Pursuing a Ministry Career? 3 Reasons You Need a Mentor

by Tobin Perry

Anyone who has pursued a career Christian ministry knows that it’s an incredibly fulfilling—and occasionally challenging— assignment. Long hours and extensive criticism come with the job, yet ministry is also one of the most rewarding career fields.

According to Jennifer Graffius, associate director of the Center for Vocational Ministry at Azusa Pacific University, one of the most significant keys to a flourishing ministry career is having a mentor who can encourage and support your development. Graffius pointed specifically to a joint study by Notre Dame and APU known as the Flourishing in Ministry Project.

“What they’re finding is that mentors are really important in the development of what we call ministers in training,” Graffius said. “They’re finding that this is a vital time to start preparing students for their lives in ministry. A lot of the practices they pick up now follow them. With our goal being flourishing pastors, we’re trying to instill in students the practices that will help them in the future. And relationships are hugely important to pastors.”

Graffius noted that there are three main reasons why mentoring is particularly important for those pursuing a ministry career.

1. Mentoring Prevents Isolation

Many individuals with careers in ministry often struggle to find meaningful connections with other ministers. According to a survey by LifeWay Research, more than half (55 percent) of pastors say that being in ministry makes them feel lonely.

Too many ministers expend all of their energy on giving instead of receiving, which is simply unsustainable for them. Accordingly, lonely ministers typical don’t stay in the field very long. A shared sense of community is a key part of thriving in ministry, and mentoring helps foster that support system.

2. Mentoring Provides Guidance from More Experienced Leaders

Prospective ministers require the guidance of senior leaders who, over many years, have experienced the ups and downs of ministry. These accomplished ministers can help younger students effectively navigate their journey.

All of us need help to prepare for our career and future, but ministers who will spend a lifetime caring for others must be able to talk about what they’re discovering about themselves (and their faith) as they train for their upcoming career. Having a reliable, experienced, and trust-worthy mentor to guide and assist them during this crucial part of their journey is vital.

3. Mentoring Offers Much-Needed Encouragement

Ministry is incredibly rewarding, but isn’t always easy. Preparing for ministry isn’t easy either. As young leaders heed God’s call and begin to look at their options for a ministry career after graduation, more experienced ministers can encourage and support their exploration. If a student’s commitment or dedication to their faith ever begins to waver, a mentor can provide inspiration and encourage the student to focus on their calling to serve.

Pursuing Ministry at APU

Azusa Pacific University understands the importance of ministry, and has created the Vocāre program in an effort to build the habit of mentoring into young ministers. Through the Vocāre program, students can add a fifth year to their course of study and pursue a Master in Pastoral Studies degree at the seminary. Students in the program are provided the opportunity to get a head start of 9 units on their master’s degree while still pursuing their bachelor’s degree.

In addition, every Vocāre student must spend one-on-one time with an experienced ministry mentor. These mentors help students process God’s call, provide important lessons, and discuss their ministry experiences in an encouraging and reflective setting.

“It’s tailored to each student individually,” Graffius said. “It’s walking with what the student is going through now and also helping them get to the next step of ministry.”

Are you considering a career in ministry? Explore Azusa Pacific University’s Center for Vocational Ministry for more information on the Vocāre program for vocational ministry students.