Mentoring and Ministry: Reading a Life Story

By Eileen R. Campbell-Reed 

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At the first Scholastica luncheon of this year we brought together a panel of women in ministry to talk about their experiences of mentoring. The conversation was rich and meaningful. Today we are sharing the first of several posts coming out of that meeting.

What is your definition of mentoring?  

Tambi Brown Swiney, associate pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, shared her experience of mentoring a group of teen girls as they transitioned from middle school through high school and into college. Following her own graduation from seminary, Tambi says she felt a call to mentor girls in her church. She wrote to their parents saying that she felt this call and that she would be teaching them in various settings in the church: camps, retreats, classes. She would also go to their ball games and dance performances and other school activities. She laughs now, wondering what those parents may have thought at the time about her boldness.

Tambi mentored these nine girls and visited them in their seven high schools and eight colleges through many seasons of their lives. She says they all developed very strong bonds with each other as well as her. Tambi says as a mentor she wants to be “a person who helps someone read their life story.” To do that means actually being with them through that life story.

How has the work of mentoring helped her in her current ministry as an associate pastor? She says it helps her to “take the long view with ministry relationships. You don’t see fruit right away. The harvest in a relationship comes only as it grows over time.” Tambi says the mentoring has also helped her to take a more holistic view of ministry. People are part of networks and families and relationships and not just the tasks they do or the way they fit into a church.

Tambi’s mentoring relationships continue with these young women to this day. They are all now all 25 years old, and their life stories keep unfolding. She says, “I joyfully watched one of my daughters marry her partner on Saturday, and another daughter will be ordained later in October.”