Mentoring is extremely important in Christian ministry, but it’s worth is not appreciated as it should be. To have a mentor is to be blessed, and any mentoree (what I call someone who is being mentored) should work diligently to make the mentoring relationship viable. It’s important to handle mentoring relationships properly to get the most out of them and to bring glory to God. Here are some things I think will help…
- Listen, listen, listen
There is nothing more important in a mentoring relationship than the mentoree simply closing his mouth and opening his ears. Not listening in a mentoring setting is akin to a car with no tires; it’s pretty much useless. The objective in a mentoring setting is for the mentoree to learn as much as possible from his mentor, and use what you learn for the glory of God in the ministry God has assigned you to. But if you talk more than listen, you nor the people you will minister to in the future will profit from years of knowledge and experience of your mentor.
Often mentorees want to impress their mentors with their knowledge. Don’t let that be you! Let your mentor be a mentor; don’t use him as an ego builder for yourself. Remember, this relationship is not about you, it’s about you being equipped better to make much of Jesus and to point people to him.
If your mentor is equipped to be a mentor, let him do the talking; if he’s not, find another one who is and listen.
- If you must talk, ask questions
If you can’t resist the urge to talk, then at least let your talk be in the form of questions. Ask your mentor questions often and listen intently to his answers. Questions are a wonderful way to find out who people are, where they have been, what they have done, and the why to all the former. Questions get people talking and lets the person know you genuinely care about what they think.
In a ministry mentorship you should ask questions in the following areas:
Call to ministry, Family, Gifts, Theology, The Church, Conflict, Burnout, Humbleness, Etc.…
Asking your mentor questions in these areas is like opening a treasure cove of ministry knowledge… don’t allow it to go untapped. Even if you already know what the answers to your questions will be, it’s incredible discipline to ask and simply listen.
Observing your mentor in everyday ministry is priceless. You must observe him as he interacts with his family, friends, public, and church family. The wealth of knowledge and insight you will gain from these interactions can save you from a plethora of mistakes and missteps, and help you gain trust with the people you minister to.
Observe him as he deals with an irritated or frustrated church member in a business meeting or someone who drops by his office and asks for money. Observe him as he engages a server as you eat lunch together and as he stops to chat with a group of seniors. Observe him as he kneels down to spend time with a little child to show them they are important.
Again, the lessons you can learn from this observation is beyond priceless and simply cannot be learned in seminary. Never overlook the little things that a mentor does; everything he does is a lesson in how to do ministry.
- Respect their years of ministry and life
You may be super duper over the top brilliant and the greatest theological mind since the apostle Paul himself, but that is not the end all. You must know how to use that knowledge in a manner that brings glory to God, not yourself, and doesn’t make much of yourself but points people to Jesus.
Unfortunately I’ve seen young men in ministry abuse their God given intellect by thinking they’ve got it all figured out and the old guys are just, well…old. While that may be true, every old guy has seen a lot, and often forgotten more than you will ever know. DO NOT BE A “KNOW IT ALL”! Be humble, listen, ask questions, observe, and respect the years of experience that God has providentially blessed your mentor with.
You can learn something from everyone, even if they’re not on the same theological level you are on. A good theological mind is a must in ministry, but do not overlook the experience of someone who has loved God and served Him in the trenches for years.
I have seen this scenario many times in ministry; someone is saved as a teenager; goes to Bible college immediately after high school; then directly to seminary, and begins pastoring a church. Oftentimes they have never had a job that required a lot of physical labor or much of what many church members must face on a daily basis. Then they get frustrated at church members because they simply do not understand what people endure. This is where a good, experienced mentor can help. Most have been around and understand what people bear day in and day out, and if you listen, ask, observe, and respect their ministries it will make things much easier for you and keep you from many ministry calamities!
- Pray for them/thank God for them
Finally, the greatest thing you can do as a mentoree is to pray for your mentor and thank God for them. I have been immensely blessed with men who have poured their lives into me and have invested countless hours mentoring me and teaching me about biblical ministry. I am indescribably indebted to them. Anyone who has a mentor is blessed and should show they’re gratefulness by praying for them and thanking God for them.
May God continue to raise up godly mentors, as well as wise mentorees who will use the mentoring relationship for the glory of God and the good of His church.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.