Parker Palmer (in The Courage to Teach) writes about when we as teachers lose heart, and how we might recapture the heart to teach. He begins by raising the issue of those mentors that first stirred the passion to teach in our lives. Many make the mistake of trying to clone their mentors, thereby finding their own teaching career a disheartening experience of apparent failure. Yet when the impact of past mentors is allowed to invigorate us to teach in our own style, then our identity and integrity can be intact, and our vocation can flourish.
Again, what is true for college profs is also true for us as preachers. We too can lose heart. We too can find motivation by revisiting the memory of those mentors that shaped our passion to preach in the first place. We too can make the frustrating mistake of trying to copy the style of that mentor. And we too can be invigorated to preach in our own style, with identity and integrity intact, our ministry flourishing.
Palmer finishes the section with a paragraph I will share with you here. This puts the onus back on us, for it speaks of how we now mentor others. At one level you might say we mentor all that hear our preaching, and perhaps it is best to take it at that level for now (but maybe we should be overtly seeking “apprentices” as we teach):
Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching’s great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.