Shepherding Ministry Venue: Mentoring Relationships
A mentoring relationship is developed when a person looks to someone else who is further along in their walk with God or in a certain area of ministry or skill to glean from that person's God-given wisdom and experience.
Since there will always be someone who knows
more or has experienced more than us and
someone who knows less and has experienced
less than us, we are all therefore in a
position to be mentored and to mentor.
Mentors invest what they have received from God into the life of another who has not yet gained the understanding or attained to the level of experience of the mentor with the purpose of multiplication. The Apostle Paul described the process in 2 Timothy 2:2 --
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
Scripture is filled with examples of this multiplication process through mentoring relationships:
- Jethro invested into the life of Moses. Moses invested into the life of Joshua and the elders of Israel. Joshua invested into the lives of others.
- Eli invested into the life of Samuel. Samuel invested into the life of Saul and then David. David invested into the lives of others.
- Jesus invested into the lives of the twelve disciples who in turn invested into the lives of others.
- Barnabas invested into the life of Saul, also called Paul. Paul invested into the life of Timothy. Timothy invested into the lives of others.
Mentors shepherd by coming along side with counsel, consult, guidance, instruction, and challenge but primarily by modeling. The Apostle Paul depicted mentoring relationships when he said "Follow my example" (1 Cor. 4:15-17; 11:1).
A Network of Mentors:
Mentoring can happen at varying levels making it possible that someone can be mentored while mentoring and making it possible that someone can be mentored by more than one person.
- Low Level Investment: Some mentoring is unintentional, happening when one's attention is caught by a respected figure in one's life. A relationship is not required with this person. Consequently the mentor's investment is minimal. Often the mentor doesn't even know the person is gleaning from his/her example.
- Mid Level Investment: Some mentoring may be intentional but sporadic, intentional but not intense in terms of time investment. The mentor may be called on occasionally for counsel or consult. In some mentoring relationships meeting for this purpose only a few times a year may be sufficient.
- High Level Investment: Some mentoring relationships are intentional and intensive. The mentor regularly invests an amount of time into the person's life. At this level the mentor functions like a coach.
Mentors Need to Emulate the Chief Shepherd:
The ultimate goal of a mentor should not be the replication of oneself in a person's life but rather, Christ-likeness. The Apostle Paul worded it well in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he said "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."
The ultimate accountability of those being mentored is not to the mentor but to Christ, the Chief Shepherd. At no time and at no level of a mentoring relationship does control or manipulation have a place. The mentor is a fellow servant saved by grace just as the one he/she is mentoring.
The ultimate sustenance in a mentoring relationship is not what the mentor has to offer but needs to come from the Chief Shepherd. The mentor must emulate God's wisdom. The mentor's knowledge and experience matter but only so far as their source is in Him.
As in any kind of shepherding ministry, a mentor needs to make it about the Chief Shepherd and not him or herself. A self-centered person will not make a good mentor because it is not about oneself but Him.
Effective Mentoring Connects with Where the Person is to Get to Where the Person Should Be:
Another reason a self-centered person will not make a good mentor is because it is not about his/her agenda, goals, or ways. The condition of the sheep should determine the format, location, content, and frequency of meetings. The needs of the person being mentored should form the agenda.
A mentoring formula does not exist. The mentor must listen attentively and ask questions to determine what will best help the person. Readiness is a key factor in someone learning from a mentor. God took the mentor through many experiences, trials, and character-building opportunities. Giving out too much too soon will at minimum waste precious time but may actually hinder progress. The mentor must assess the sheep's condition to know how to pace what is shared.
The Mentor's Ministry Description:
The shepherding role of a mentor would be similar to that which would describe any kind of shepherd. Some specific considerations for a mentor include:
- helping people reach their potential in Him
Christ in them is the objective, not self-improvement. Human nature needs to be transformed, not improved.
Christ in them is the objective, not attaining to the level of the mentor. People need to find their identity in Christ, not another person.
When the mentor understands this objective, he/she is able to better cope with difficulties, obstacles, setbacks, and failings.
- helping them by personalizing the process to their lives
The personality, passions, and spiritual gifting of the mentor and the person being mentored may be different. The ideal is to help the person see how to put into practice the principles they are learning in ways reflecting their God-given uniqueness.
- helping them pursue intimacy with God not just the mentor
A mentor must guard against co-dependent relationships wherein the person becomes dependent on the mentor. The relationship between these individuals is important to the process but should never get out of balance. Interdependency among people and dependency upon God is His design. Mentors may need to establish God-given boundaries for their relationships.
- helping them become internally disciplined and motivated, not reliant on the mentor's pushing, pulling, and prodding
God values inner qualities of the heart over outward conformity. The mentor should put words to his/her motivations, attitudes, and the like so the person sees what is behind the mentor's actions. Seeing and understanding the Spirit's empowerment and direction within the mentor will be a major learning tool.
- helping them live life on purpose
A mentor needs to address values, vision, and philosophy. A mentor needs to get to the core of what is being learned. To merely transmit a skill or a body of information is to come up short. To sustain what has been learned, the person being mentored needs to gain ownership and not merely copy the mentor.
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