An anonymous sage once said, When you find a turtle on a fence post, the one thing you know for certain is that he didn’t get there by himself.” Anyone who has benefited from the mentoring process can tell you that someone went out of their way to invest in him or her. A mentor can help elevate a lowly turtle by helping him get up on a fence post.
Bob Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, gives us a “job description” for a mentor in the March issue of On Mission magazine:
- Mentors are risk-takers—they are willing to take a person in their most “unfinished” state under their wing, without any certainty that they will do things exactly as the mentor would prefer.
- Mentors impart a sense of freedom to be your own person.
- Mentors extend the freedom to fail.
- Mentors give continual encouragement.
- Mentors seek to understand, not impose their own viewpoints.
- Mentors challenge a person to stretch beyond their comfort zone.
- Mentors pray unceasingly and ask for God’s will to be accomplished in that person’s life.
Mentoring is a Jewish thing to do. Look at the relationships between Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Paul and Timothy. More importantly, it is a believer’s thing to do. Young Jewish believers today need mentors! Are you ready to stand up to the challenge? Paul Stanley says, “Anyone can mentor, provided he has learned something from God and is willing to share with others what he has learned.”1 Does that sound like you?
You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to mentor another, but you should love the Bible and want to live out your life according to the reality you find in its teaching. You don’t have to be a trained psychologist to mentor another, but being available with timely and Godly advice can make the difference for the individual who is without an anchor. Sometimes mentors are contemporary role models who set an example for a younger person; other times they are coaches, character-builders; and still other times they are teachers of the Word and of life. Which role are you most suited for? All of these take time and effort. Mentoring is an investment.
Becoming a Mentor
- Pray about it. Pray that God would open your eyes to a young person with whom you already share some form of natural relationship—in your congregational family, or the child of a close, believing friend, or perhaps someone you work with.
- Be led by the Spirit. This is not a task to be accomplished; there is no paycheck involved. It’s not a forced relationship, and it will mean an investment of time. Know that God is in this particular relationship before you begin.
- Find a person who wants to be mentored by you. It must be a two-way street.
- Build the relationship. Take the time to ask questions about school, sports, interests and/or mutual relationships. Ask, “Is there something you would like me to pray for?” When you see the young person at your congregation, comment on the day’s sermon and ask how it spoke to him or her.
- Send occasional notes of encouragement.
Sometimes, such relationships grow in the context of doing something fun together, something that is of genuine interest to the two of you. One such relationship between a 35-year-old lawyer and a high school student developed over a mutual love of hiking. During the course of a hike, spiritual questions were raised. This eventually led to a series of “lessons” over coffee in the area of apologetics, which equipped the young man later on when he encountered diverse religious views in college.
Furthering the Relationship
Assure the young person that your relationship is confidential. You are not there as a spy for his or her parents, but you will suggest that they speak to their parents if confidences shared sound the alarm for you. A mentor is helpful in that a young person can feel there’s someone who will listen without the emotions that often run high with parents.
From a distance: e-mail must have been invented with mentoring in mind—use it! Even as the young person grows and perhaps moves away to college or to another town, the relationship can continue and be fostered. Phone calls and occasional visits, planned in advance, are also welcome. When the student is back in town, be sure to invite and include him/her in church or congregational activities.
Be consistent; be persistent; be non-judgmental (remember this is a person “in process”). You can offer guidance, training, suggestions, support and prayer—a lot of prayer! A mentor can help as the young person learns to model behavior by what he sees in the older person in the areas of character values, life principles and moral attitudes. Again, this type of modeling takes time, but it’s worth it.
Those who would consider being mentors should do so because the Spirit is leading them. It is a God-honoring relationship with lasting benefits. Ask yourself, “Who am I investing in for the next generation?”
Hopefully, you too will find a turtle that is seeking to be lifted up on a fence post, and God will use you to do it.
- Billy Clinton and Paul Stanley, Connecting (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992) pp. 28, 29.