Pastor Partners: An Interview with a Mentor and Mentee
Pastor Jeremiah Gumm and Pastor Paul Fritz give their impressions of the mentoring program begun through Grow in Grace. Pastor Partners offers three years of mentoring for Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary graduates as one part of a developing comprehensive initiative of support and encouragement for all WELS pastors.
Pastor Partners is a structured mentoring initiative that seeks to ensure the personal growth of healthy pastors. The initiative seeks to build up the foundation of his faith in Christ and his seminary training; build zeal for continuing education and habits for spiritual growth within him; build a network of support, encouragement and resources around him; and build a trusted nurturing relationship with him.
Pastor Jeremiah Gumm has been a pastor since July of 2005 and currently serves at Cross of Christ in Liverpool NY. He was recruited to be a mentor last summer, after expressing some interest during the pilot program. “The experience has been a good reminder to me how the Lord helped me with certain past situations as I encourage a younger brother in the ministry who’s getting his feet wet and learning in the ministry himself,” he said. “The Lord is helping me grow myself as I encourage my mentee in his growth.”
The mentoring initiative is presented to all seminary seniors as an option, while Prof. Richard Gurgel and Rev. Daron Lindemann make arrangements to select and train pastor mentors who are willing to work with the new pastor for their first three years of ministry. Methods of Pastor Partners mentoring can be outlined with the acronym ANEW: Assessment, Navigation, Encouragement, and Wisdom. The ongoing activities of mentoring usually involve monthly scheduled phone conversations, weekly e-mail exchanges and occasional face-to-face visits.
Pastor Paul Fritz of St. John's Lutheran Church in East Bloomfield (Fremont) WI graduated in 2010 and has been with Pastor Partners for two and a half years now. “The Pastor Partners program gave me a link and a relationship to use,” he said. “I received a fellow worker in God’s kingdom to bounce off ideas, a friend with whom to share struggles and concerns, a brother in Christ with a firm grasp on God’s Word combined with willingness to share it and encourage me. Pastor Partners linked me, a ‘little’ brother, with a ‘big’ brother who has my back. My mentor gave me another person to urge me in my life and ministry of faith through and for Christ. My pastor partner has also been a model for building relationships with other pastors.”
The initiative is not intended to replace any brothers in the new pastor’s network, including the circuit pastor, but to complement them, surrounding the new pastor with diversified care and support.
“Having that brother check in with him on a monthly basis to ask how a certain situation is going, personally or professionally, or how he's doing with the goals he set-that allows the mentee to open up and talk about these things and gives him confidence, because the relationship is built around trust and confidence,” Pastor Gumm said. "The pastor partner helps point the mentee in the right direction and encourages continued growth for the mentee for the long-term. If the mentee feels that they no longer need the program, Pastor Partners offers an exit point after each of the first two years. There are so many benefits and blessings that can come from it because every mentor-mentee relationship is unique. In general, I think the Pastor Partners program can help our pastors be healthier, which can be a real blessing to our congregations and church body.”