I remember when I was a younger in the ministry, how excited I was to have mentors built into my education track. Each year, I would receive a new mentor to work with who had more years of training and experience than I did. I treasured the thought of mentors so much that I was the only student in my class that not only enjoyed the new mentor each year but asked my previous mentors is they would still mentor me.
However, with a little time and experience, I stopped feeling the need for my mentors as much. Actually, in some ways they became a little frustrating because they had come from different backgrounds and had different views than mine on where God was leading. As I would talk to them about issues that were coming up in day to day ministry, I found their perspectives were a little more frustrating than appreciated. My time with them became less and less as I felt I knew more than I used to and didn’t need their help any longer.
This was a mistake. This was going from being a toddler in ministry to being a teenager in ministry. I thought I understood things better than these heroes who had gone before me and I lost the benefit of their wisdom for a season. Yes, I was getting a better foothold under my feet of what God was leading me to do. Yes, they had different backgrounds and understandings of where God was leading me. However, instead of pulling away, I needed to learn more about submission, discernment, and wisdom.
As God shaped my understanding more, another strange thing happened. I starting become a mentor. I had people who were newer to ministry start reaching out to me for coaching. While it seemed odd at first, I was happy to help any way I could in the situations people were finding themselves since I have traveled that path before. It was encouraging to give advice that made a difference and put people into roles God was leading them to but needed someone to believe in them.
Some of those relationships continue today. They are my closest of friends and they mean so much to me. Many of those relationships went to the road side. After a little bit of time, they were no longer interested in counsel. They would still ask the questions but you could see their eyes glaze over as you answered. They would nod politely but then say something like “Thanks but I’m going to go ahead and do what I wanted to anyways.” with no consideration of a different point of view. Others would be so thankful for you believing in them to give them a role but within a short amount of time they change your counsel or authority from helpful to “getting in the way”.
I have learned not to be so bothered about it mostly because I did it to others in my past. However, I have learned after many years in ministry that the person hurting is the mentored more then the mentor.
I have mentors in my life. I love getting counsel from people who have different backgrounds and outlooks. I love to pray over and struggle over their thoughts and see where God leads me.
I have people that I mentor in my life. I love their hearts and passion for the work of the Lord. They have vibrant ministries and passion to help others. I love talking with them, praying together, and helping them avoid some of the mistakes of my past.
I have people in my life that have called me mentor but have since pushed that away. That’s ok. I went through that too. My prayer is they will seek other mentors and not try to do it on their own. Our personal views alone (or even as a leadership team) can get off base when we don’t get outside counsel. Seek Godly men and women who have been there before who can give you more resources than you have on your own.
Mentorship is awesome! It’s Biblical! The problem is when we shut it down without prayerful consideration.
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Provers 15:22