“Developing a healthy mentoring relationship involves asking key questions and then listening. It is far more a reflective process than telling, lecturing or preaching.”
—Martin Sanders, The Power of Mentoring
Everybody who is serious about growth in their personal and relational lives would benefit from mentoring—by being mentored and by mentoring others.
The focus in mentoring is on character formation, not behaviour modification. It works from the inside out, not from the outside in. Character is who we are when no one else is looking—both at our best and at our worst. It’s what we are really like. Its focus is on integrity—what we are made of—our substance; deep beneath the veneer.
Because we are so used to controlling life behaviourally, usually with limited ongoing success, we are not so adept at working with our inner material—our sin, for instance.
Mentoring works on the power of permission—to encourage and empower the mentoree.
A good mentoring relationship will allow the private, deep issues of life to be vocalised in a safe environment—such that ‘secrets’ might be exposed and worked on without fear, judgment or rejection.
Two Ingredients Defining Our Success
Our success in life is determined by two things:
1. We have a lifelong pursuit of character formation through all the various life stages.
2. There is the presence of mentors to guide us through each phase of the pilgrimage through life.
A Rough Geography through the Life Stages
Up until the age of 30 we are learning. Between 30 and 50 we make our contribution in life—to achieve. Beyond 50 we wish to invest—to leave a legacy.
These life stages assist us in determining both the needs and material for mentoring. If a mentor focuses consciously on the life stage of the mentoree, he or she can be of greater assistance.
The Nuts and Bolts of Mentoring
A mentor is a coach, spiritual guide, possibly a parent, a counsellor, and a friend. After listening intently, the mentor says, “Consider this,” and “Think about this,” and “Did you ever notice that when this happens you respond this way?”
Mentors help make psychological and philosophical connections.
Mentoring is the facilitation of a lifelong development process whereby individuals move through various stages of emotional, human, spiritual, educational, and intellectual development.
Mentors don’t share information; they share life and experiences.
Men having intimate friendships with other men is rare but a key in the unfolding process that is mentoring for men. It probably fits with women also, but, by nature, men are more isolated than women.
The primary purpose of mentoring is to aid and guide emerging leaders through the key development stages of their lives. Under the Christian model, all men provide leadership within their families. As emerging leaders learn to merge their desires with God’s dream for their lives, they also desire to pursue true character qualities in their lives.
Development is more than just skills; it’s about heart, character, integrity, personal, emotional, and spiritual development.
Discipleship is a process, not a program. Its goal is about getting to the point of being a reproducer of disciples. It is the vehicle to keeping men and women alike connected with the church and to get them involved in church life.
Four Levels of Intimacy
There are four levels of relationship we should all nurture. We should have the following, whereby intimacy needs are identified and explored:
1. Some same gender friends.
2. An older, ‘wiser’ mentor.
3. If we have a spouse, we need a proactive relationship revolving around intimacy.
4. Intimacy with God.
Various Mentoring Models
Most people would think of mentoring as one-to-one (Jesus with Peter), but there is also one-to-two models (Jesus with Peter, James, and John), and also group mentoring models (Jesus and the disciples).
The Apostle Paul mentored Timothy by his letters. He encouraged Timothy to be less timid and reluctant to lead.
Any good mentoring program will factor in the need for a multiplicity of angles of approach.
The mentoring agenda is fourfold: it surrounds purpose, passion, planning, and priorities. Mentoring is about investing a tithe of our time: we benefit most from investing four hours per week for intentional discipleship, leadership development and mentoring.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Key Reference: Martin Sanders, The Power of Mentoring (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications, 2004).