Mentoring and a ‘Teachable Spirit’

Posted on Posted in Mentoring
contributed by Brian Fraser
I’ve been around this denomination for a long time. I’m a cradle Presbyterian from Drummond Hill in Niagara Falls. I started preaching at our Sunrise Service when I was 14. I was a student assistant in Toronto at the age of 18. I had a student charge at the age of 20. I’ve served congregations in Toronto and Burnaby. I’ve administered and taught at colleges in Toronto and Vancouver. So why start in the Mentoring Program at The Presbyterian College at the age of 69?

In three simple words, “to learn more.” I’ve tried to be guided in my ministry by words from John Calvin that I first encountered reading Richard Osmer’s book, A Teachable Spirit (WJK, 1990). The title came from the way Calvin talked about his conversation experience in the introduction to his commentary on the Psalms. God, he said, gave him a teachable spirit.

I have discovered that I learn best by being curious. If I look back at the mistakes from which I have learned most in my ministries, too often I was being contentious (insisting that I knew what needed to happen), critical (running on and on about what was wrong), and cynical (so immersed in problems that no positive possibilities emerged). But where to direct the curiosity?

For me, at this point in my growth in grace, key partners in mission are the people with whom I minister at Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Burnaby, BC. My ministry there started with and has evolved through curiosity. What do they value most about what the church offers them? What do they see the church doing to deliver that value? What do they think the biggest challenges are for the congregation? What possibilities for mission can they imagine? Out of those conversations, we have co-created a renewed congregation with a flourishing sense of its value in the community. Participation in the work and witness of the congregation has grown as we find new ways to nourish souls to flourish in the grace of Jesus Christ through worship, learning, fellowship and service.

Further, there are 5 smallish Presbyterian congregations in Burnaby and New Westminster looking at ways of revitalizing and renewing mission in their neighbourhoods. The people who minister with those congregations have decided to participate in the Mentoring Program together, as a way of exploring opportunities for mutual support in our growth. So, I am looking forward to mentoring conversations with those colleagues as we engage in leadership with our congregations and presbytery.

In all of this, I pray that our Lord will give us all a teachable spirit to discover together the wisdom of his grace for our congregations in their communities.

Brian Fraser is the minister at Brentwood Presbyterian Church, Burnaby, BC. Brian founded ‘Jazzthink‘, an organization that helps nonprofits to flourish using the jazz idiom to frame productive conversations and exchange of ideas.