SHORTLY AFTER HE arrived at flight school in Pensacola, Fla., Rocky Ward’s wife filed for divorce—a move he never saw coming.
“[It] kind of sent me for a tailspin, if you will,” said Ward, a USCG lieutenant commander. “God used that to help me realize that I hadn’t really been walking with the Lord.”
Ward wanted to change that, so he attended a Tun Tavern Fellowship gathering in Pensacola, where Col Chet Arnold, USMC (Ret.), came to speak. Ward recalls that Arnold offered to meet with anyone who wanted to talk through questions about God or life.
So Ward took him up on the offer. In that initial meeting, he shared with Arnold what was going on in his life with one goal in mind: save his marriage. What ensued was a weekly mentoring relationship, with discussions about flight school, marriage, and God taking place over cups of coffee, bowls of soup, or sandwiches.
Ward and Arnold’s mentoring relationship is an example of what OCF calls Christian mentoring, which is the trusting relationship between an often older, more spiritually mature believer and a younger believer, that focuses on fostering the spiritual maturity of both individuals. This relationship typically takes place within the context of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s direction as a younger believer pursuing spiritual maturity absorbs the experience of an older believer seeking to impart their wisdom and experience.
However, Ward and Arnold’s weekly meetings at Starbucks and Panera appear to be the exception, not the norm, when it comes to mentoring among practicing Christians. According to the Barna Group, a market research firm specializing in studying religious beliefs and behavior, as of 2015 only 17% of practicing Christians said they meet regularly with a spiritual mentor. That means that 83% of Christians either aren’t imitating Arnold and helping out someone struggling through a difficult phase of life or aren’t copying Ward and actively seeking wisdom and advice from an older and wiser believer.
It is this need—specifically as it appears within the Christian military community—that OCF has sought to address with the mentoring program it is developing. The intent is that this program will become a larger mainstay in the OCF ministry apparatus in the near future.
“OCF’s new Mentoring Program is a fresh effort to remind ourselves that biblical community can be transformational at every waypoint in our military journey,” says LTC Todd Plotner, USA (Ret.), Spring Canyon Conference Center’s director of operations, who is involved with the team setting up the OCF Mentoring Program. “At the end of the day, our goal as a ministry is to help ‘one another’ grow in Christlikeness within our unique context as military and family members.”
According to Plotner, the OCF Mentoring Program will focus on building relational connections among fellow officers that emphasize a mutual encouragement to be more like Christ. In addition to developing more helpful resources online for those seeking to start and develop mentoring relationships within the OCF community, Plotner says OCF plans to host several Christian Mentoring training programs at active-duty installations across the country and at its two conference centers throughout 2022.