Christian Leaders Institute begins the student path by stressing the importance of the mentor connection. We make sure right away that students understand that we want them to find local mentors. We believe it is of vital importance to our students that there is somebody who is there locally that they can connect to face to face and talk about their lessons.
But why do we think this is important? After all, students don’t need mentors, right? They can join without a mentor, and all they have to do is keep working to complete the courses.
Well, that’s half true. Students can join without having a mentor name and e-mail at this time. It’s also true that there are some very strongly motivated individuals who can motivate themselves to complete even the most difficult of courses. However, some of the course work requires review by a mentor, and there are several reasons for this. I will list them below briefly and then talk about how each one specifically relates to the local mentorship model.
The Importance of the Mentor Connection
- As noted in an article published in the distance education article, students sometimes experience a loss of interest or lack of time required to complete classes offered online or through other distance learning methods.
- CLI staff cannot be available every hour of every day, and certainly do not have personal experience with many of the cultural idiosyncrasies of many students’ countries.
- Mentors keep students accountable.
- Called leaders will experience spiritual attack.
Sometimes you may find that a course is not what you expected. It may be that you started out all fired up to take the course, but somewhere along the way the fire died out. You knew you were called and you know that you needed this training, but somehow you just lost interest.
Or maybe you didn’t have time. At first it wasn’t difficult, just an hour or so a day. Eventually, though, time just seemed to disappear. You would get to the end of the day and fall into bed, exhausted from the days work, and think “I just didn’t have time to study today. I’ll make up for it tomorrow.”
A local mentor is a great help in these situations. The mere existence of a time and place to meet with someone locally is a great motivation for students to get the work done. A mentor can work through your busy schedule with you and help you find the time that you could have spent on course work. He can motivate and encourage you to revive the fire that started you on the course in the first place. Most importantly, a godly mentor can help you to keep your focus where it needs to be – on your calling.
While Christian Leaders Institute has staff that is dedicated to giving students the best possible experience, they are just people like everyone else. Part of keeping overhead low is having a carefully budgeted staff that each perform their jobs during the hours allotted them. Since Christian Leaders Institute staff are located in America, this means that they are often not working during the times that somebody in Africa or Asia might need somebody to talk to about things. Also, the theological staff are especially busy, being mostly bi-vocational, and are even less available for student interaction.
Additionally, CLI’s American-based staff does not have a lot of understanding of cultural differences one might encounter in Africa, Europe, Asia, or even South America. This can make it difficult to help students sometimes, since we often revert to cultural norms when trying to explain a new concept.
A mentor connection with a local mentor can facilitate such discussions where CLI staff cannot. Local mentors are in the student’s environment and culture, and therefore possess a greater understanding of what the student wants to know and how to explain many questions. They are also available to discuss questions during the time that the student often has them, since they live in the same area and the same time zone.
CLI staff also is not able, because of time and budget constraints, to review all the sermons and student stories. Furthermore, even if they review written submissions of sermons, they are unable to provide feedback on other learned preaching aspects, such as delivery of the sermon. This makes it difficult for the student to honestly measure how much the training has really helped him or her.
A mentor helps by reviewing materials with students. Mentors also watch the students give their sermons. After watching the sermon, a good mentor can give a student important feedback. Mentors can tell them if they seemed nervous or uncertain. They can see if the delivery seemed weak. They can tell students if they’re making eye contact, looking out at the audience, or looking down while they’re speaking. Local mentors can provide all this feedback because they can actually watch a student as they are presenting their sermon, not just read the written content that is sent in.
And one very important part of having a mentor is aid in times of spiritual attack. Satan does not want to see new leaders raised up in the kingdom of God. His mind is set against God’s will, so when he sees a called leader pursue his calling, our enemy is quick to respond with an attack by his servants. That attack might come at any time, through any means.
CLI staff are far away from most of our students. Sometimes a student may be under attack, and we wouldn’t even know because we don’t see them. Even if we did know, the distance would make it hard to provide any real support during the attack. However, a mentor can often see when a student is under attack. He can help by providing sound counsel. A mentor can lend his or her mentees a listening ear, a ready shoulder to cry on, or perhaps even a temporary internet connection. He or she can provide students with encouragement and support.
While these are all good reasons to have mentors, there is one more that is the best reason. CLI has been providing online ministry training to students all over the world for almost a decade now. During that time, we have seen that students who have local mentors are 80% more likely to succeed in their studies than students who have nobody. The best reason to have a mentor is that while God may have called you, He also gave you a community of people who love and support you. And He wants you to utilize the strengths of the people that He’s put in your life to propel you onward toward your calling.
So if you’re considering joining CLI, or you’re already a student who just hasn’t had time to find a mentor yet, what are you waiting for? Make the mentor connection now and open the door to opportunity. You’ll never make a better move in pursuing your calling.