“Just look at the circus!” – Students Plunge into Guided Learning

By Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed

Ministry can feel a bit like a three-ring circus at times. And learning it? Well, some students say learning ministry looks as overwhelming as juggling fire, taming tigers, or walking the high wire… all at once.

Recently second year MDiv student, Kelly Moreland Jones met for the first time with her new mentor Dr. Amy Mears, and they began mapping out their work together. Students in the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) are paired with experienced ministers who can mentor and coach them through years two, three and four of their MDiv program.



Mears, who teaches homiletics for Central Tennessee and pastors Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, is an experienced ministry mentor. She told Moreland Jones: “When I’m working with students, I’ll be saying things like, ‘See! Just look at the circus! Fire breathing here. Pony riding over there. Trapeze up there.’” With sweeping gestures she added, “But that doesn’t mean you have to stick your head in the lion’s mouth!”

Although the mentoring relationship is new, Moreland Jones and Mears are already well-acquainted from classes taught by Mears, attending Scholastica together, and informal assistance on preaching and pastoral care. The two are now formally paired, and they will meet monthly to talk about classroom learning, vocational discernment, internships, job search, and the many skills and capacities required for ministry.

Mears says, “This mentoring relationship has just begun, and already I am benefitting from the opportunity to see discernment of call and the mapping of skills through the experiences of someone in the early years of those processes. The excitement and apprehension and energy bring back to me the joy and adrenaline and adventure of my own seminary days.”

Moreland Jones is part of a second cohort of WLI students and began her studies in 2016. The group of nine women benefitted from a year of group mentoring and coaching, designed and led by Central professor, Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed. Monthly meetings enhanced the cohort’s sense of “groupness,” helped them with the transition into seminary life, and prepared them for one-on-one mentoring. The cohort will continue to meet once a term as a group.

The WLI is currently recruiting a third cohort of women who are called to ministry. Going to seminary is not the same as running away to join the circus, yet learning the practice of ministry can be exhilarating. And mentoring someone on that journey, says Mears, holds the thrill of “accompanying someone who is doing sacred work.”


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