Weaving a Life of Relationship and Experience
A review of Mentoring: Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspectives
for the Englewood Review of Books
Edited by Dean K. Thompson and D. Cameron Murchison
Foreward by Jill Duffield
Afterword by Martin Marty
Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2018
By Jennifer Burns Lewis
Every now and then one encounters a resource that provides a treasure trove of information and perspectives that enhances one’s ministry and life. Mentoring is just such a resource. Educators, parents, seminary staff, field education supervisors, spiritual directors, coaches, denominational leaders and everyone called to nurture and encourage relationships with emerging Christian leaders and well as the emerging leaders themselves will find thoughtful reflections from multiple angles as they seek to mentor, understand the mentoring process, or assist those merging leaders in identifying great mentors.
Editors Dean K. Thompson, president emeritus and professor of ministry emeritus at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and D. Cameron Murchison, dean of faculty emeritus and professor of ministry emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary, have compiled twenty-one essays from other recognized leaders in the church. Distinguished mentors themselves, Thompson and Murchison offer a compendium of articles arranged in four parts, addressing biblical and theological perspectives on mentoring as well as a section devoted to diverse nations and international communities of mentoring, and a fourth section about mentoring to and across the generations. The diversity of perspectives and topics provides a rich anthology of information and possibility for this time.
Scholars Walter Brueggemann and David Bartlett lead with articles about mentoring in the Old and New Testaments. Brueggemann begins with the statement that mentoring as an idea is a quite modern notion, but that “remembered experience that is mobilized as guidance for new circumstances” is as old as social relationships that help one of the parties in the relationship to flourish. Tracing early narratives, he reviews the relationships of Jethro and Moses, Moses and Joshua and Eli and Samuel as examples of powerful mentoring. He then helps us journey through the prophetic and royal traditions to spot other instances of mentoring relationships. Bartlett’s article concentrates on Paul’s mentoring relationships and Jesus as an example of being “more than a mentor.” Both articles help provide a biblical framework for mentoring that invites the reader to consider the many examples of biblical models of mentoring as instruction, exhortation, and call to imitation.
Turning to theological perspectives on mentoring, four scholars offer some of the most practical insights on the gift and task of mentoring. Currie, Long, Miles and Rigby suggest that there are pastoral dimensions to mentoring, that the role of the preacher can be one of a mentor, that mentors have potential conflicts and ethical standards to uphold as they approach mentoring, and that feminist mentoring adds a dimension to mentoring that shifts the relationship from disseminating wisdom to evoking the skills and gifts inherent in the person being mentored. Rigby offers a perspective that bridges mentoring and coaching, so popular in recent years, and provides a foundation that points to a feminist perspective that is a rich and meaningful contribution to the work of mentoring.
Perhaps the greatest contribution this volume makes are the essays that point to unique and particular perspectives on mentoring African-American men and women, the history of mentoring in the Roman Catholic tradition, what it means to mentor and be mentored as Latin@ leaders, and as East Asians. Each essay provides insights and scholarship and experience that opens a window into diverse communities, with the reminder that “a good mentor provides guides and clues for the journey” but that each person will forge a unique path. That’s wisdom for all.
Mentoring concludes with a section on generational mentoring, including articles written by author pairs who offer a dialogical approach to mentoring youth, reflections on mentoring and being mentored in academia, and possibly the most dynamic article in the anthology, an article about cross-generational mentoring by Ted Wardlaw and Camille Cook Murray. In its authentic reflections, the final essay points out that adaptive mentoring is mutual, intentional and the living embodiment of what it means to be part of a great cloud of witnesses who mentor each other, particularly in a world of rapid change and reforming.
This gem of a book concludes with a beautiful afterword by Martin Marty, who engages in a bit of beautiful reflection and mentoring in response to each author in the anthology. Throughout all of these essays together with Marty’s concluding remarks is an embrace of scripture as the binding thread, which is no surprise, given the Reformed background of nearly every one of the contributors. One of the contributors comments that sometimes were are mentors and we do not even know it. That’s a very good reason to have this book close at hand. Without a doubt, Mentoring is a book that provides its own sort of mentoring to those who are helping to shape the future of Christian leadership in authentic, challenging and faithful ways.