A Simple Step To Mentoring

What could be important to bring together the minds and money of Harvard University, ABC (Disney), CBS (Viacom), Fox News Corp., NBC (GE), and several divisions of AOL Time Warner? They have linked together behind a common goal: to get the idea of mentoring into the mainstream of American life. These companies declared January 2003 as National Mentors' Month. These non-religious corporations are committed to encouraging mentoring of children and teens across America. Have you seen that TV ad on mentoring a kid? The emphasis by these corporations is that anyone can impact another's life through mentoring. A fabulous idea!

Centuries ago God put in the Bible His desire that His followers mentor others. Is this happening today in your life, your church? “Mentoring is a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, a push in the right direction.” A mentor could be a favorite uncle, a teacher, a coach, a peer-buddy, even a “chance” friend — God can use them all to touch our lives.

To give impact to the Mentor's Month ad campaign this team produced books and websites. For example, a female schoolteacher who taught English to him mentored Tom Brokaw. A mentoring grandmother raised Latin singer Gloria Estefan. “My grandmother's words are alive today in my life and work.”

A teacher mentored Young Walter Cronkite, attending San Jacinto High School in Houston. Those positive experiences led Walter into journalism. He became over time the most respected of all TV commentators. Senator John McCain mentions: “a former high school teacher of mine, William Ravenel, changed my life. He gave me some moorings and a compass. He was a man of admirable qualities. He used his classroom as not only a way to teach English, but also to teach values and standards, and morals.”

The tall General Colin Powell's father was short, a bit over 5 feet, but masterful. Powell grew up in the Bronx, New York, where his dad, Luther, a Jamaican immigrant, was the dominant figure in his life. “My Dad never let race or station affect his sense of self.” James Earl Jones, the actor, writes, “Outside my family, my most influential role model was a high school English teacher, Donald Crouch. He had retired to a farm near the small town where I lived. When he discovered there was a need for good teachers locally, he came to teach at my small agricultural high school. I was a stutterer, and felt self-conscious.” Professor Crouch knew that James Earl wrote poetry and gradually made him quote it to the class. Again and again new poems were quoted and James did it without stuttering. “This had a tremendous effect on me, and my confidence grew as I learned to express myself comfortably out loud.”

Mentoring is God’s way to lift another toward their full potential.

Tim Russert, moderator of TV's popular Meet The Press was changed when a grade school teacher, Sister Lucille, asked an over-energetic boy to begin writing and putting together a newspaper for the school. Later in high school a Jesuit Priest, Father Sturm, challenged Tim to discipline in his studies. Tim writes, “Without the intervention and support of these two I would not be the moderator of Meet The Press. 

Mike Wallace, co-anchor of 60 Minutes for 35 years, recalls his first mentor. She was Biddy Mitchell, a grammar school teacher. She was the first to get Mike interested in correct speaking and the use of words. Later a wealthy friend of his uncle's, Arthur Goldsmith, kept at Mike, “You're not realizing enough of yourself. You want to be in the news, but you're not. You're doing things just for money — you're better than that.” Slowly Mike paid attention and his life was changed. Larry King names people in Miami who decades ago gave him encouragement that jump-started his interviewing people on the radio. Basketball great, Bill Russell, told of his mother's life, then his dad's indelible mark.

Oprah Winfrey's 4th-grade school teacher was Mrs. Duncan. “She helped me to not be afraid of being smart. She encouraged me to read, and she often stayed after school to work with me, helping me choose books and letting me help her grade papers. Mentors are important. I don't think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship. Nobody makes it alone. Nobody has made it alone.” 1

Mentors of the Bible

This is an excellent emphasis. But where does the Church stand on this issue? God put mentoring models in the Bible for us to learn from and copy, over 3,000 years ago. The Bible, we discover, is primarily biography. The Old Testament is built through the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah. Jesus, Peter, and Paul had life-stories that glue the New Testament together. Paul writes a command to believers, “Be ye followers of me.” To copy a person, to use him or her as a model, is biblical, as long as this person is walking with Christ. We still always keep one eye on Jesus.

Mentoring is God's way to lift another toward their full potential. In Genesis we read about mentoring as Moses is counseled and encouraged by his father-in-law, Jethro. Moses reaches out to mentor two leaders in Israel, Joshua and Caleb. In other books we see Naomi mentoring Ruth. Watch a young prophet in training, Elisha, running to keep up with Elijah, to learn. These were “parents” or pacesetters to those who followed them.

Another form of mentoring is side-by-side mentoring. An example of this is seen in Jonathan's peer-mentoring of David.

In the New Testament God sent His Son to be the supreme model of mentoring. Day and night Jesus taught, encouraged, modeled and invested in the twelve. Jesus' training wasn't dependent on sermons to shape his men. “He ordained twelve that they should be with him . . .” (Mark 3:14). He shared his life and ministry with them daily for three years.

The Purpose of Mentoring

Mentoring is relational, and must be deliberate. Dr. Robert Clinton in Connecting suggests ways to categorize different kinds of mentors. There is the coach, spiritual guide, and discipler who give intensive time to others. To that list I've added parents. Then there are four occasional kinds of mentors: the teacher, the sponsor, the counselor, and the historical mentor. This person, who may have lived at another time, reaches our hearts through biography.

The Steps to Being A Mentor

How may I begin mentoring, some have asked? Do we start with a booklet or formal teaching materials? Do I help people with their problems and needs? Yes, and a few steps more. It's sticking with the person we help to encourage their personal growth in Christ. Where we have a gift area or strength, we make it available to those we mentor. Ultimately we want to help them into the basics that change lives, also known as the “Wheel”: 1) Bible study, 2) prayer, 3) the application of Scripture to daily life (obedience), and 4) witnessing. Will you be a mentor this month? Below you'll find a simple 3-level track. Choose one track, and begin praying for someone that you can listen to, encourage, link up for ministry, and hopefully together move into Scripture study with one of my Bible study tools. You're mentoring.

Track 1 – Entry Level

  • From my book Living God's Word (chapter 3), teach HOW TO MEDITATE, so the verses they are memorizing can get deeply into their lives. Living God's Word is available from Missions Unlimited in Tampa, or LifeWay Bookstores, nationwide.
  • Next, teach them Synthetic Bible Study — the repetitive reading of a book of the Bible, all the way through at one sitting, daily for 30 days. Start by assigning them Philippians to read daily for a month. Encourage them and monitor closely so they don't miss a single day. After reading the book, in different translations if they like, then help them begin to focus on a single topic to find each time they read through Philippians. Ask the protégés to record any findings. Here is a list of some topics I enjoy looking for, one for each day I read the book.
  • Assign a chapter or “step” from my book First Steps to do each week. Read the syllabus at the front of the book about the various projects you will do. Check the mentorees on Scripture memory (after you've shared some good reasons to memorize — see my tips here and here on memorizing scripture) and all assignments. Set the pace. You'll meet each week for 6-7 weeks, for an hour each meeting.First Steps may be ordered from here.

Track 2 – Medium Level

  • First Steps: meet each week for an hour using this book. (six weeks)

  • Living God's Word: Set up commitment responses from those you want to attend and study daily from the text. You will need to check up on those in the group to make sure they don't get behind. This requires about 15-20 minutes a day of personal study. Most of it is reading with varied fill-in-the-blanks and analysis of the text.

Track 3 - More Advanced

  • Living God's Word (six weeks).
  • Do Chapter Analysis (STS) Inductive Bible Study. It is on our web site (six weeks).
  • Then ask for a new commitment.
  • Remember, mentoring involves deepening relationships, not just study. 

Begin Inductive Bible Study with:

  1. Psalm 1
  2. Psalm 23
  3. 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
  4. Complete 1 Thessalonians a half chapter a week.
  5. Then do Philippians.
  6. Mix in Biographical and Word Studies.

1 An interview with Oprah Winfrey on WCVB-TV 5 News CityLine (Boston, January 13, 2002).