Due to the flood of information through technology, I am afraid that we have lost an important art and function in our society: mentoring. Throughout my years preparing for ministry, I have had a yearning to be mentored. While there are men who purposely invest their time in mentoring others, this is more rare than it is common. Many times, it is simply because the person in ministry seems too busy to truly fulfill the role of mentor so we never take steps to create it. While I have been blessed by other people in ministry taking the time to tutor and train me, I doubt that I am alone in wishing I had more of this important aspect of ministry.
What does it mean to be mentored?
Let’s first look at the synonyms of the verb “to mentor”. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to “coach, counsel, lead, guide, pilot, shepherd, show, tutor” are all synonyms for the verb “to mentor” (MW Dictionary). To be mentored means to subject yourself to the leading, counsel, and teaching of another person. You are allowing yourself to be influenced.
Why should we be mentored?
Mentoring is biblical. The parent-child relationship is based on the parents mentoring the children. Moses took time to train his predecessor, Joshua (Exodus 17:14; Josh. 1:7). Elisha learned under Elijah. The disciples were mentored by Jesus Christ. Titus, Timothy, and others were mentored by Paul. “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Phil. 3:17). “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12). “And the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). The best way for us to be able to teach and mentor others is for us to have first been mentored ourselves. We should be mentored by godly men because God gave us this example.
Who should be mentored?
The examples from Scripture above of people who were mentored did include young people, but also people further along in life. The need to be mentored is not dependent upon age. Timothy was considered a young man but was still to be mentoring others and being an example (I Cor. 4:17; I Tim. 4:12; II Tim. 2:2). Who should be mentored? One who has not yet been mentored. One who is young or immature in the faith. One who has learned much but still desires to learn more. One who humbly sees his limitations and the value of another godly man’s wisdom.
By whom should you be mentored?
Seek out individuals who are faithful in following the Lord in ministry. Paul declared, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me…. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 4:16; 11:1). It is a biblical thing to follow and learn from godly men and women. Because mentors are influential, you must be careful by whom you are mentored. These people do not necessarily have to be experienced in your specific type of ministry, either. You may seek out a well-seasoned pastor for gaining counsel in theological questions or questions dealing with counseling others. You may seek out another missionary for input on missionary practices and philosophy. You may seek out a national in the country in which you serve for wisdom in dealing with the people in his culture. Seek out men who have spiritual and biblical discernment in the particular area in which you desire to grow. Seek out people that resemble success (or at least progress) in areas you desire to grow.
But, remember than any human is still human. You will still have times of “eating the meat and spitting out the bones.” Sometimes great lessons are learned from seeing what not to do, just as much as what to do. Stay humble and be gracious. Compare what you are taught to the Word of God. Whatever you learn from your mentor that makes it through the filter of God’s Word, keep it, follow it, live it. Whatever does not, mark it and avoid it. God desires us to learn from other godly leaders, but He does not want us to forget that they are still human.
How to be mentored
To be mentored, you need to:
- Acknowledge your need to learn and grow from the influence, experience, and wisdom of others. When Paul wrote “unto Timothy, my own son in the faith,” those words imply that Timothy desired to learn from Paul. Timothy had learned from his mother, grandmother, and studied under Paul, but even years later, at the end of Paul’s life, he was still receiving instruction (II Timothy). Just because someone has been doing something for a while, it does not mean he is good at it. Time is not as good as a teacher as a heart that listens to the wisdom of another. None of us should ever arrive to the point of thinking we know it all and cannot grow or learn. The moment we think we do not need to grow any more is the moment we cease to grow. Even Paul acknowledged his need to grow when wrote in Philippians 3:12, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Admit your need for further knowledge, wisdom, and growth.
- Create a mode for being instructed and counseled by your chosen mentors. With today’s technology, this can be done, to an extent, though email, phone call or Skype sessions, and even blogs. I have at times felt quite mentored through even reading books (in a future post, I plan to share with you one book that I am afraid has been ignored in mentoring us). If you are living overseas, your options may be limited, but this does not mean being mentored is not possible. The ideal is to be mentored face-to-face and on location. If you are still preparing for the ministry, take the time to work under a pastor or missionary (or a couple different ones) for a season for the purpose of being mentored. Following a person in ministry throughout his week allows you to learn the details so that you can follow. When Paul said, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9), it required that the people had spent time with Paul and were mentored by Paul.
- Communicate to your chosen mentors what you desire to glean from them. If you do not have a mentor, it may be that ye have not because ye ask not. This requires initiative on your part and learning to ask good questions. You don’t necessarily need to come out and say in song, “Won’t you be… please won’t you be…my mentor?” You do, however, need to be proactive in asking questions or asking if you may spend time watching and learning first-hand from the mentor. For example, if you want to learn how to effectively witness to people in a particular culture, ask the missionary if you may join him when he goes witnessing or on visits. If you want to know how to prepare a message series, ask the pastor if you may join him as he prepares his next series. If you want to learn more of how to pray, ask to join a prayer warrior in private prayer. It is amazing how you can spend months or even years in a ministry and not have had any purposeful mentoring but been left to your own. Sometimes it is the fault of the leader in ministry, but often it is the fault of our own for not communicating the specifics that you would like to learn and suggestions on how to accomplish your directives.
- Serve your mentor. While Joshua was being trained by Moses, the Bible states that Joshua was Moses’ minister, his servant. Show him respect. Tell him you appreciate what he is or has taught you. The laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:7). Give honor to whom honor is due. “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Heb. 13:7).
Are you being mentored by someone right now? If not, ask God whom you should seek out as a mentor. If you are having trouble finding a mentor, keep asking, seeking, and knocking until you do.
What other benefits or blessings have you received from being mentored? Share below.