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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Have you ever had a coach? How about a mentor? Perhaps you have had role models you have looked up to?

At a recent training event for a group of ministers who will serve as mentors for our CPI pastors, we discussed the difference between mentors and coaches. The distinction comes down to the following. A coach initiates the relationship, sets the schedule and controls the agenda. A mentor says, ‘I will be available to talk with or listen to you whenever you need me. The agenda and the schedule are strictly in the hands of the mentee.

My wife, Joan, is an Elder in the church, an excellent analyst and a fine thinker who often brings fresh insights to our discussions. I value her opinions. Recently, while thinking about this subject, I asked her if she had ever had a coach or a mentor. Joan replied that she didn’t think she had ever had either, and went on to mention a time when she had agreed to take on a major church leadership role. She was handed a binder, but given no support or guidance what so ever. She was totally on her own! Her closing comment on the subject was telling. She said, “I did the job for one year, but vowed I would never do it again!”

Joan then compared that experience with the pattern of leadership for a women’s retreat where she was recently a guest minister. There, leaders serve in a team of two or more for approximately two years. The team that will take over from them has already been identified, so while the leaders are serving, they are also mentoring the team that will follow them. The method works well and is a fine model of effective leadership development.

It was also Joan who pointed out to me that there is a third level of teaching in our often accidental apprenticeship system, and that is the “role model.” As I think about that, I realize that in my own journey, most of the people I have learned from were neither coaches nor mentors but role models. I merely watched what they did that was effective and learned from them. It is a very passive form of leadership development, but it can sometimes be effective. At least we can say that it is probably better than nothing.

The notable exception for me was John Bradley. When I was in my early twenties, John was president of what was then the Toronto Metropole. He must have seen some dim glimmer of potential in me because he took an interest in my development. He took the initiative to give me, and others like me, opportunities to learn and to lead. He was there to correct me when I went wrong, and pat me on the back when things went well. He was my mentor and my Barnabas. He was the closest I have ever had to a coach. We need a lot more like him.

So let me ask you again; have you ever had a coach, either in ministry or in life? What about in sports? Have you ever had mentors? Who were they? What did they teach you and how? This is an important subject. I hope you will share your answers.

Posted by Carman

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