The CLB Forge Podcast, hosted by Rev. Ryan Nilsen and Rev. Mike Natale, is designed to equip churches for mission, ministry, and multiplying disciples. In August 2020, they interviewed Gretchen Ronnevik, author of the book Ragged: Spiritual Discipline for the Spiritually Exhausted, and creator of an online course on gospel mentoring.
Ryan: Gretchen, would you tell us about your spiritual journey as a disciple and any mentoring experiences you’ve had?
Gretchen: I grew up in the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. My parents divorced when I was four or five, and my grandparents, recently retired missionaries and church planters, moved in. I would say that they were the biggest spiritual influences in my life. When I was going through confirmation, I spent every weekend of junior high with my grandpa, studying the catechism. And he was old-school, where you memorize everything! Doughnuts and sweets and theology, that was my junior high experience! No question off the table and just a really loving situation.
My mom had mentors at our church. Two women in particular really did not let her fall. They met every week for years, holding her up in prayer, giving advice and just helping her. She really believed in it, so she would always find me mentors too. It just became very normal that there was someone in the church to go and talk to.
Mike: That’s great. There are people in my life too, who were mentors to me, and I think of the impact they can have on an individual’s life without even knowing it.
What is gospel mentoring and how did you develop a passion for it?
Gretchen: My grandpa loved talking about the Law and the Gospel. It was something that he drilled into me. I was telling my friends this, my Lutheran friends, and a lot of them said, “Well, what are the Law and the Gospel?” I had thought the theological education that was given to me was normal. That was a wakeup call to me, and I became very passionate that we get some really solid theology into our women, because it’s so freeing to have it.
I had been working on a book on gospel mentoring, which my husband suggested I release as an online course first. I did a ton of research, and talked with a lot of churches, women’s ministry directors, and women I knew, about their experiences. By now over a thousand women have gone through this course, many outside the CLB. God took this to places I never expected.
A lot of mentoring programs teach the law to women. “Here’s how you be a better wife, a better mother. Here’s all the things you should and shouldn’t do.” But the more I read Titus chapter 2, the more I saw the purpose of all this is to teach sound doctrine. So I asked, how does Christ play into all of this? It seemed like he was missing from a lot of the mentoring programs out there.
Many women grew up hearing conflicting messages about what gives them value as a woman. No one ever told them, “Your value comes from Christ.” I’m continually encountering older women saying, “I have never heard this before.” When they heard the word mentoring, they thought, “I remember those mentoring programs where the law was heaped on me and I almost died. I just can’t do that to younger women.” But when I say to them, “Mentoring means giving younger women the gospel, showing them Jesus,” then they’re like, “Oh, I can do THAT.”
So it started out with me wanting to help younger women, but it ended up revealing the gospel to a lot of older women in a way I didn’t even know was needed. That’s been really, really exciting to see.
Mike: Can I ask what the course looks like, when someone signs up?
Gretchen: It’s pretty easy. There are about 20 videos, six to twenty minutes long. It walks you through defining Law and Gospel, helps improve basic biblical literacy, defining what a mentor is.
Mentoring looks different in different situations. It can be informal. Some of the most influential women in my life were just willing to listen, engage in conversation, and share with me from the Word of God. For them, it may have been simply a half hour after church, but to me those were life-changing conversations.
Ryan: I love hearing how this has developed. Can you tell us one way this has impacted how you and your family do life in ministry?
Gretchen: A couple of years ago, one of the women I was mentoring had a marriage crisis. I prayed with her daily over the phone until she got into counseling. Some of my kids were having to help out or watch the younger kids, but I was able to look them in the eye, and I didn’t have to share all the details, but I just said, “Someone who I know and love is really struggling right now, and I was able to pray with her and share Jesus with her. And I want you to know that your doing the dishes tonight made that happen. This is something that we’re doing as a family. You’re helping me out, allowing me to help her. And this is how the body of Christ works!”
Mike: So Gretchen, what is your vision for this gospel-mentoring ministry?
Gretchen: I would love to see more women equipped with understanding Law and Gospel theology. It can be difficult to get really good women’s Bible studies that provide that, so I would love to help make that really easy for women’s ministry leaders.
Ryan: What’s a lesson or two that God has been teaching you this year?
Gretchen: Dependence on him. It can be really easy to get focused on “goal setting,” but God has his own plans, and I’m exactly where he wants me to be. There are seasons when I’m not able to do all I would like, but to be with my family is just as important, ministry-wise. Really just keeping the Lord at the center, letting the Holy Spirit drive things.
Mike: How can we pray for you and your ministry, as it continues to grow and as God takes it and furthers it?
Gretchen: Pray for a lot of wisdom. Between all this and my vocation of being a wife and a homeschooling mother, it can be a juggling act. So pray for wisdom in what projects I take on, and be praying that we would be protected and that my kids would know God better because of this ministry.
Ryan: Thanks for letting us be a part of that ministry in prayer. Now, I’ve had spiritual mentors in my life, but how would I go about starting to mentor someone else?
Gretchen: The first step is always to pray. When I started mentoring, I made a list of people who came to mind as I prayed. And God provided opportunities to talk with them. God doesn’t put a lot of barriers in ministry where he wants you.
The word mentorship has a lot of baggage. But it can just be, “I would love to meet with you every couple of weeks, hear what’s going on in your life and pray with you and help you any way that I can.”
I don’t know many younger people who will say, “No, that sounds horrible.” You are someone who wants to pray with them and hear their story. And then once you hear what their needs are, you’ll have a better idea how to help. But just listening, that’s a great place to start.
To hear the full interview, search “CLB Forge” on iTunes or any podcast platform.
Gretchen Ronnevik is a farmwife, mother, and teacher to six children. Her course on Gospel Mentoring can be found at www.gospelmentoring.com.
Rev. Ryan Nilsen serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as Associate Director of North American Mission.
Rev. Mike Natale is Pastor of Faith Chapel Lutheran Church in Cranston, Rhode Island.
Contact Ryan or Mike at: [email protected]