Mentoring has been delightfully defined as “a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, a push in the right direction” by Erik Johnson in “The Uncommon Individual Foundation,” Leadership, p. 36. Spring 2000. In the last edition of our Newsletter, we took a thoughtful look at two of the five important elements involved in a growing mentoring relationship. I suggest these “Five P's ” — PRINCIPLES, PROGRESS, PROBLEMS, PRAYER, the PRACTICAL — as building blocks, with which the “coach” or mentor may effectively design his interpersonal time with a mentoree.
PRINCIPLES and PROGRESS
Let's review the key ideas from Part 1 of this article. Mentoring is a deliberate, encouraging relationship in which the mentor seeks to spiritually lift another person to his/her full potential in Christ. The foundational element of the mentoring relationship, as well as the weekly time together, involves life-changing principles and promises from the Word. We want to help the mentoree discover the Bible as holy, inspired, and practical. We show the mentoree how to “dish up” the Bible, eat it, and assimilate it into his life (Jeremiah 15:16) through simple question-and-answer Bible studies. In the mentoree's personal life I emphasize the “Wheel” illustration:
- the how of time in the Word,
- obedience to God's will
These four basics are taught motivationally in my group study book, Living God's Word. Later we teach methods of inductive studies, which the mentoree can use for a lifetime. They require only a Bible and a concordance.
We strive for measurable progress, including mutual accountability and check-up. Without some sense of “apprenticeship” on the part of the one mentored, sustained growth is difficult. Although mentoring may begin with a serendipitous teaching or counseling hour, the best mentoring needs a consistent schedule of an hour or more weekly, focused on both the mentoree's needs but also on goals which the mentor has for him/her.
Helping with PROBLEMS
Psalm 119:130; Psalm 17:4; Ecclesiastes 10:1
Many mentoring relationships have begun by listening to a person in crisis. But do “problem people” ever become problem-solvers? Yes! When they have a wise, loving mentor who knows how to lead them to “Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3)
Mentoring needs to be done by choice, rather than chance. We have to make a commitment toward that person, and he to us. Therefore, early on we need to clarify our expectations, if the friendship began as simply a loose time of counseling, for instance. This will neutralize potential relationship problems. Agree on a meeting place, a time and its length. Discuss together some perimeters about topics, goals, and how often you will meet. Get some agreement to complete a specific study or ministry you do together.
Eventually we'll have to confront, or correct. We become mirrors that help the mentoree understand his/her blind spots and the attitudes that hinder God's best in his life. With tenderness I will hold up the mirror and say, “Do you see this in your life?” A word of caution here. While Satan can't read our minds, he does log our journey. We must be aware that this potentially effective relationship will be under attack.
Problems That Kill a Mentoree's Potential
The world is always trying to squeeze us into its mold. Every commercial on TV has one of three heart-motivations that it's tapping into to sell its product: the sex motive, the security motive, or the success motive. Mentoring men involves walking through the minefields of girls, gold, and glory ( 1 John 2:15-17 ). For women also, these same categories might be defined: control, collect, compete.
As in the Old West, we seek to “head the Enemy off at the pass.” We counter-attack sexual temptations, “the lust of the flesh,” before they are a problem by teaching self-denial and taking up one's cross daily. Instead of finding security in money, “the lust of the eyes,” we train men and women to give their life, time, and money to Jesus. To counter the success drive for personal glory, “the pride of life,” we model and teach the servant-heart attitude. We are on earth to “please Him (Jesus) who hath chosen us to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4)
True mentoring is not an act but a process. It simply takes time. Who is sufficient for this kind of warfare? Not me! We listen patiently as the mentoree shares his heart, his hurts and hesitancies. Then through prayer we seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. “The entrance of thy Word giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). The Holy Spirit will teach us how to customize His Word to each person's needs.
Matthew 18:19; Isaiah 65:24; John 14:13, 14
Perhaps the most bonding experience we can have is praying aloud regularly with another person. Prayer is a mentoring necessity. We need to pray specifically, openly, freely, crying out to God in intercession and petitions. Set aside time for prayer together, whenever you meet to mentor. Be careful how you pray. You are modeling.
Expand the prayer horizon of your mentoree. Pray driving in a car. Pray over the phone. Pray together as you walk down a street. In a restaurant you can pray with eyes open. Make a list of the mentoree's prayer needs and pray daily. Ask the mentoree about his problems in prayer and answers. Help him also make up a prayer list, and log the answers. Sometimes the pressure on the mentoree is such that we need to read some passage of Scripture to claim, and go immediately into prayer. While I was in Baylor Law School, I cried out to God for wisdom about knowing His will for my life in a 4-hour prayer time with my friend and mentor Bruce. I was called to preach during that life-altering meeting, and have never doubted God's call.
Years ago in England, I visited the Anglican church of a friend and man of God, Bishop A. W. Goodwin-Hudson. From the pulpit he requested “the reading of the prayers.” Immediately I thought, why don't they just say their prayers from the heart? Hmm. But then, listening to the prayer, I thought, “Whoever wrote that prayer is really good!” It hit me! Paul wrote that prayer they read in Ephesians 3:16-20. Why did God allow Paul's prayers for those believers to be preserved nearly 2000 years? Aren't they examples for us of prayers God loves to hear and answer? These other prayers of Paul are also worth memorizing:
1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13;
2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12.
Later I discovered a new joy from these verse-prayers. I matched character qualities from a verse and prayed it for my wife, each of my children, and some of the men that I mentored.
Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 3:23, 24
Next to prayer, ministry together is a great bonding experience. It also quickly reveals what principles you've taught the mentoree that are sticking. Without ministry together, you'll never know what he truly knows! Take someone out witnessing, and you'll discover quickly where he is in practical knowledge. His questions later will be pointed and real. No room for “theory” here! When the mentoree begins to do ministry, his real fears, weaknesses, and gifts begin to surface. Then, your progress in helping him into Christlikeness will accelerate.
Remember, in ministry you're modeling all the time. When pastoring, I recall taking Charlie with me to give a Gospel presentation to a young couple. The couple gave their hearts to Christ. Charlie was thrilled. Ten years later I visited with Charlie in another city where he was now director of a statewide medical work. “Remember the first time you took me witnessing? Remember that illustration you used?” Charlie asked, smiling. “No,” I replied. Charlie went on to explain the illustration I'd used. “That couple came to Christ. And I've used that illustration every time I've given the Gospel the past 10 years!” “Oh, Charlie,” I replied, “that's not even my best illustration!” Charlie's instant comment was, “I saw it work when they got saved; so it's what I use.”
Mark it well: THE METHOD IS THE MESSAGE, too. Paul commanded the Philippians, “Those things which you have both learned and received, and heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Reverse the first phrase of the verse, and note the progression: seen, heard, received, learned. We learn by watching what a mentor does and says; we begin to digest it, and ultimately copy it.
Decide together where and when to meet for ministry. At first, it may be helping with a cookout at the church, mowing a widow's yard, painting a house, visiting a patient in the hospital, or helping a neighbor with a computer need. After a time of ministry, we then go out for coffee and discuss and evaluate the ministry. What did we do? What could we have done better? We're listening all the time for the mentoree's response — his questions, comments, emotional state, and growth. Then in private we'll do follow-up prayer about the ministry that next week.
Let's review these five elements. As God makes us available to mentor, we link up in heart with a man or woman through Bible principles. We help him/her progress in accountability and assignments. We bond through prayer, solve problems together, and get out of the “holy huddle” in practical ministry. However, nothing is “in concrete.” Only the Holy Spirit can change a person. As I mentor others, I'm continually crying out to God for a holy walk in the Spirit, to be ready for those that God is preparing. Then as I encourage and carefully model what God has taught me, the Spirit will deepen the mentoree's love for Jesus.
In this process of mentoring, God blesses the mentor exceedingly. The longer you mentor, the “richer” you are in blessings. With a heart to mentor, you'll never lack ministry. Claim Isaiah 43:4, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”