Recommend MM Sites list.
- EXPERIENCED MINISTER, GCTS-TRAINED/ORIENTED.
A mentor must have a minimum of five years in full-time ministry experience. They have applied to be a mentor via the Application to Mentor and have attended Gordon-Conwell’s half-day New Mentor Orientation. They also agree to attend a Mentor Re-Certification every five years.
- SERVANT LEADERSHIP APPROACH.
A mentor exercises a servant-leadership style, not a dictatorial one. The goal is to help make those who are under them successful, not for those under them to make their superior or their ministry successful. Also, mentors are not merely ministry supervisors. The Gordon-Conwell mentoring paradigm is one in which a mentor models openness to the student and expresses sincere interest in their personal and spiritual development. Mentors share their experiences and lessons from their own ministry and spiritual lives with the students.
- COMMITMENT TO INDIVIDUAL AND PERSONAL MENTORING.
The mentor agrees to meet personally (one-on-one) with each mentee on a weekly basis (minimum 10 times per semester). Group staff meetings do not qualify for this. If personal mentoring meetings are not possible, an individual with the same qualifications as the mentor must be chosen and approved to personally mentor the student (e.g. retired pastor in the congregation, local denominational representative, etc.).
Mentoring times should include more than supervision of ministry tasks. It is expected that the mentor will engage in theological reflection with the student over ministry issues and experiences. They will also take care to encourage, help support and develop their mentee in their personal spiritual formation.
- PREFERRED PATH.
Master of Divinity students at Gordon-Conwell work through a progression of practical ministry courses in their degree program (spiritual formation, Christian education, evangelism and discipleship, pastoral counseling, preaching, and pastoral ministry). When/if at all possible, mentors will seek to help integrate whatever practical ministry course their mentees are taking with a ministry project for that semester.
- REFLECTION GROUP IN UNIT 5.
During Mentored Ministry unit 5, students are required to participate in a faculty-led reflection group on campus. It is about 1.5 hours long and on a bi-weekly basis, usually Tuesdays or Thursdays during the lunch block. These 1.5 hours are allowed to be included in the ministry hours for that student during those weeks.
- LAY COMMITTEES RECOMMENDED.
Gordon-Conwell wants to move toward having each church at which a student does their Mentored Ministry have supportive Lay Committees. The committee would involve about 3 – 4 lay people meeting with the student twice a semester/unit for the purpose of encouragement and constructive feedback. These people would need to have personally observed the student in their ministry and could include, but not consist entirely of, youth. We would like mentors to help facilitate this as appropriate to their context.
- ACCEPTS STUDENT LIMITS.
Time Limits: Seminary students are eager to serve, but are also under academic pressure. The church/mentor should not press students for more weekly ministry hours than contracted in the Learning Covenant, remembering that preparation time is included in students’ weekly hours. However, neither should mentors accept significantly fewer hours during times of stress than those agreed upon. Students need to learn to work through the pressures of life and ministry, and should keep the average of weekly hours.
Ability Limits: All believers are gifted in various and marvelous ways by the Holy Spirit, and a purpose of the Church is to help affirm and encourage the development of these gifts in ministry students. At the same time, students should not be expected to accomplish more than possible, given their maturity level and experience (e.g. they cannot be expected to be the revival source of a diminishing church; be at the church as often as the pastor(s), or single-handedly bring crowds of younger people into the church).
All mentors working in ministry with Gordon-Conwell students must be approved by the Mentored Ministry office of the Hamilton campus. Prior to commencing a mentoring relationship with a student, the mentor must have completed an Application to Mentor and have been approved by the Mentored Ministry office.
The school requires a mentor to have had at least five years of full-time experience in ministry before seeking the approved mentor status. It should be noted that long years of experience and skills in ministry do not necessarily qualify one for supervising ministry students. Therefore, the Seminary requires training in supervision for new mentors. Mentors are expected to attend (once) the seminary's fall or spring New Mentor Orientation program prior to, or simultaneous with, working with their student. If a mentor is not within driving distance of the seminary, exceptions are granted with approval of the Mentored Ministry office. Normally, approval is made complete by participation in the orientation program. If a mentor has been trained in supervision at another seminary, Gordon-Conwell will recognize such training if the other school's program is comparable to ours. If a mentor does not attend a New Mentor Orientation within 2 semesters of approval, they will not be allowed to continue to mentor until they do.
Mentors will be expected to uphold the standards of the Mentored Ministry program in order to continue their status as mentors. This includes meeting the minimal commitment of meeting with their mentee an average of 1 hour per week for personal and ministry mentoring during the 12 weeks of the student's Mentored Ministry units. It also presumes that the mentor is in basic agreement with the GCTS Community Life Statement.
The Seminary looks to mentors to provide high quality supervision of the students who are training for various forms of Christian ministry. The supervisor is a mentor - one who teaches, models and enables the student to grow as a minister. This involves active participation with the student and, at least, some first-hand observation of the student at work. Being a mentor is being a teacher.
While the Seminary recognizes the needs of churches and Christian ministries to engage students to help in given projects, emphasis must be placed on the educational development of the student. Students should not necessarily be seen as experts in a given area nor be used for that purpose. They may or may not have skills in certain areas of ministry. Their mentored ministry environment, therefore, should provide exposure to a broad range of tasks and situations to help students gain competence and awareness of the many facets of ministry, as well as provide experiences which will foster personal, professional and spiritual development.
Each student must spend at least 10 hours in supervision with the mentor for each 12 week unit, and is to take the initiative in establishing the agenda for these meetings according to his/her needs. As a mentor, the supervisor should take an active role in helping to plan for these sessions. Be intentional and direct, but also gentle and fair. This is a time to talk about the student's development and evaluate their performance, as well as to plan for the future. The mentor and the student are encouraged to make regular use of the reflection tools found in the Mentored Ministry section of the Gordon-Conwell web site. Be willing to share yourself and your life experiences in ministry. Make prayer and reflection on spiritual issues a part of this time together, as well. Regular meetings at specified times with a planned agenda are expected.
There are two assignments on which mentors are to assist their mentees: The beginning-of-the-semester Learning Covenant, and the end-of-the-semester Progress Report (or Final Evaluation, if this is the mentee's last unit with them). The mentor is expected to collaborate with the student in developing the Learning Covenant for each term or unit, and to sign the cover sheet, indicating their approval. Please be sensitive to student's assignment deadlines. At the end of the term, the mentor is asked to fill out the Questions for Mentor Response as part of the student's Progress Report or Final Evaluation. The mentor's signature on the cover sheet of each of these reports indicates that they have discussed the contents with their mentee. Any and all forms that mentors need may also be downloaded and printed from the GCTS web site.
On the evaluation forms, Mentors are asked to give a suggested grade for their student for that term. At Gordon-Conwell, the grades of A or B are acceptable. It is rare when a C is given, and that is only when the mentor (or professor) has a serious concern regarding the performance or character of a given student. The grade of A is the most common grade - and often the most appropriate one - given to a Mentored Ministry student who has been faithful and diligent. If a mentor does have serious concerns about a student, they are encouraged to first speak with the student and/or to call the Mentored Ministry office for assistance in determining how to best deal with the situation (978-646-4119).
Number of Students
Mentors are not allowed to supervise more than two students at a time, unless special circumstances such as denominational concerns or unusual time availability on the part of the mentor would warrant it. Small group mentoring is a possibility for mentors/churches with multiple MM students. Variations should be discussed with the MM office.
Titles for Students
Various titles are given to students in their field settings. A title which accurately reflects the internship nature and training emphasis of the Seminary's program is appropriate. Common titles for students are "pastoral intern," "student minister," or "student chaplain." Other titles may be appropriate, which are more descriptive of their ministry role (e.g. youth leader, small group coordinator, etc.).
The Mentored Ministry Department understands that not all churches or ministries are in the position to pay students for their work with them, and thus does not require financial remuneration to be given. However, since students pay for the Mentored Ministry course - and all courses - projects which offer remuneration provide a valuable help to students in covering these expenses. Individual needs on the part of both the student and the project must be kept in mind in negotiating possible financial arrangements. If the church or ministry is able to pay a student in any fashion, the specific remuneration plan should be determined at the beginning of the placement, and should be noted in the Learning Covenant.
For those who are in the position to offer remuneration, the following guidelines are recommended:
- Consider a range of $10-12 an hour, including preparation time. (minimum wage or more).
Pay necessary expenses such as long-distance telephone calls, meals in connection with the ministry, and .50 a mile for necessary travel.
- The mentor has demonstrated Christian maturity and competence in ministry, possessing the necessary knowledge and practical abilities to engage in contemporary Christian ministry.
- The mentor is actively engaged in full-time parish ministry or a recognized para-church organization or ministry involved in Christian service.
- Preferably, a mentor should have a level of theological training (Bible college, seminary, or some theological courses). They must have had at least five years of full-time Christian ministry experience.
- A mentor possesses supervisory skills.
- Mentors should be in essential agreement with the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Statement of Mission: "To advance Christ's Kingdom in every sphere of life by equipping church leaders to think theologically, engage globally and live biblically."
Acceptable Kinds of Ministries
A significant range of ministry experiences are acceptable to the MM Department - from the student's home church to nearby congregations, para-church ministries, summer projects and overseas missions. Many kinds of ministry roles are acceptable, except for ones that are primarily administrative. Remember that each unit must be at least 12 weeks long at a minimum of 10 hours per week.
- Participate in the New Mentor Orientation. If a mentor is unable to attend the training session, he/she will speak with the Mentored Ministry office and/or commit to attend the next scheduled Orientation, if they are within driving distance.
- Meet once a week with student for review of the student's progress, both in the classroom and in ministry practice. A special emphasis on the student's spiritual and personal development is expected and desired.
- Approve and/or assist in the composing of the student's Learning Covenant or Learning Covenant Update, due at the beginning of each semester.* (Please remember to sign the cover sheet.)
- Complete the mentor response portion of the Mentored Ministry Progress Report (or Final Evaluation), due at the end of each semester.* (Both the student and the mentor should each complete their respective response.) It is expected that you will discuss each other's assessment before the student turns it in. You will also need to sign the appropriate cover sheet, indicating that you have discussed the contents together.
It is recommended that the mentor and student schedule preparation of assignments into their meeting plans for the semester.
* Special Note: It is the student's responsibility alone to submit all paperwork to our office. Please do not agree to submit the student's work for them, or to submit your part separately.
Helps for Mentors
Since you, as a mentor, have an intense interest in preparing persons for ministry, we suggest that you review areas in your own life where you have had difficulty, or where the advice of a mentor would have been helpful to you. Then, consider the following ways to help your mentee in similar areas:
- Walk them through your library and tell them how you use these vital resources in ministry. How do you choose books for your library? Budgeted amount each year? Do you have them in a computer data base for checkout purposes? Do you encourage your laity to use these resources?
- Discuss one of your recent counseling cases (change it enough to make the persons anonymous and to protect confidentiality). Evaluate your own performance. Be vulnerable. Discuss the legal issues related to counseling. Tell them how you work with crises like suicide and abuse, among other issues.
- Give the student an inside view of administration and church governance, e.g., discuss the power of agenda setting, the structure of the meeting room and other contributions and distractions of meetings. Let them accompany you to a meeting. Tell them what to expect and then discuss the dynamics after the meeting is completed.
- Take the student inside your mind and heart as you prepare a worship service. Why do you follow a particular order or why do you choose particular songs? What is the place of liturgy? What biblical, theological, and practical motifs support your theories of worship? What are your expectations of worship? Discuss Isaiah chapter six as one model of worship. Discuss the way you create a worship service to provide an alternation between what God does and what the "actors" do. Invite the student to evaluate Kierkegaard's analysis of prompters, actors and audience, where minister, congregation and God play those roles, respectively.
- Rehearse your sermon preparation with the student. Let the student see how you choose a text, the exegetical and analytical aspects of your preparation and the hermeneutical process you use to interpret the text, the way you gather illustrations, and how you prepare to deliver the sermon. Discuss what it means to preach a biblical sermon.
- When the opportunities arise, give them instructions in preparing for a funeral, a wedding, a baptism, receiving of members, among other special services.
- Discuss your own spiritual and devotional life with the student. Be honest with them. Tell of the dark nights of the soul as well as affirming the mountain-top experiences. How often do you have devotions? What is the best time of day for you? What resources do you utilize?
- Work with the student on priority setting. Discuss family issues, taking time for a spouse and children and vacations and time off for recuperation. Discuss "ministerial guilt" with them when one must choose between family and church.
- Consider periodic discussions on personal finances, church finances, tithing, financial campaigns, and stewardship among other related topics. Tell them how you pay your own way and do not expect handouts from others.
- Give them opportunity for experience: preaching, teaching a Sunday School class, leading a small group, first level counseling, working with children and youth, singles and the aged - among other needed experiences. Take them to the hospital when you call on your people. Help them to understand hospital procedures, the best times for visiting, relationships with medical personnel and other related topics.
- Tell them of a critical clergy flaw -- leading worship but not worshipping. Help them to know how to experience worship when they lead worship. Tell them how you manage to lead worship yet access joy as you worship with the people. Tell them how you keep your pastoral prayers fresh and meaningful.
- It is assumed that one of your objectives in mentoring is to discuss the call to ministry. This is a crucial dynamic of your work with the students. You may want to discuss Tertullian's concept that "baptism is ordination into the ministry" (paraphrased) and then to distinguish between the general call of all Christians and the specific, vocational call to full-time ministry. You might want to discuss H. Richard Niebuhr's understanding of the call, in his book, The Purpose of the Church and the Ministry.
- Discuss the ethical and moral implications of ministry. Make them aware of temptations that arise in counseling and visitation.
- Work with the students on an integrative model of spiritual formation. Remind them (and yourself) that the protestant model is often a fragmented model -- the disassociation of intellectual spiritual formation and personal, interpersonal and social formation from spiritual formation. Help them to integrate these.
- Provide resources for their devotional and prayer life. Share Doberstein's prayer manual with them. Introduce them to Michael Quoist and to the church fathers as well as to the more contemporary expressions of devotional life.
You could add other perspectives. Mentoring will transform the student, revive your soul, and will, we believe, prepare a more effective, servant minister. By mentoring seminarians, you have an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the furtherance of the gospel, both here and around the world. Thank you for the part you will play in the process. You are the most critical link in our program. We cannot do it without you.
Potential Topics for Mentoring Students
The following subjects are suggestions for discussion in regular mentoring sessions. Mentors and students may add to this list and adapt the issues to individual needs, however, it is good if each ministry area is addressed in some way as a part of the mentoring process.
Serving through Pastoral Care
Understanding Process and Procedures
Reflecting on Personal Issues
Reaching out in Community Ministry