As part of the new Formation for Ministry program, 70 first-year M.A. and M.Div. students at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich., have the opportunity to learn about ministry life firsthand by meeting regularly with a vocational mentor.
During the fall quarter, students were asked to identify and approach someone with significant ministry experience who could mentor them in their development.
The variety in these mentoring relationships parallels the diverse interests and backgrounds of CTS students. Mentors range from current and retired CRC pastors to ministry leaders in other denominations, and meeting places range from coffee shops to pastors’ studies. Some students even meet with their mentors by telephone or e-mail.
CTS gives mentors and students the tools to negotiate the stages of their minimum one-year commitment to each other. Mentors attend a breakfast training session to build relationships and clarify common central commitments. Students receive practical instruction about how to begin, maintain, and conclude healthy mentoring relationships.
Canadian student Rita Klein-Geltink approached a local Grand Rapids pastor who had mentored her own pastor years ago.
Rev. Dave Beelen, pastor of Madison Square CRC, has mentored upcoming ministry leaders for more than 20 years. He views mentoring as one of the most valuable ways he can serve God’s church. He said mentoring relationships provide a unique opportunity for students to witness “how the pastoral identity comes out unintentionally, even without the teaching hat.”
For Klein-Geltink, the mentoring program serves as a bridge between seminary and congregational ministry. “Seminary students have to learn doctrine and theology,” she said, “but somehow you have to make the transition to [ministering in] a congregation.” Spending time with a mentor helps pastors-to-be learn how to do that.