TiM has been launched in Western Canada—and this isn’t another story about a coffee franchise. Transitioning into Ministry (TiM) is Mennonite Church Canada’s new two-year online coaching program that connects beginning pastors over the Internet for conversation, networking and, perhaps, coffee.
“The program is designed to help first-time pastors intentionally develop habits, resources and networks that will sustain them in both the joys and challenges of ministry,” said Karen Martens Zimmerly, MC Canada’s denominational minister. “We know that the first two years of ministry are most critical. Early experiences determine whether or not a pastor will stay in ministry. By having good strong supports in place, they can share their experiences, find commonalities and learn where to go with the challenges they face. This networking allows them to feel less isolated and empowers them for success.”
TiM was inspired by a well-received program of the same name initiated by MC Eastern Canada in 2007. The three-year area church program brings participants together for two retreats each year and for regular face-to-face coaching sessions between retreats.
The national church has adapted the concept with cost containment in mind. Its two-year program will bring participants together for five or six online sessions each year, as well as an additional two online sessions in the second year. Those sessions will include the beginning pastors and their congregational leaders, and explore topics related to leading congregations.
The first online TiM encounter for the area churches of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan took place on Oct. 15, when five new pastors met online with leader David Brubacher, interim pastor at Bethany Mennonite in Virgil, Ont., and clergy coach for the MC Eastern Canada TiM program. (MC Manitoba did not have a participant this year.)
After working solo for her first year in ministry, Lydia Cruttwell from First United Mennonite Church in Vancouver was eager to take part. “I felt quite isolated, and wanted to have more chances to interact with other new pastors and to be able to ask questions of an experienced pastor,” she said via e-mail, adding that she was encouraged to discover that issues “I thought were mine alone were actually common among the group.”
Other participants included Jordan Mohler of Black Creek United Mennonite, B.C.; Ryan Dueck of Lethbridge Men-nonite, Alta.; Joe Heikman of Wildwood Mennonite, Saskatoon, and Joshua Wallace of Warman Mennonite, Sask.
“My early experience in ministry led me to appreciate the value of coaches and mentors,” said Brubacher in an e-mail interview of his experience with the MC Eastern Canada TiM program. “One of the things I have observed over my time of involvement with TiM is to see the sense of collegiality that emerges in the group. Finding common experience often generates that sense.” He said he could already see those connections emerging during the Oct. 15 online meeting.
Cruttwell viewed the session as both encouraging and practical. “I’m very pleased that David Brubacher is going to be focussing on leadership, since I think that is an area that is often lacking in M.Div. studies, which tend to focus on pastoral care, preaching, biblical interpretation and theology, rather than on the specifics of how to lead a congregation.”
Martens Zimmerly was enthused by participant response to the first meeting. “These beginning pastors are technologi-cally savvy,” she said. “They were chatting back and forth right away and immersing themselves in the process.”