Most of my ministry has been about training Christian leaders. My ministry journey started in 1975 in Vernon, British Columbia where I became the assistant to my father, who was the pastor of the church. As I mention in my book, he was my first ministry mentor. Our time together in that context was short-lived since he accepted a call to another congregation. The church board then asked me to continue as pastor of the congregation. Elizabeth and I served there for two years.
After that, we were sent by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) to Tanzania as global workers. I taught seminars on the Bible and ministry to pastors in villages and later became the principal of a Bible college in Mwanza. During this time, we welcomed our three children into the family. As we parented them into maturity, we learned many of the mentoring lessons that also apply to ministry mentoring.
In 1986, we returned to Canada where I attended Regent College in Vancouver. After completing my Master of Christian Studies in 1988, we were sent to Sri Lanka. Once again, my primary role was to train and mentor pastors and Christian leaders. While here, I stumbled into intentional mentoring when the leaders of the organization I served asked me to supervise a young pastor who was planting a church. Our arrangement became a pattern for how my wife and I would mentor.
In 1995, we returned to Vancouver, where I served as the lead pastor of a multicultural church. Since we wanted the church to be cell-based, we had a structure for training and mentoring local church leaders. We recognized that a key to success of small groups is to ensure that the groups have good leaders. We understood that relational mentoring is an important component of leadership development. This is not to say we always did it right, but we learned some valuable lessons about mentoring.
In 2007, we were invited to re-engage with the pastors, churches, and friends we knew in Sri Lanka. We travelled back and forth several times a year. By 2013, we had transitioned out of Canadian pastoral ministry. This included the smooth transfer of leadership to the associate pastor of the church while learning about how important a mentoring relationship can be in succession planning.
During this time of change, I completed my doctoral studies at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. Since I had been working with pastors and emerging young leaders in Sri Lanka, I decided to explore the area of ministry mentoring in a Sri Lankan context for my thesis project. Based on the research of that study, I have taught a mentorship training course in various places.
In 2015, my role was expanded to include other countries in Southeast Asia. I work with Bible colleges in that region which are partners of PAOC International Missions. I am developing a ministry mentorship training program for Christian leaders which includes the training and resourcing of other mentorship instructors. I am also promoting the integration of a mentorship training curriculum into Bible colleges and seminaries.
Q: Why did you write the book, Ministering Forward?
A: After completing the thesis project for my DMin, I felt I had a message to Christian leaders that could help them as they developed emerging leaders. I wanted to point a spotlight on mentoring. Christian leaders talk a lot about mentoring, but I find it is often not well defined or intentionally practiced. I believe this represents a gap in Christian leadership development—and quite frankly, a missed opportunity.
Q: Who did you have in mind when you wrote the book?
A: I was thinking of young emerging ministers who are looking for guidance but not finding it. I was also thinking about busy pastors or ministry leaders who know they should mentor but are not sure how to go about it and how to structure it into their busy lives.
p. From a different perspective, I first had in mind the international ministry in which I was teaching—the pastors and leaders with whom I had first processed many of the concepts. But then I realized that as a Canadian I did not fully understand those cultural contexts as an insider would, not to mention that they are quite diverse. I had gotten stuck in the writing. So I decided to write as a Canadian to other Canadian ministry leaders. This approach provided for me a clearer target audience. Nonetheless, I did include issues in the book that may relate to other cultures.
Q: What is the difference between disciple-making and ministry mentoring?
A: This is a common question. I believe as Christians we are life-long disciples. We never graduate from being Christ-followers. So we make disciples from the moment we engage a person to lead them to Christ, and the discipleship process continues as they become committed Christ-followers.
p. Ministry mentoring, as I have defined it, begins as we help a person grow in the competent use of ministry skills, whatever those may be. But we continue to pay attention to their character development, encouraging them to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way, discipleship forms the foundation of healthy ministry mentorship.
Q: Why do you think ministry mentoring is so important?
A: We may learn many things by getting a formal education, by reading books, and by other means. We may learn much about the Bible and gain theological knowledge. But this is all best integrated into life and ministry in the context of a mentoring relationship. Mainly, ministering mentoring can help emerging leaders make appropriate use of their learning in their ministry context. A mentor can demonstrate ministry. We learn better by watching. A mentor can provide encouragement and the needed push at the right times. This often makes the difference between a failed attempt and a positive result.
Q: How do you see the book being used? What do you hope for?
A: I see the book being used to start serious conversations about the whys and hows of ministering mentoring among Christian leaders. They can use Ministering Forward as a handbook or manual on how to have a purposeful mentoring relationship. I’d like to see it used as a resource in Bible colleges and seminaries—perhaps even as a textbook in a course on ministry mentoring.
Dr. Rainer Mittelstaedt has been in Christian ministry for more than forty years. He has been a pastor in Canada, a global worker in Africa and South Asia, and an educator in various contexts. He and his wife Elizabeth are based in Canada and travel extensively on ministry assignment. He holds mentorship training seminars for Christian leaders as part of his current ministry role.