Archive for: July, 2014

3 Things to Look for In a Mentor

Jul 28 2014 Published by under Leadership, Life

By Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs

JeremiahIn my work as a University Chaplain, I talk with a lot of students about having a good mentor and becoming a good mentor to another. One of the findings of the National Study of Youth and Religion is that only committed religious parents can have more impact on the religious faithfulness of young people than adult mentors. Mentors matter.

I suppose that one of the reasons that I grew in my faith so much as a young adult, from “never-been-to-church” to “pastor-in-training” in 14 months, was the great mentors that I had in my life. I don’t think just any mentor will do, however. Here are three traits that distinguish great mentors:

1. Good mentors are unwavering. We had a really spectacular youth ministry and a really spectacular college ministry. In fact, when I lead communities now, I’m often thinking about what I learned about community in that college ministry. Darrell Neal was the elder from our congregation that was appointed to oversee ministries with young people. Darrell was around often, encouraged us in life transitions, and was always centered when one person or another tended to some version of religious oddity.

The most important thing I learned from Darrell was after our congregation went into absolute turmoil. I won’t go into details, but our really healthy church experienced a crazy upheaval. People were leaving the church, hurting one another, and vying for power. Darrell refused to participate in the craziness and simply stood as a steady force in the storm. He eventually did leave our congregation (just as I did a while later), but even then he did so with respect, grace, and without malice.

Darrell’s unwavering maturity taught me to stand in the gap when life and ministry are difficult. My family and my churches have reaped the benefits from his steady leadership.

2. Good mentors can get out of their own way. I suppose that all of us have had mentors and leaders from whom we learned over time that their mentoring wasn’t really about them. Mark and Rose Diekevers taught me that the best mentors have the self-confidence that the relationship is not about filling a need they have to be important, needed, or in authority. When we started a small ministry for young adults out of the remnants of our former college ministry, Mark and Rose opened their home week after week to us.

Never once did they try to take the teaching and leadership away from the young leadership team. When asked, they responded with advice that was never motivated by their own desires. When I returned to college after a break of several years, they gave me the largest financial gift I had received from anyone at that point in my life. For a number of reasons, financial aid was not going to make ends meet that first semester before it would ratchet up the next semester. They filled a gap. No one knew that they were doing it but me and a couple close friends. They didn’t need to be recognized for the great ministry that they did in those years with me and the young adults in that group.

I have experienced mentors that were filling their own needs by “discipling” me. But I learned from Mark and Rose that the best mentors are ones that can get out of their own way to serve another.

3. Good mentors gently challenge you consistently. Often folks will tell you that a good mentor will challenge you when you are making a poor choice. That is true. At appropriate times, we need people to tell us simply, “That is a mistake.”

Bob Vanderburg taught me that we also need mentors to challenge us consistently. I worked for Bob as I was making my way through college (and by “worked” I mean that we went to the job site each day and talked about life, God, and ministry). Bob is a smart man and has an opinion on everything. As we “worked” and talked, he would push against my ideas for ministry and my theology. He never withdrew friendship because of our disagreements. He never tried to manipulate me.

He just gently disagreed with me and forced me to articulate myself more clearly. In many ways, my formation as a theologian began in these discussions. Similarly, when I went to seminary my friend Robert Lowery began to challenge me and force me to think more clearly. A safe place to be challenged, debate, and even argue is the best way to learn to think clearly.

This kind of critical thinking and articulation rarely happens in a classroom where the professor does most of the talking. Instead, it is often a good mentor that is able to challenge us gently and force us to articulate our vision.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What are the traits that you look for in a mentor? Who are some of the mentors that have taught you the most?

Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs is University Chaplain and Assistant Professor at the University of Indianapolis. He blogs regularly about theology, gender, and justice at

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The Most Important Prayer to Pray Everyday

Jul 21 2014 Published by under Life, Ministry

By Justin Lathrop

JustinDo you ever have a hard time getting into a regular rhythm of prayer in your life? I, of course, couldn’t possibly have this problem because, well, I work in a church and spend most of my time with pastors. Oh wait… that’s a complete lie.

I do have this problem.

In fact, in my experience, pastors and people who spend a great deal of time in the church—myself included—can have the most difficult time developing a rich prayer life. Maybe it’s because it’s so easy to think a prayer life is just a “given” when you work in a church, when the truth is a rich prayer life takes intentionality and work.

Lately I’ve been praying a very simple prayer that has been reminding me of the power of prayer and helping me to grow in my ability to pray.

It’s the simplest prayer in the world.

It goes like this: Thank you.

I’m not sure what it is about this prayer—why it is so powerful—but as I reflect right now on how this prayer has impacted my life, I can think of a few tangible benefits I’ve seen from uttering these words just a few times each day.

First, it turns my focus to what God has done.

So often I get stuck on what I can do—what I can accomplish in a day, how much progress I can make, what my skills and capabilities and ideas and thoughts add up to. This mindset works for awhile, but all it takes is one bad day for me to realize, in the scope of things, my talents and skills don’t add up to much.

But prayers of thankfulness remind me it isn’t about what I can do, but what God has already done and continues to do in my life and the lives of those around me.

This is not about me. It’s about Him. Thank God. 

Second, it helps me to trust what is coming in the future.

Strangely (or not-so-strangely) taking a few minutes every day to notice what God has done for me, the creative and amazing ways he has come through for me or provided, gives me peace about the future.

Suddenly, I see God’s faithfulness really clearly. I can see how I had a specific need and God met it. I can see how I prayed for a specific person would come to know Him, and they did.

I can rest in the knowledge that the future is not in my hands, but His.

The gift of thankfulness keeps on giving, if we let it.

One of my favorite verses about thankfulness is Philippians 4:6 which says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (emphasis mine).

The thing I love about this verse is the way it connects worry (anxiety), prayer and thanksgiving.

Paul doesn’t say, “when you pray, you should only pray for other people” or “if you don’t pray, you’re going to be sorry.” Instead, he asserts that we can bring literally anything—any request—to God. Whatever is making you anxious, whatever is on your mind, whatever you need or think you need or even want—bring it in prayer.

Just bring it with thanksgiving.

I can’t help but think (and attest from personal experience) that the result is a rich prayer life, less worry about the future, a heart full of understanding and love and a new awareness of the way God meets our every need.

It’s the simplest prayer, but it has huge power.

This week, try praying this simple prayer: “God, thanks for ________.” Maybe you can only think of one or two things. Maybe you can think of five or six. Either way, my guess is this: simple prayer will lead you into a deeper communion with a God who cares for your every need.


Justin Lathrop is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and,  in addition to serving as a consultant in the area of strategic relations for organizations that include the Assemblies of God, Leadership Network, and Convoy of Hope. To connect with Justin, visit his blog at

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Let Somebody Know

Jul 07 2014 Published by under Family, Life, Ministry

By Rev. Doug Clay

Clay_Douglas_Casual_100A nursing student in South Burlington, Vermont was cramming for an exam in a coffee shop. She left the table to get a refill on her coffee.

When she returned, she found an anonymous note of encouragement, along with a $10 Starbucks gift card. The note said, “I’m assuming that you’re probably nearing the end of nursing school. You should be proud of yourself. You’ve worked so hard to get here and I promise you, it’s worth it. I’ve been a nurse for twelve years and can’t imagine doing anything else.”

That note, which has been widely circulated online, has provided a great source of encouragement, not just for the Vermont nursing student, but for many who have read it and commented about it.

People crave encouragement. One of the byproducts of being a part of a spiritual family is encouragement.

The Bible talks a lot about encouragement.

I Thessalonians 5:11

. . . encourage one another and build each other up.”

I Thessalonians 5:14

“. . . encourage the timid and be patient with everyone.”

Hebrews 3:13

. . . encourage one another daily.”

Encouragement is a big deal!

This idea of “inspiring others with renewed courage, a renewed spirit and renewed hope,” is something that all of us can do . . . and it works.

Encouragement works. Think about it:

1.) Encouragement helps to keep people from getting a hard heart.

Hebrews 3:13

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

2.) Encouragement builds confidence.

I Thessalonians 5:14

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

3.) Encouragement keeps people from quitting.

Hebrews 10:25

Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Take some time to write one note of encouragement to someone. It could be a day changer for them and for you!


Rev. Doug Clay serves as the General Treasurer for the Assemblies of God. He can be reached at

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