Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 Components in Healthy Mentoring

I have talked at length about spiritual direction on this blog and elsewhere, and also about the benefits of a relationship with a therapist. What I have not discussed much is mentoring. And that's where today's guest post comes in. 

Today's post is from Beck Gambill. She has been in full-time ministry for 9 years and is passionate about serving the church through mentoring. She's also writing a novel. You can find her at her blog and also on Facebook.

Even though relationships in our digital age have changed, the need for meaningful human relationships is an enduring reality. The Bible envisions mentoring as a central relationship in which we grow, learning from another person who has walked the road ahead of us. I consider mentoring a critical component to our discipleship. Unfortunately, it’s not always a concept that is well understood.

The second chapter of Titus provides insight into the art of mentoring. Paul instructs Titus to,

Promote living that reflects wholesome teaching. Teach older men to exercise self-control, be worthy of respect, live wisely... have a sound faith, be filled with love and patience... Teach older women to live in a way that honors God... These older women must train the younger women... Encourage young men to live wisely. Be an example, doing good works of every kind... reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching... For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people... You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them.”
As we invest knowledge and time into those around us our church communities will grow stronger, and we ourselves will grow stronger in faith.

My experience, as someone who has mentored and been mentored, has taught me that there are at least five components present in healthy mentor-ships. Let's look at them together.

Feed yourself:  Mentors must first consume a rich diet of truth if they want to invest in others. Frequent air travelers have memorized the safety guidelines instructing passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before attempting to help others. In the same way, you need to spend time with Jesus, feeding on his Word, to be prepared to point others to the Truth they're in need of. A lot of mentoring is digesting truth and feeding others who have not yet tasted it. Understanding God's word will also prepare you to deal with challenging situations that may arise while investing in another person's life.

Listen to their story: A mentor's hearts needs to be a safe place for people to unburden the contents of their own hearts. A lot of your time spent one on one should be in listening. People are hungry to be heard and understood. Because people were created for community there is a lot of comfort in being known. Healing and growth often come from processing past hurts and verbally working out solutions to problems. Having a trustworthy listener can be invaluable.

Ask questions: As people work through hurts, learn new concepts and broaden their understanding of truth, an important part of guiding them is through asking questions. A good mentor can see the big picture in a situation and ask questions to guide someone to that light-bulb moment. You could merely tell someone what you perceive the heart of an issue is or inform them of an action that needs to be taken, but if they are able to discover the truth themselves they will own it.

Share your story: At the appropriate time transparently sharing your own story is a healthy way to build trust in a growing relationship. Personal stories are good ways of offering perspective and helpful advice in a less intimidating and practical way. Sharing stories in ways that highlight God's faithfulness, empathize with brokenness or failure and remind of ever-present grace can bring hope to those you are caring for.

Give grace: Being in a mentoring relationship can be a vulnerable experience for both the mentor and the mentored. In these relationships sin is often exposed and dealt with, weaknesses identified, painful past experience may be brought up or fears confessed. An effective mentor will have learned to deal honestly with their weaknesses and have embraced their own need for grace. There is no situation beyond the reach of the Savior's redeeming power. Since he has chosen to extend mercy instead of judgment, that should be our posture as well.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider relationships in your own life that God may be calling you to develop into a mentor-ship. Some of my richest times with God have come as I rely on him for wisdom in shepherding another's heart. How about it, are you willing to take the plunge and come along side of someone that you see could use guidance?

What about you? Do you have experience in mentoring or being mentored? How have you grown through that relationship and what would you like to pass on to others?