“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)
Mentoring! An awesome concept—a daunting task! According to Dr. Howard Hendricks and his son, William, in their book on mentoring, As Iron Sharpens Iron, they present a simple definition of a “mentor” as “a person committed to two things; helping you grow and keeping you growing, and helping you realize your life goals.”
Is there a need for mentoring in our world today?
Is mentoring an old-fashioned idea–now obsolete? If one judges the need for mentoring by the number of websites and organizations offering mentoring programs and curriculum, and life-coaching classes–I would say that it is very relevant!
In today’s segmented world of broken relationships and single-parent or distant-parent homes, the voices of men and women, young and old are crying out for guidance.
“I know that there is supposed to be more to the Christian life than what I am currently experiencing. I know that I am to be conformed to His image and to walk with Him but I don’t know how…somebody PLEASE show me.” *
The Goal of Mentoring
The goal of every mentor should be “the emotional, social, and spiritual growth of his protégé, the person he mentors. . .” (As Iron Sharpens Iron). Putting it another way, mentoring helps a protégé reach his or her God-given potential–in most of the big areas of his life. Mentoring another is more ‘how can I help you?’ than ‘what should I teach you?’ Mentoring is a way of sharing life with another.
I’d like to share an example from my own life. I was not raised in a Christian home. My mother died when I was only eleven years old. My step-father moved far away after my mother’s death, leaving my siblings and I in the capable hands of my mother’s relatives—who also were not active Christians. When my husband and I married, we had a keen desire to establish a Christian tradition in our home, but we had virtually no good role models on either side of our immediate families.
We had never been taught how to live godly lives. We had so many questions about how to do life the Christian way! How would we learn the things necessary to pass on our Christian faith to children we wanted to one day have? What did Christian marriages look like? How do Christians raise their kids? How do Christian men become great businessmen, lawyers, doctors?
I thank God for placing men and women who were doing a good job in some of these areas into our lives so that we could learn from them. Many became our friends and mentors.
How does ‘mentoring’ work?
Throughout history, mentoring has been a primary means of passing on knowledge and life-skills from one generation to another, in every field and in every culture. Humans learn best from humans!
Mentoring conveys confidence!
- Confidence is gained through the sharing of our successes and struggles.
I so remember the early days of our marriage when the honeymoon phase was long past and the hard work of relationship building with my spouse was grinding away at our resolve to stay married. His idiosyncrasies were driving me crazy (and, by the way—mine were doing the same to him!), and the struggle to make our relationship work became harder every day.
Fortunately, we met Bob and Lynda—a couple slightly older than us—married longer and parents of one darling little girl. They helped us through some pretty rough waters. Watching them together, hearing their funny stories of their own failures and marriage quirks, made us laugh as we identified with their stories. Soon we were feeling that our struggles weren’t so bad after all–we could do this marriage thing!
Seeing their commitment in action, to each other and to the Lord, was instrumental in helping us become more committed to following Christ and working out our own marital problems. We could see from watching them, that it was worth it! We owe a lot to Bob and Lynda—and their willingness to mentor us.
- Confidence is gained when we can share ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do it’.
When we first moved to Austria (in 1978), we barely knew German well enough to get around town, let alone to help our first grader and second graders with their German homework. Navigating the complicated Austrian school system was nearly impossible. Frau Krammer, our kind neighbor became my mentor.
She understood enough English to help me decode the ‘teacher’s notes’ that came home with our girls (written in proper German—what else!); she helped us know what our kids needed to do in order to pass that school year, how and where to apply for our residence visas, buy groceries, and showed us how to celebrate Christmas, Austrian style. She introduced me to the neighbors, and had me over for ‘Kaffee und Kuchen”.
Her husband taught my husband how start our coal furnace and keep it running, where to go for car insurance— the necessary vocabulary needed to do these things. They took us hiking in the Vienna Woods; they taught us all manner of interesting and beneficial things about their culture that we never learned in our German language classes. We owe a lot to Frau Krammer and her family for mentoring us in how to live life in their small Austrian town those first three years!
- Confidence is gained as we build skills to meet the needs of others.
Those early days as a missionary in a foreign country were exciting—sometimes. But, truthfully, many times it was hard and downright depressing. Older missionaries living in our city helped us learn how to adapt to the many changes we were making in our lives and ministry. They mentored us in the life-essentials we needed as foreigners. We owe a lot to those blessed missionaries who took us under their wing and nurtured us so lovingly.
Gradually we learned the skills we needed to live in a foreign country. We are still thankful for the people God put into our lives to help us reach our potential. We lived in Austria for fifteen and a half years—and we mentored many new missionary couples through their first and second year adjustments. What a joy it was for us to pass on what we had learned from others.
- Confidence is gained as we learn how to grow in the Lord, and learn how to pass the baton on!
As we look into the New Testament, we see the Apostle Paul as a master mentor. And Timothy probably was a model protégé. Paul not only saw in Timothy a huge potential to be used in God’s Kingdom-building, but he was willing to pour his life into this young man, in terms of time and emotional involvement, in order to teach and model for him the way of the Christian life-style. He modeled for him how to act and “react” in various situations. He lectured him in the doctrines of the faith; taught him humility and brokenness by the things he suffered. He modeled a life of prayer for the church and its many members.
Yes, Paul invested in his protege a “treasure” of knowledge that he would eventually pass on to others—indeed was compelled to pass on to others. This was the “good deposit”—the “treasure” that Paul had invested in Timothy. And he was to guard it, as he would a mound of gold, investing it wisely in others as the Apostle Paul had invested in him.
The Benefits of Having a Mentor
Here are some life principles that will help us in our journey through life—and in our walk with the Lord.
1. God always envelops His truth in a person.
That is the value of having a mentor. God uses an illustration with flesh and bone—a real live person—to show us what biblical truth looks like so that we can more easily emulate that truth and pass it on to others.
2. A mentor’s influence benefits others in our life, as well as our own.
Think for a moment about this principle. Who, in your life has gained, second or third-hand, by the positive growth in your spiritual, emotional and social development–because of your being mentored? (Your spouse, your children, a co-worker?)In what ways might their life have been very different if you had never been mentored?
3. Mentoring has a valuable place in every strata of society, in every culture on earth.
It wouldn’t take long to prove this. Everywhere we turn, we can find men and women who are eager—and searching—for someone with a little more wisdom and experience—to guide, coach, or encourage them as they navigate their way through this life. In most mentoring situations, the age difference may be as close as five to six years to 10—15 years or more. Certainly there were more years than fifteen between the Apostle Paul and Timothy. With the mobility of our society and the breakdown of family structures, day-care for children, etc., what place in our society should mentoring have? What place did it have in our parent’s generation?
This is also true around the world. Women mentoring women in the essentials of running a home, making clothing, cooking, becoming a good wife and mother. The same for men–learning from their elders the life skills most needed for survival in their world.
Perhaps you feel the need for a mentor–but do not have a mentor right now. If this is a desire of your heart, ask the Lord to help you find one. Begin looking for a mentor—someone committed to the Lord and committed to helping you grow and to keep on growing. Refuse to believe the lie that Satan would have us believe—that there simply aren’t many—or any— that will take the time with YOU! Ask God to put it together for you.
Perhaps you are an “older woman” in the Lord and also older physically. Do you sense God nudging you to mentor someone? Maybe you have a particular skill that person would love to learn–don’t be timid! Even through teaching someone a skill–you will be imparting far more than some ‘how-to’s.‘ You will be sharing your life–and that will encourage another. Each of us have learned valuable lessons in our lifetime that will benefit another person.
Go ahead. Invest yourself in some–one-on-one. Who knows what the outcome will be!
Thank you for taking time to read this post today. If you were blessed, share it, ‘like’ it on Facebook, or email it to a friend. If you would like to read more–click “Follow” and you will be notified each time I post another article. Take a moment and send me a comment–I’d like to know what you liked most about this post. That would encourage me!
If you would like to learn more about the Apostle Paul and his mentoring relationship with Timothy, you can download a free bible study here: simply click on (or copy & paste) the following link: http://www.lindakbridges.com/free-printables/ into your browser. Encouragement-Chapter 3 contains the Bible content on Paul’s mentoring of Timothy.
Please come again!
*Quotation taken from the website M3-Mentoring Men for the Master:http://mentoringmen.net/