Mentoring Matters: Cultivating Trees For Our Forest

Mentoring is essential in cultivating new leaders in an organization.  Those of us who are already in those roles need to become mentors so that those following us can more easily manage the journey.  As mentors, we seek to help our mentees feel welcomed, valued, and part of their own learning process. We walk alongside them, providing support and insight, encouraging reflection, risk-taking, and confidence in their growing skills, and challenging them to continue moving forward on their path.

This year at Trillium, and potentially other festivals this season (I’m still waiting to hear back) I’m giving a workshop on a topic that is very near and dear to me: Mentoring.  Mentoring others is one of my vocations, and I’ve begun to head in the direction where I’m now mentoring others who wish to become mentors themselves.  This workshop is designed to guide you through what qualities and skills make a good mentor, what a healthy and beneficial mentoring relationship looks like, and the step-by-step progression of that mentoring partnership.

I’ve included here the handout (on Google Drive) that goes alongside the workshop and the suggested reading if you want to dig into this further on your own.  I’ll be putting the full version of my notes, along with some extra worksheets, over on my Patreon, and will likely be recording a version of workshop itself to be posted there as well.

Qualities of a Good Mentor

“Good mentors help to anchor the promise of the future.” (The Mentor’s Guide” pg 171)

Select people who are a good fit for becoming a mentor.

Mentors of New & Aspiring Clergy Should:

  • Consistently reflect on their practice and performance of ritual to identify areas of potential growth.
  • Engage in ongoing learning and continually strive to improve their own practice.
  • Know and use a wide repertoire of effective liturgical and pastoral strategies.
  • Be approachable, patient, and trustworthy.
  • Share skills, knowledge, and resources with their community and peers.
  • Exhibit a positive attitude and passion for clergy work.
  • Attentively and actively listen.
  • Be skillful at coaching that generates reflection.
  • Value the opinions and ideas of others and be able to accept an aspirant priest as a developing member of the clergy.
  • Invest their time and commit to supporting an aspirant priests spiritual and liturgical growth.

Elements of a Healthy & Beneficial Mentoring Relationship

  1. Reciprocity


  1. Learning


  1. Relationship


  1. Partnership


  1. Collaboration


  1. Mutually defined goals


  1. Development


Building a Strong Mentor-Mentee Relationship

“Mentoring is about learning.  The critical question is not whether you have chemistry, but whether you can have a productive learning relationship.” (The Mentor’s Guide, pg 123)

  1. Understand Differences in Cultural Context


  1. Actively Nurture the Relationship


  1. Use Technology


  1. Continue the Conversation


Connecting on a Deeper Level: Notes for the Mentor & Mentee

  1. Honesty


  1. Responsiveness


  1. Relevance


  1. Respect


  1. Openness


  1. Empowerment


  1. Time


What Do Mentors Do? (Practical Skills)

  1. Prepare


  1. Meet Regularly


  1. Ask Questions


  1. Reformulate Statements


  1. Summarize


  1. Allow Silence


  1. Listen Reflectively


The Progression of the Mentoring Relationship

There are 4 distinct steps in the mentoring relationship.  Within each of those steps you can navigate by assessing Readiness, Opportunity, and Support. Each of those things must be present before you can successfully move on to the next phase of the relationship.

Preparing the Ground

Self-Reflection & Building Rapport


Planning the Garden

Negotiating Expectations & Boundaries


Enabling Growth

Starting the Seedlings (Support, Challenge, & Vision)

Guiding & Pruning (Engaging in Feedback & Overcoming Obstacles)



The End of the Season

Coming to Closure


Suggested Further Reading

  • Avende, Jan. “Let’s Talk Vocation: Mentoring.” Mist to Open. Mists to Bind., 11 May 2016,
  • Conceição, Simone C. OTeaching Strategies in the Online Environment. Jossey-Bass, 2007.
  • Creps, Earl G. Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them. Jossey-Bass, 2008.
  • Daloz, Laurent A. Mentor: Guiding the Journey of Adult Learners. Jossey-Bass, 2012.
  • Lehman, Rosemary M., and Simone C. O. Conceição. Creating a Sense of Presence in Online Teaching. Jossey-Bass, 2010.
  • Zachary, Lois J. Creating a Mentoring Culture: The Organization’s Guide.Jossey-Bass, 2005.
  • Zachary, Lois J., and Lory A. Fischer. The Mentee’s Guide: Making Mentoring Work For You. Jossey-Bass, 2009.
  • Zachary, Lois J. The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. Jossey-Bass, 2012.

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