Welcome to my life – my busy, crazy, entrepreneurial life. I have exactly one hour to sleep, catch my breath and have some Jesus time before I start the same rat race over again. Does this sound familiar? Can you relate to my insanity? Don’t get me wrong. I love the insanity of building something from scratch and watching God take over. However, sometimes I feel like I’m on an island trying to construct an Ark in a snow storm. You get the idea.
This is why I was thrilled when they announced that they would be starting a mentorship program at church. “This is perfect,” I thought. Finally, I could gain some guidance and business support. However, as the mentors made their way across the stage, I started scanning for the exit signs.
Just then, the leader of the program blinded us with his pearly whites and welcomed us to the cult – I mean, mentorship program. “Ok people, we are SO thrilled that you are here. After all, we believe that it is our God-given responsibility to mentor the ‘youth.’” Youth? Who is he calling youth? I scanned the room and found that the majority of individuals ranged in age from twenty to forty years-old. Did this guy really think we were still in high school?
As I perused the flyer, I could feel the nausea rising up from my stomach. “Not one of these types of groups.” I whispered. I had seen it all too often, especially in the church – a program that trains individuals to think alike, act a like and look alike. No one really grows; they simply learn to blend in and mask their real needs.
“Ummm…excuse me?” I asked. The room turned towards me in unison – it was as if I had belted out the finale of Aida. Crickets were heard as I gained the confidence to formulate my thoughts. “I noticed that a lot of these topics are great discipleship resources, but they don’t really address mentorship. Are we going to gain any practical tools that can aid us professionally?”
Many Gen Z and Millennials nodded their approval. “Yeah, I agree.” A guy in the back shouted out. “I’m really struggling with my business right now and I need someone to mentor me through the process.” I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought that I was in the wrong room. “Exactly!” A woman in her seventies spouted out. “I’m retired and widowed. Are we delving into any practical advice on debt and savings?” This wasn’t just a “young person” issue. It delved deeper than a generational preference. Many raised their hands and reached for the microphone.
However, as more spoke, the lead mentors just stared at one another in confusion. I felt proud that I had led the brigade; however, I soon realized that our voices went against the grain of conformity that many of the mentors desired. We were desperate for mentorship, advice and even a good conversation over coffee. However, we were soon put in our place and shown the door.
The leader grabbed the microphone and glared at our section – peering into our souls and daring us to contest. His smile was no longer as relaxed as before and you could see his jaw twitching under the stage lights.“Well, isn’t it ‘nice’ to have SO many outspoken men and women in the audience. We appreciate your ideas, but mentorship isn’t about application, but godliness – God is ONLY interested in your spirituality, not you personally.”
Ouch. Sometimes the church can seem the last place that we would find a shut door; however, many times, that’s exactly what we find – a slammed door that forces us to be silent and fall back into the fold.
For years, mentorship has been more about programmed dictation, than honest conversation. Perhaps, that’s why we’re seeing an epidemic of Millennials and Gen Z leaving the doors of the sanctuary. Perhaps, we’re asking too many questions and being told that God just doesn’t care about us personally.
If you really desire to mentor, check out these 4 truths:
1. MENTORSHIP REQUIRES TRANSPARENCY AND TRUST
We’ve all been there and can relate. The moment when the phone lights up and our heart beats out of our chest – we finally find out that our crush feels the same. A date ensues, and he presents his best self. He highlights his GPA, his caring nature, his love for English literature and his adventurous side. However, as the first date soon turns into a relationship, we soon see the reality of that person. We see the truth about his adventurous side when he refuses to even ride the carousel at Six Flags.
We all want to be liked, so we put our best foot forward and pray that our masks will hide our real selves. However, if we never let our guard down and let others in, they never really know us. The same is true about mentorship. Too many of us are asking mentees to put their best foot forward, because we don’t really want to deal with their real issues.
If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, then you have to take time to know them – know who they are, not who you want them to be. Mentorship is one of the most intimate and rewarding opportunities; however, transparency and trust must be at the core of your foundation.
2. MENTORSHIP HELPS PEOPLE BECOME WHO GOD MADE THEM TO BE
There’s nothing worse than seeing parents live vicariously through their children. The child is forced to excel at everything because the parents see their child as a reflection of themselves. Yes. God calls us to honor our parents, but we’re not expected to be carbon copies. The same is true of mentorship.
Mentorship is not a cloning process, but character development: it challenges both the mentor and mentee to grow in their walk with the LORD and become stronger individuals.
I’ve seen too many mentors try to force people to become like them instead of like Jesus. The danger in this is that it encourages idolatry because of the mentor’s own insecurity. It’s imperative that mentors be confident in their own personality and giftings before aiding someone else discover their own talents.
3. MENTORSHIP IS MORE THAN SPIRITUAL GROWTH
I’ve heard it said that, “We can be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.” The same is true with mentorship. Christian mentorship has the tendency to solely focus on spiritual growth. The problem with this type of focus is that it assumes that everyone needs the same counsel. Christ reaches us where we are and leaves us changed. Delving in the Word of God, fellowshipping with believers, and growing in our relationship with Jesus should be a part of our daily lives. However, as we know Christ, we should desire to become more like Him. This requires us to grow in other ways. This requires us to not only become men and women who understand the heart of God, but the calling from God.
Mentorship meets us in stages. Some of us need advice on parenting, purity, business, marketing, retirement or even addiction recovery. Being a mentor allows us to understand the depths of the person across from us and help the individual get out of his own pit.
That ‘pit’ differs from person-to-person. We need to take time to get to know people as individuals before we prescribe a solution. If we never address the personal needs of our mentees, then we’ve settled into presenting a monologue and not a conversation.
4. MENTORSHIP IS A TWO-WAY STREET
Mentorship is a symbiotic relationship. It is a give and take that brings both people closer to Jesus and closer to their goals. Millennials and Gen Z are thirsty for relationship and connection. However, they are also looking for ways to teach and aid others.
Mentorship is not only teaching but also being teachable.
Jesus was thirty when He started His ministry. Many who surrounded Him varied in ages, genders and backgrounds, but they leaned in – they listened and honored His story. Mentorship requires us to lean in – it requires us to be receptive and open. When we lean in we make the conscious choice to listen and learn.
Pastors and leaders, we will never see lives changed unless we first listen. For too long, mentorship has been steeped in a program-oriented structure instead of a symbiotic relationship. Mentorship is not building a prototype, but finding out how God has wired that individual – it’s taking a front row seat to watch God at work.