Giving wisdom and honesty – Mentorship
by Marion Van Driel
The tree is down, the decorations packed away in storage. Another year is upon us. So what’s next? January is a time when many of us feel compelled to begin again. But we only half-heartedly name our resolutions, knowing that it won’t take long to default to our old patterns.
Perhaps what would help us most is a mentor; another human being who, getting to know our unique selves, is able to encourage, challenge – and in the case of Christians – pray for us. Someone who listens and is committed to helping us become our best self.
A Natural Process
Most of us can name parents or others who have had a positive influence on our lives – those we admired and tried to emulate. Many of them didn’t even consider themselves mentors. In generations past, community was more accessible, with younger women spending time with more mature women, dropping in on one another, visiting and learning together. Sons observed their fathers, brothers and neighbours. With today’s more global and fragmented culture, young adults are again seeking out mentorship to learn and grow.
Mentors played an important role in biblical history. Moses mentored Aaron, Paul mentored Timothy, and most significantly, Jesus mentored his disciples. It’s unlikely the disciples would have dared to perform miracles, if Jesus hadn’t first revealed their possibility, then encouraged and empowered them to imitate His actions.
Raised Up to Walk in God-Given Gifts
Over a year ago, Kelly Ens, an administrative assistant at her church, asked Jody, a more mature woman in the church to be her mentor. Having worked together in ministry, Kelly made her request out of a high respect for the forthright honesty and wisdom she’d noticed in Jody. Kelly wanted someone outside of her family who could be objective about her life, would challenge her, and encourage her through various circumstances in her journey as wife, mother, and disciple of Jesus. Since that time, the two women have been meeting once a month, just to discuss life. “Jody thinks of things I haven’t thought of, and has challenged me in a way that’s been very helpful. I’ve been able to look honestly at how I handle situations, and drawing on her wisdom has allowed me to grow.”
Living Waters Church in Fort Langley, with an additional campus in Willoughby, has had a mentorship program since 2008, which became more formalized about four years ago. As the church has grown, so have demands for mentorship. The program is available for anyone 18 years and up. Pastor Joanne Knight, who heads up the program, is passionate about mentorship and loves to see people “raised up to walk in the gifts God has given them.”
Mentoring isn’t necessarily just about spiritual growth, but can be focused on topics like family and other relationships, life calling, job searching, or learning to enhance one’s skills in the arts or technology.
Choosing a Mentor
A mentor is someone the student looks up to; a mature person who is respected and trusted. In addition, she or he has significant knowledge or experience in the given situation or subject. Knight gives the example of people suffering from anxiety or dealing with marriage issues being placed with another person who has walked the same path and understands that journey. In life-situation mentoring, being open with each other is key.
“One of our community values is vulnerability,” says Knight. “We can only help each other if we’re honest with each other, and we’re transparent. It’s very much a trust-based thing, because often the mentor will share their own struggles. The one thing (this generation) values most is vulnerability. One thing they can’t stand is people that are trying to look perfect. They want honesty, they want real, they want gritty.”
Being a Worthy Mentor
In his book The Walk, Michael Card describes a 25-year friendship with his mentor, Bill Lane. He quotes Lane as saying, “Our age is a dialogue of the deaf. You must develop a lifestyle of listening… The best way to show someone that you love them is to listen to them.”
Card verifies the truth of these words. “As I seek to listen to the ones I care the most about, they consistently say they feel well loved in the process. And in return I come to know them in ways I could only have dreamed about otherwise.”
The job of a mentor is to keenly listen and observe, rather than ‘fix’. Everyone’s perspective has a different lens and their backstory is unique, even if they’ve shared similar circumstances. So rather than give advice, Knight says she encourages mentors to share what’s worked for them — to “use their story” and then explore options.
Good mentors are able to express empathy, are available, have character, integrity and the ability to keep confidences. They also need to be lovers of people. “If you don’t love people, it’s hard to walk alongside someone who’s having a hard time,” Knight reasons.
Of Weight and Worth
As followers of Jesus, she adds: “We can only take our mentees as far as we’ve gone. We talk with our mentors about that all the time – that their mentees are ‘Following you as you follow Christ.’ And that’s a weighty thing. It keeps you dependent on God, because you can’t do it on your own.”
Knight reveals that over her years of mentoring, she’s learned as much from her mentees as they have from her. It’s a two-way street and a worthwhile journey.