The Journey Blog

Reflections on the art of leading

Mentors and Peer Learning: Culture-shaping Practice #4

Entrepreneurs and engineers, were viewed as gods in our culture, and technology was the answer to all the world’s problems.
— Keller, Alsdorf, Every Good Endeavor, xvii

This was Katherine Alsdorf's assessment of the early days of the start-up tech world in Every Good Endeavor, (Keller and Alsdorf, 2012).

What we think of as "American" ingenuity and technology are defining, monolithic aspects of our culture that touch virtually every area of human activity, including the church. How do we recover from our “cultural addictions” and move toward healthy paradigms and expectations of work, leadership, and the cultures we create at work, whether in the social sectors, government, or in enterprise?

Today I'm returning to the theme of five culture shaping practices for leaders in ministry as a platform in the process of creating thriving learning environments. 

1. Give up the hero-leader myth
2. Join a collaborative community
3. Create safe environments of mutual trust
4. Seek mentors and peer learning partnerships
5. Discover spiritual direction and relational process.

These practices come from applied research in the sphere of church leadership, but they can inform any leader's practices in creating a healthy, sustainable organizational culture. This is especially so wherever a leader's aim is to understand the relationship of their faith and their vocation.

Seek mentors and peer learning partnerships

One of the most promising and powerful forms of mentoring that has arisen in the field of education is a group of peers facilitated by a wise mentor. This is called peer learning, or structured peer learning relationships. It is not classroom, nor is it group therapy. Rather it is the sharing of one's life and vocational experience, together in a way that is formative. For the mentor it also means stepping back to foster an environment of mutual learning and discovery, reflection, and processing among those who are in a similar challenge. 

Applying this concept among church leaders means finding ways to integrate communities of experienced pastor-mentors with numbers of small groups of peers as they move toward mature leadership.

That will mean that mature pastor-mentors need to make themselves accessible.

This is a call to do so, if you have the heart and the gifts.

Life-transforming mentoring is rare...and it is a rare gift for a great need. What better time-investment for a senior leader than to pour the wisdom and experience of a lifetime into pastors who will serve the church in the coming decades! This deposit of wisdom, if given away generously, would greatly enrich the church as well as offering a wise model for those in every calling.