Mentoring has always been important to me. My father played a significant role in my development of valuing outside voices of wisdom. Through our man-to-man relationship, I realize the importance of having an older and wiser person in my life to help construct and guide me.
When I turned fifteen years old, my dad understood that his voice was still important but that it would be vital for me to get other men involved. He had me choose five mentors that would walk with me through the remainder of my high school career. All of them were great influences in my life, but more importantly the context for mentoring was established in these formative years. From that point on, I lived a life guided by God’s hand through other godly men. Mentors have always been in my life, and they always will be.
There are many essential elements that make a mentoring relationship work, but the most important is submission. A mentoree must respect the voice and perspective of a mentor enough to trust and apply the advice that is given. Continual hesitation or neglect of what the mentor has said to the mentoree will cause the relationship to be ineffective. The attitudes and actions of the mentoree must show the mentor that he is trusting the guiding relationship.
In his Book “Mentoring,” Terry Walling points to seven items that a mentoree can do to contribute to a successful mentoring relationship. In brief, these seven things are as follows:
1. Accept responsibility for growth
2. Develop a personal understanding of God’s direction
3. Developed personal ministry goals
4. Match mentors with goals
5. Develop mentor eyes
6. maintain a teachable spirit
7. Continue to trust God for development
All of these are important, but they are not all easy to maintain. In the last fifteen years, I found myself struggling with these three things the most:
Developing a personal understanding of God’s direction. Terry Walling explains that it is important for the mentoree to know where he is going so he will be able to identify the mentoring needs. For the most part, I understand my unique calling or direction, but often I wait for a mentor to tell me which way I should go. I need to grow in this area and develop a personal understanding of God’s direction prior to my meetings with my mentors. I can trust their voice will help me on the path and correct me if I get off course, but I should not be so co-dependent upon them that I end up paralyzed without them.
Match mentors with goals. I have many goals in my life. I know that these goals need to be vetted out with the help of mentors. I could be better at finding mentors with specific skills or life experience to match up with my goals; this would better eliminate wasted energy and efforts to accomplish these goals. It may also help me understand if a goal should even be something I actually should pursue by helping me count the costs and not just making an emotional decision.
Developing mentoring eyes. Walling explains that developing mentoring eyes is to gain the skills that “recognize divine appointments and growth opportunities that God puts in the mentoree’s path.” More often than I would like to admit, I count some things are merely coincidental in my life. I do not always stop long enough to acknowledge God’s divine movement and placement of people, opportunities or circumstances that are there to form me into Christ-likeness. I need to increase my attentiveness to God’s actions in my life and bring these things before my mentors so we can talk about them and use these things as a basis for greater development.
The Impact of a Few Great Men
There are two great men that have had deep impacted my life: David Jones and Ken Murphy. I met both of these men as I started my journey into full-time ministry. Though they are different men, they have a few things in common: they both love the Lord with all of their heart; they prioritize family above ministry. They both intentionally seek to give away their knowledge for my improvement; they have made themselves available to me without hesitation. I am forever grateful for the impact they have had in my life.
Ken and I met when I was only 18 years old. He came into my life at a time when my theological foundation was being formed. I met him when I attended a young adults Bible study on the attributes of God. That study alone proved to formative of my perspective of God. In addition to that study, we met many other times and opened our Bibles. He helped me understand theological issues that have been important for my ongoing ministry. He also mentored my (now) wife and me through our dating relationship, engagement, and our wedding.
Nearly ten years later, we still meet approximately every two weeks as he mentors me in my calling as a pastor. He has served in the pastorate for twenty-five years. His wisdom and life experience have always added greatly to my life. He has never forced a perspective upon me. He has always been intentional to ask questions, guiding me through hard-to-navigate situations, and encouraging me to keep the Bible as the foundation of my life. A bonus to this relationship has been that his wife and my wife have grown close. This allows our families to interact and for us to see him and his wife raise their kids and see their marriage on display. While Ken teaches me many things directly, there are many things I learn from him indirectly through our informal times together.
I met David Jones when I took my first pastoral job at Harvest Bible Chapel in 2006. David has dedicated his life to training up younger pastors. He was gracious enough to take me under his wing and include me in some of his trainings with other men who would eventually take a senior pastor role. I learned a lot from him by sitting in these formal contexts and studying ministry philosophy. This time was shorted by and unexpected move to Colorado. Before I moved away from Chicago, he called me and said he would like to maintain a relationship. Since then, he and I have talked on a regular basis. I often refer to him as my “preaching mentor” because he is the loudest voice in my life as it relates to my ongoing preaching ministry. He has helped me develop processes and paradigms for sermon preparation and sermon delivery. He also gives me access to his personal life, allowing me to see him in his role as a father and a husband. I have learned a lot from his godliness and his dedication to God’s Word. He continually encourages me to keep The Cross at the center of my life. He’s not afraid to give a firm rebuke if he knows it is necessary, but I always feel loved by him no matter how hard he pushes me.
Areas of Need
Mentoring will continue to be a practice in my life. I will never assume that I have arrived or do not have more to learn. At this point in my life, there are five main reasons I know I still need mentoring:
- Accountability. I know that I need the voices of smarter and wiser men to look into my life and call me to deeper holiness.
- Objectivity. Their objective perspective is needed to help me avoid mistakes and shore-up shortcomings so that I may reach my maximum potential.
- Goal-setting. I need to be stretched beyond what is comfortable.
- Attentiveness to God’s moving. Just as mentors can help me avoid blind spots, they can also help me see the work of God where I may lack the attentiveness or perspective to see it.
- Work and Family Life Balance. Ministry can be all consuming; I will trust my mentors to tell me when I’ve taken on too much and need to be more intentional with my family.
I love that mentoring is a part of God’s design. I plan to steward this gift with the utmost intentionality.
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