Category Archives: Articles

Mentor Me: A Leader’s Guide to Finding a Mentor

Photo credit: chase_elliott / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: chase_elliott / Foter / CC BY

God has given us many things to help us to grow as Christians. One of these is other believers. There are many pictures in the Bible of this mutual encouragement. One of my favourites is that of a body as Paul outlines to the church in Ephesus:

He makes the whole body grow and build itself up in love. Under the control of Christ, each part of the body does its work. It supports the other parts. In that way, the body is joined and held together. (Ephesians 4:16 NIRV)

There is real benefit in learning from people who have been Christians for longer and who are willing to help us to develop and to grow. You may have several people like that in your life who are a good example to you in what they say and in how they live out what they believe. In that sense they function as mentors to you.

In Christian circles the word ‘mentoring’ has come to be almost synonymous with discipling and carries with it the connotation of a relationship between two people with the specific goal of spiritual growth and maturity. In most cases, the process begins with someone who seeks out a mentor who is already a role model and who can encourage and challenge them to grow in their spiritual journey.

In asking someone to be your mentor for a certain period of time you are making this process of learning from others into a more formal arrangement. You are committing yourself to meet with and learn from that person. You are giving them permission to ask you about how you are growing and living life and in that way you are making yourself accountable to them.

Things to think about in choosing a mentor:

  • Start by praying, asking God to guide you as to whom you could ask.
  • Think of someone you respect and feel you can learn from, but not someone that you would not be able to be honest with. You are looking for someone who will encourage you in your relationship with God and with whom you can share your joys and your struggles.
  • It may be someone from your church, but that is not essential.
  • The person needs to be willing and able to give the time and energy that is necessary. Make sure they know that it is for an agreed period of time. You will also need to agree how often to meet and for how long. That establishes helpful boundaries for both of you.
  • Don’t be put off if the first person you ask says no. Not everyone will have the time and energy to allow them to be a mentor. Trust God to guide you through the response of others

Quotes from IBI students who had a mentor as part of our Ministry and Personal Development module:

“My mentor’s maturity wisdom and life experience were invaluable to me as she continued to support and guide me along my journey (in IBI). She had great insight and practical advice; she really helped me to stay focused and keep things in perspective”.

“I found the mentor relationship to be very beneficial; having someone ‘keeping an eye on me’ was helpful to keep me focused.”

“The mentor relationship was a brilliant time to sit and get godly advice on the things I was struggling with. Also to have someone praying for me was great”

“The mentoring relationship encouraged me in my Christian walk”.

Guest writer, Joan Singleton, is passionate about how each of us can help each other to grow and develop more than we realise. Currently she is teaching Pastoral Caring in IBI and coordinating the Ministry and Personal Development course for first years. 

Stop. Collaborate and Listen.

tandem oneOk so enough Vanilla Ice.

Collaboration. Partnership.

Familiar words that we hear often. Concepts that we believe in and value. A reality we experience? Despite much noise how much do we see it worked out on the ground? Between different organisations? Or churches?

Here in Ireland, in areas with lots of churches or very few churches it is usually a suprise to find them working together.

But it’s not just about churches. In the area where I live there are lots of organisations and local government bodies providing services that are so badly needed. It’s not right that for many boys growing up in parts of inner city Dublin, their best hope of making money is dealing drugs. There are huge issues with education, crime and employment in our local area. Imagine if we all began to tackle them together or at least co-ordinate as we tackle different pieces of the puzzle.

It is beginning to happen.

Local businesses and multinational corporations based on one street are working together to plant flowers, repaint derelicit buildings, add art and lobby the council. My local church is joining in. If we live out a theology of the Body (Romans 12), then we shouldn’t be coming late to the party – surely we should be the ones sparking regeneration?

What are the shifts we need to make if we are to practice collaboration?

Plan for the long haul

We live in an instant world. Bringing change, renewal, development, Kingdom building is a long term process. Yet sometimes we run out of patience. We opt to go it alone because it’s quicker, and may seem easier. Deep seated renewal on this island won’t happen overnight. It requires the hard work of relationship building. Of listening. Of understanding each other and getting really clear on what we mean, on our expectations, on what will be involved. Of getting it wrong and trying again. Of patience. Of extending trust and earning trust. All of which takes time.

In 1998 I met families in Tanzania who couldn’t afford what was a tiny sum of money to me to send their children to primary school. At that time a coalition of charities, churches, individuals and governments came together to cancel debt – firstly through Jubilee 2000 and then Make Poverty History. Today children in Tanzania recieve free primary education. It took time and it needed collaboration. One charity alone couldn’t have done it.

Be prepared to give up power and control

Collaboration requires shared goals. For the sake of those we serve. Not one agenda beating the other into submission. Collaboration requires sacrificing our ego and brand at the altar of service. It means not holding so tightly to our brand that we torpedo our purpose. Despite how deep down we want our name to be the one in shining lights. All for the sake of those who need our help, our skills, who need us to walk alongside them. Do they need to know it was X organisation or Y not Z church? Or do they need to simply know Jesus was at the centre?

We follow a Messiah who in giving up His power defeated the earthly and heavenly powers. This is a daily challenge for me when I feel the need to prove myself or what my organisation is doing. I and we need to learn more to be led by the One who gives away and gives up His power.

Learn to do conflict well

Maybe an oxymoron in our part of the world.

Collaboration requires clarity, focus and a commitment to shared goals that truly benefit those we seek to serve. This isn’t easy. It’s hard enough in a marriage and that’s just two people. Bringing together organisations and churches with differing values and priorities is even harder. We need to learn to put the hard work in and bear the discomfort in order to learn to do constructive conflict well and learn how to deal with destructive conflict healthily when it emerges.

If we are to partner for the long haul, to pursue clarity and seek the interests of those we serve ahead of our own conflict is inevitable.

The good news is our family business is reconciliation. It’s time to relearn that family business. And when those around us see how we love each other….

I want to practice collaboration. I want to see long term deep rooted change because we collaborate instead of compete.

What are the obstacles we need to overcome?

What steps can we take together along that journey this week?

A previous version of this article originally appeared on www.askwhatnow.org