Mentors have a distinct function and serve an important role in the educational process. They serve alongside the instructor as guides and consultants for students, while at the same time functioning as interpreters to instructors regarding students’ work. Mentors may also serve as advocates for students as students take on ministry roles in congregations. Ideally, mentors have a seminary degree and experience as a pastor or missionary, and live close enough to students to allow for face-to-face dialogue. But that is not always possible, since some students live quite a distance from other pastors in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. In such instances, discussion by telephone, coupled with occasional meetings in person, need to suffice. For some units, a local pastor from another denomination may serve as a suitable alternative. Each student selects a mentor, with the approval of the office and the director of the PSDE program. Each mentor receives a copy of the workbook, in order to become acquainted with the text and the lesson assignments. This complimentary copy is an expression of appreciation for the time and energy expended by the mentors.
The following elements serve as guidelines for mentor-student interaction:
- On a biweekly basis, the mentor is available to discuss lesson topics, readings, and assignments with the student. The mentor works with the student on problem areas and gives guidance in working on assignments.
The mentor will pay attention to the student’s development as a ministering person. The concern in this instance is as much for the development of the person as it is for the acquisition of knowledge.
- The mentor provides affirmation when the student is struggling, encouraging the student to stay on schedule and serving as an interpreter for the distance education program instructor about concerns that arise out of the completed lessons. The mentor will also be in touch with the church pastor (if that person is not serving as mentor) and the conference minister, so they can offer support as well.
The instructor will call the mentor three times during the training period and correspond as necessary. The initial contact at the beginning of the unit will focus on training logistics and make sure that tasks are clear. The phone contact midway through the unit will focus on learning issues. The final contact will provide additional data for an assessment of the student’s performance. The instructor may copy the mentor on email correspondence to the student about each lesson.
These guidelines are provided in order to facilitate the mentor’s work. They need not be seen as rigid instruction to be followed in every instance, but they do provide a road map for how the system can work.