Mentoring is not a modern concept. Socrates served this role in his relationship with his more advanced mentorees. Ulysses, a character in ancient Greek mythology, while he went off to fight the Trojan War, entrusted his son Telemachus to Mentor, a trusted counsellor and friend. Mentor taught the boy from books and also the “wiles of the world.” The fabled Mentor was successful as his mentoree grew up to help his father retrieve his kingdom. For the Christian leader, mentoring is the process of developing a man or woman to his or her maximum potential in Jesus Christ in every vocation.
Jesus appointed twelve to be with him that he might mentor them in order to send them out to preach (Mark 3:14). To mentor is to say to another, “Be like me!” (Luke 6:40b; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17) Paul clearly stated this principle to the Philippians in 4:9: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” The people at Thessalonica not only imitated Paul but also became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:6-6). In 1 Thessalonians 3:9 Paul stated that he had made himself a model for them to follow. He encouraged his mentoree to do be a model and example (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7- 8), even as he had been for Timothy (2 Timothy 3:10). The writer to the Hebrews encouraged them to imitate the faith of their leaders (13:7). See also Colossians 3:16; 1 Peter 5:3 and 3 John 11.
For centuries, outstanding creative achievement almost always emerges and persists in individuals who have been associated with a mentor, or other special sponsor. As mentor, one provide the relationship and encouraging context in which creative learning and experimentation can occur, skill and competencies develop, self-esteem and confidence grow and gifts and talents are applied in innovative ways. Mentors are individuals who help us form a dream of who and what we want to become, offering us support, advice, challenge and a sense that the dream is indeed attainable. During the heat of difficult situations, many young leaders decide each day—and or in some situations many times— whether to quit or to keep going.
Participating in small and large dreams, struggling through difficult even impossible situations, pursuing growth and developing skills and God-given giftedness – this is the stuff of mentoring. Some days it will be much more than a few minutes. It may be deep struggles and crises over much longer periods, but the privilege of partnering with God in the deep transformation of another human being must be one of God greatest gifts to us.
What and who is a Mentor?
Mentors are in short supply today. In the old days of extended families and societies of artisans, mentoring was a way of life. Children grew up working alongside parents, grandparents and some other adult family members. They learned skills, developed character and learned about their obligation to family and community. Mentoring was once the chief learning method in the society of artisans where an apprentice spent years at the side of the craftsman learning not only the mechanics of a function, but the ‘way of life’ that surrounded it. Today these mentoring processes have been largely replaced by the classroom experience. Instead of a stamp of approval by a mentor, the person receives final grades and a diploma. Knowledge has become more important than wisdom and character.
Today the mentor is perceived as a person who: has achieved superior rank in an organisation or is a professional leader, is an authority in a certain field, has a measure of influence in this chosen field, is genuinely interested in the growth of a mentoree and spends time and emotional energy in a relationship with an understudy. The essence of mentoring is relationship. It may involve a contract or agreement between two people, but the relationship is the heart of the process. It involves a bonding of hearts with a commitment of care, support and encouragement that will carry two people through both the joys and sorrows of life. Ideally, mentoring is a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a mentoree reach her or his God-given potential.