This reflection offers insights about our new Mentored Leadership model that were shared during a conversation between Karen Ziel, Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership and the two Christian Education professionals engaged in a pilot program for mentoring.
The mentor, Ms. Karlene Archambeault, has been the Co-Director of Christian Education at the First Congregational Church of Southington since 1990. She completed the Associate in Christian Education program at Hartford Seminary in 1993. She is a bi-vocational Christian Educator and is employed at the Hospital of Central CT where she’s worked for over 40 years. Her passions are creating vital programs and chapel services that empower children of all ages. She is a baby-boomer.
The mentee, Ms. Jessica Lyman, began her journey in Christian Education at the church that formed and shaped her faith. A member of First Congregational Church in West Haven, CT., she became engaged as the part-time Director of Christian Education while working a full-time management job. Recently the church and Jessica discerned that full time leadership was needed. She is currently completing her Certificate in Christian Education through the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ. The scripture passage she leans on is, “It is the Lord your God who goes before you. He will never leave or forsake you.” She is a millennial.
She and Karlene began their relationship as mentee and mentor in August of 2015 and completed their work together in June of 2016. Here, they continue to reflect on the benefits of their time together.
What was the best aspect of this relationship for you?
Jessica: For me the best part was just having a partner. With the congregation in transition it was useful to have someone on the Christian Education (CE) level to connect with. Knowing I wasn’t alone and having someone to connect with in addition to those in my congregation was valuable. I enjoyed connecting with someone in the field who had similar goals.
Karlene: This was fun! I enjoyed her enthusiasm. It was meaningful to me to be able to share resources and ideas developed through the years and to see what it sparked in Jessica in terms of her own creativity. She took ideas and strategies and truly made them her own.
Can you name aspects of the mentoring relationship that enabled you to develop a working relationship?
Jessica: We communicated with one another in several ways. Our efforts to meet face to face and her presence at worship with our church and with our children on a couple of occasions made a huge difference. Her ability to observe and give feedback was very helpful.
Karlene: I agree! Being onsite on a couple of occasions through the mentoring period helped me determine what resources were available to Jessica, to witness her interactions with the children and adults in the church and to witness the level of support she had to do the work. The face to face really helped. Seeing her in action, watching how she implemented ideas and strategies, her openness to all was very rewarding.
Were generational differences a factor in developing the relationship between mentor and mentee?
Jessica: I didn’t look at our generational differences. I knew that Karlene had many years of experience that I don’t have and I used that to my advantage. It was useful to have her insights and feedback. Over time she could share what worked well and help me discern the best way to go forward when doing something new or different.
Karlene: Jessica has a lot of energy. She was off and running right from the start. During my visits, I witnessed her doing any number of things on those Sunday mornings. I don’t think our generational difference negatively impacted the relationship in any way.
Were there any challenges that arose that you’d like to share?
Jessica: From my perspective, my personal situation was difficult at the time as I had a full-time management position. I worked a lot of hours in my full-time job and wasn’t always able to communicate effectively with Karlene in the way I would have liked to. However, we made it work and now that I have more time and hours to be involved I feel fulfilled and enriched in my work here. And there is news, I have now left my management job and assumed a full-time role in my church!
What lasting insights were gleaned from this partnership?
Jessica: A lasting impression that has stayed with me is just knowing that I have resources and a support system. If I didn’t have the benefit of this program I might be struggling alone. I am grateful for the CT Conference and to have a network of CE peers.
Karlene: Well, this is a little strange, but I feel the same way. It is a very positive program, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A final thought from Jessica: If anyone is interested in it, even slightly, I would encourage them to do it!
More: Go to more information on Mentoring in the Connecticut Conference.
Karen Ziel is the Assistant Director of the Center for Transformational Leadership (CTL) at the Southern New England Conference. She can help congregations and their leaders with tools and resources for assessment and discernment. As a member of ...