A friend called me out on something I had said, and he was right.
“Joe,” he said, “you tell young pastors to find themselves an older pastor as a mentor. But my experience is that many older guys are less committed to Christ than the younger ones. And some of them will scoff at the notion of pastors protecting themselves from temptation with the women, not riding in a car with a woman alone, that sort of thing.”
He wondered if I didn’t want to revise my advice.
I told him I have been blessed by having some godly older pastors in my life, and some of them have made invaluable contributions. But I’m sure he’s right. Just because a man has seniority does not make him a role model, endow him with wisdom, or gift him with a heart of compassion or a headful of sense.
So, let’s focus on how to choose an older pastor as your advisor, mentor, counselor, and most of all, friend.
One. Ask the Father to lead you. He knows them all, knows their history in intimate ways as only the Holy Spirit can, and is more than willing to lead you. He knows you, knows what you need, and loves you more than you love yourself.
This means, of course, that you pay attention to the prompting of His Spirit within you. When His Spirit tells you that someone is wrong, don’t argue; just move on.
Two. Consider his character and pay attention to how he is respected by those who know you both. Is he compassionate enough to grant you some of his time? and mature enough to know you are (in all likelihood) miles behind him in spiritual understanding and in conquest of your self. If there is evidence he is lacking in maturity or character, pray for him and seek elsewhere.
Three. Do you like the fellow? It’s not necessary to analyze the reasons why or why not. If you simply do not like him, find yourself resisting his spirit and wanting to be elsewhere, do yourself and him a favor and don’t try to make a connection there. There are too many other alternatives.
God has a lot of wonderful older pastors who would enjoy some time with you and the privilege of praying for you.
Four. Do you respect him, admire him?
Would you like to be like him when you, ahem, grow up? That’s a huge component in selecting a mentor.
Five. Is God still at work in him and through him? or did he stop growing decades ago?
How to get started….
I wouldn’t call him and ask him to be your life-mentor and meet with you an hour a week for the next few years. Anyone would find the very idea burdensome. Instead, try this…
–Call him up and ask him either to meet you for a cup of coffee at some quiet place where you can talk, or tell him you’ve got a sermon block on a subject and could you have ten minutes of his time to pick his brains on the subject. In other words, tiptoe into the relationship. See if the Lord is in this.
–If this goes well, what you intended for ten minutes will turn into an hour and you will love it. Your entire day will be better as a result. And if it does not go well, then fine, nothing lost.
–Over the next few days, seek the Lord on this. Ask if He has someone else for you to contact. After all, there’s not a thing wrong with you having several great “older pastor friends” in your corner.
–Once a relationship has become established and it’s obvious that the veteran is enjoying these meetings as much as you, then ask about a regular schedule with him, whether you use the actual word “mentor” or not.
A good thing to do, once you two decide to meet regularly, is to discuss: What will we do in these sessions? If this is to be a genuine mentoring/discipling time, you might want to develop a few set questions for him to ask you each time in order to hold yourself accountable.
A missionary friend tells me he meets regularly with an accountability partner. They ask each other questions such as:
–Are you spending quality time in the Word each day?
–How are your priorities? (He said, “The proper order should be God, spouse, children, church.”)
–How is your inner purity?
I’m going to be eighty years old next Spring. I started preaching the year I graduated from college, and served a church for a couple of years before heading to seminary. I desperately needed an older friend to advise and guide me, to give me counsel, to help me with sermons, and to kick my…well, you know.