My experience with the BWIM mentoring program started back in 2013 when Pam Durso asked those of us who were serving on the BWIM Leadership Team at the time to start mentoring groups. Her dream was to create a way for women who were new to ministry or in a new place of ministry to benefit from the guidance and support of a more seasoned minister. Immediately I knew the group I wanted to form. As a mother of a young preschooler at the time, I knew first-hand the kind of adjustment to my work life and home life that bringing a child into our family had entailed. Becoming a mother changed the way I ministered. I had wished I had more models and the support of others who were in similar seasons of life and ministry when I began to navigate the rhythms of ministry and motherhood, so I reached out to several women in ministry that I knew that had new babies. Together, we formed a group of mothers in ministry and began to meet monthly to share our experiences and offer support to one another.
Initially, I did function as more of a mentor in this group, having had an additional couple of years of parenting and ministry experience on most of the group members. But soon our group became one of mutuality in which we all offered our wisdom and our compassion and our stories and our laughter to one another. We talked about our kids – figuring out childcare scenarios, behavioral struggles, nursing and potty-training, and all the rest – and we talked about our ministries – planning summer calendars, volunteer recruitment, staff dynamics, and beautiful, holy moments we experienced. But mostly when we came together, we simply shared life. It helped that we spoke a common language of parenthood and church work, but more importantly, we became friends and soul-tenders to one another. Our group does not meet regularly anymore, but we still maintain those relationships and connect as a group every so often.
I’ve often thought wistfully that I wish I had been a part of something like the BWIM mentoring program when I was starting out in ministry, but the truth is that by serving as a mentor to two different groups as a part of this program, I have. Although I had a little more experience under my belt when these opportunities came along, I, too, as the mentor, benefited and grew from the shared wisdom and the sisterhood of these amazing women. Even though I joined each group as the “seasoned” one, my ministry and my spiritual journey have been shaped by the relationships I formed there.
On August 1, BWIM will launch the application period for the next cohort of our mentoring program. Thanks to a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry initiative, the women beginning in January 2020 will benefit from two years of intentional mentoring with a seasoned Baptist woman minister and a group of peers. They’ll have the chance to gather for three retreats together as well as meeting monthly through online video-conferencing. If you know a Baptist woman minister who is in her first three years of ministry or first three years of a new kind of ministry, encourage her to apply. More information and the application can be found at www.bwim.info/mentoring-program.
And thanks to Lee, Jenny, Hannah, Erica, Anna G., Anna H., Meg, and Tambi for the ways they have shared life with me and the ways they have enriched my ministry!
Julie Long is associate director of Baptist Women in Ministry.