God eagerly desires our friendship, wholeness, and maturity. He delights in our formation and growth into the loving person he destines us to be. For this reason, he gifts us with his Holy Spirit to companion, guide and transform us.
God promises human accompaniment and support on our journeys as well. These companions in Christ help us in a variety of ways. They provide safe space for sharing our deepest longings, hurts, doubts, and dreams. They assist us with exploring, reflecting, discerning, and applying. They point us toward practices of grace which lead to freedom, wholeness, and joy.
Different kinds of support are needed for the particular circumstances and changing seasons of our lives. We encourage you to ask God's guidance in this pursuit. Also, refer to the spiritual companion's chart to help discern what kind of relationship might best support you at this time. Finding a good fit is important to a soul nourishing relationship.
Spiritual Companion Comparison Chart
Each of these relationships requires confidentiality
Each overlaps somewhat with the others
To some extent, each encourages co-creation of the meeting’s agenda
Overall health and well-being
Pastoral health and well-being
Spiritual health and well-being
Mental health and well-being
To improve a specific area of one’s life or leadership
To discover and make progress toward a desired goal
To receive accountability
To draw from the wisdom, experience, and character of a seasoned pastor as well as from classic pastoral wisdom
To reflect on one’s pastoral vocation and cultural context, intentionally and comprehensively
To grow in loving relationship with God
To increase sensitivity to the Spirit’s presence, guidance, and power
To mature so that Christ is more fully formed in one’s soul
To address past or present trauma, losses, or transitions that affect one’s present life (i.e., anxiety, grief, addiction, conflict, depression)
To discover God’s agenda for the pastor’s life and ministry while seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance to see that the agenda becomes a reality
To enable the pastor to live out his or her pastoral calling with integrity and faithfulness
To pay attention to and respond to the Spirit's personal communication to the pastor, to grow in intimacy with God, and to live out the consequences of that relationship
Counselor/Therapist. In the Banner article “When Pastors Hurt,” Rick Nanninga shares his experience of a full-blown panic attack while preaching. Nanninga found help through a psychiatrist and counselor, enabling him to return to his pastoral life and duties.
Pastoral Mentor: “I have always had strong, caring mentors in my life—something that cannot be said for many people. These have been people who saw some gift or potential in me. In ministry, however, I have taken the difficult but imperative step of seeking out mentors for myself. After failing in some small ways, as we all do, God humbled me enough to enable me to recognize that I was not the spiritual leader who others saw, nor was I yet the spiritual leader who God was making me to be: I needed a mentor.
“My mentor has invited me into his life: to view his ministry, his marriage, and his other discipling relationships up close. I am a better pastor today because he has not simply given me information about ministry, but rather he has shown me a life that is worth imitating. This, for me, has been the most powerful part of his influence in my life—and that imitable example both enables and challenges me to mentor others.”
—Adrian de Lange, pastor of New Life CRC, Grand Junction, Colorado
Regional Pastor: “As a regional pastor, I have been privileged to support pastors and share ministry together. In my widespread geographical region, we have been blessed with Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grants, which have allowed us to gather together, nourish friendships, foster understanding, wonder theologically, and sustain healthy ministry. While I initiate some things as the designated “regional pastor,” intentionally connecting as a group (often via video conference) encourages mutual support. And grassroots ministering of one another goes far beyond anything I could ever hope to accomplish on my own. I'm not suggesting it is always easy, but, like other areas of ministry, regional pastoring has often been filled with unforeseen blessings: encouragement, support, vulnerability, laughter, and cherished collegiality, to name a few.”
—Joel Ringma, pastor of Terrace (B.C.) CRC
Spiritual Director Syd Hielema procrastinated when a friend insisted he seek out a spiritual director. But once he gave in, he found a rich gift of grace. Now he calls him his Psalm 139 companion. See why in his blog.
Spiritual Director: “I met several times with a spiritual director during my Spiritual Vitality Project time and subsequent sabbatical. She was perceptive, gracious, and never judgmental. I learned to be gracious to myself in the rigors of ministry, and her insights into my life proved invaluable. I will continue with periodic check-in visits. They are God-ordained, and I should have done this 20 years ago as an aid to my ministry.”
—Ron Hosmar, pastor of youth and congregational life, Calvin CRC, Ottawa, Ontario