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Rev. Dr. Tom Harrison: Mentoring

Published Date: May 1, 2023

My predecessor served Asbury Church for 29 years. When he retired, he announced his successor to the congregation. It wasn’t me. The Staff Parish Committee chair told our Bishop they would reject any other pastor. The Bishop was indignant. When he appointed me to Asbury, he said he couldn’t guarantee the Church would accept me. He also told Bill to leave Asbury for a year. Less than a month after we moved to Asbury, Bill returned to “my” office (that was his for 25 years). He said, “We’ve been to the other Methodist Churches in Tulsa. They aren’t Asbury. We’re back now.” Stunned, I pleaded, “Bill, this is premature.” He simply smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and walked out. I told my District Superintendent. We went to see the Bishop. He was furious again. He said, “I’m filing charges against Bill!” Knowing that would incite the congregation, I told the Bishop, “Let me handle it.” Quickly, I called the pastor who had been my mentor and told him what had happened. I asked Norman what to do. He said, “I know Bill, I know Asbury, and I know you. Bill would NEVER hurt Asbury or you. Welcome him back. He can be a great help if you let him.” I remembered Stephen Covey’s point: think with abundance not scarcity (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Norman’s counsel proved wise. Bill Mason became like a father to me over the 29 years I served Asbury. Without his support and encouragement, I doubt we could have relocated to our new facility in 2004. Like Norman Neaves, Bill was a vital mentor. (Bill also mentored President Tim Tennent.)

That was just one of MANY times I found a more experienced person, both clergy and laity, and gleaned wisdom. I’m convinced that everyone needs a mentor.

Rehoboam, in 1 Kings 12, took the advice of his peers (who had vested interests) rather than the wisdom of his seniors. The Divided Kingdom resulted. A favorite axiom is, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” I paraphrase: “Show me your MENTORS and I’ll show you your future.”

For a mentoring relationship to succeed, three components are essential. Both mentor and mentee need to admit their limitations. Nobody knows it all. Ministry and life are always changing. Second, we need godly ambition. We want to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Third, we need to seek and apply truth. In other words, we must be humble, hungry, and smart.

ATS is developing a mentoring program. A friend, Jeremy Fulda, who worked with his wife, Meredith, at our Tulsa ATS site is now back in Wilmore with this responsibility. He shared what ATS wants to do to help our students.

I’m also co-leading a unique mentoring program with our non-profit, Churchcraft Consulting. The program begins with an in-person gathering in Tulsa, followed by reading assignments and weekly Zoom calls. Then we take the pastors and their spouses to the Holy Land. The pastors benefit from being part of a peer community, too. You can find more information at We are seeking pastors who are humble, hungry, and smart.

We all need massive doses of encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need multiple voices speaking truth and helping us think through options. I can’t do a whole lot, but I can do something. As the Methodist circuit riders said, “We rode together.” The kingdom works best when we have teammates. To again reference Stephen Covey, we seek a “win-win.”

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