Our mentors shape our ideas about what mentoring should look like.

Darlene Hutto, AoP Board member and Director of Strategic Partnerships for Leadership Networks for the Forum for Theological Exploration, led a Master Class on Mentoring from the Mentee’s perspective at the 2018 National Festival of Young Preachers (Register now for the 2019 Festival!). She led a group of Young Preachers through a conversation about experiences in mentoring, and how to move forward while using those experiences.

Darlene began by showing a video that explored the intertwined mentoring relationships of three people: Dr. Luther Smith, who mentors Dr. Keith Ellison, who mentors Rev. Alisha Gordon.

Dr. Ellison and Rev. Gordon both found that the attitudes and intentions of their mentor mattered. “From day one, he would say, ‘We want you to be successful. Not to be successful here, but to thrive by focusing on what it means to be a whole person, not just a good teacher.’ He modeled what mentoring is and should be,” said Dr. Ellison about Dr. Smith.

Darlene has also seen a positive example of mentoring in Dr. Smith. She said, “In his person, you have someone who is invested in pouring himself out into other people on behalf of other people for the sake of other people. He talks to you about the tricks of the trade, the things that he learned, the things that he regretted doing, and then gives advice into how to live more fully into your personal sense of ministry. These are some of the things that are helpful for us as we think about how we are poised to be mentored and then how in turn we become mentors for others.” 

That example was helpful to Dr. Ellison as he, in turn, became a mentor to Rev. Gordon. “My relationship with Greg has always affirmed that it was ok to be me,” said Rev. Gordon.

However, these mentoring relationships were not simply one-directional. They affected and shaped both the mentor and the mentee. “I find myself inspired by Greg’s way of exercising his own vocation. I’m energized by it,” said Dr. Smith. Rev. Gordon says, “There’s such a mutuality in the growth and the sharing that it’s really helpful and reciprocal on both ends.” Dr. Ellison also feels the mutuality and looks to how it will impact the future, saying, “I live by the philosophy that the work that we do today will affect my great-great-grandchildren who are not yet born. As I have conversations with Alisha, it’s affecting my great-great-grandchildren.

Rev. Gordon plans to take her experience receiving mentoring and pass it forward. “It would be absolutely selfish to not create that same space for other people. To give back to someone else, another young Christian leader, in the same ways that were given to me is the ways in which we continue this snowball effect of enacting change in different areas of the world.

Darlene Hutto encourages Young Preachers to take their own experiences with mentoring, whatever they are, and use them to pay it forward and bring up the next generation of people engaged in all kinds of ministry.

We have to pay it forward. We have to take the same investment given to us, and sometimes it may not have been the best investment, but then we learn from that experience in hopes that we might do something better with the next person. Sometimes it is bittersweet, but we can take it and still move forward.

She led the Young Preachers to consider three things as they reflected on their mentoring experiences: blessings, challenges, and opportunities.

What were the blessings?

Talk about what blessings you received as a mentee. How did you mentor bless you, and what positive things did you take away from your time in that relationship?

Darlene Hutto acknowledges that sometimes you don’t always receive many blessings as a mentee. Are there things that you wanted out of the relationship that you didn’t get?

What were the challenges?

No mentoring relationships are perfect. Talk about the challenges you experienced and the failures you encountered along the way, but don’t only focus on the negatives! Talk also about the challenges you overcame and how you have grown from your trials and failures.

What are your opportunities?

How will you implement what you have learned from your experiences in future mentor relationships? Talk about how you will now approach being a mentee, and what kind of a mentor you want to be when you see an opportunity.

Reflect on your own mentoring experiences and think about how you can help equip others for effective ministry in their communities.

Do you want to experience Master Classes in person? Register now for the 2019 National Festival of Young Preachers!


Darlene Hutto is a member of the Board of Directors for the Academy of Preachers. She is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Leadership Networks for the Forum for Theological Exploration. Learn more about FTE here.