MENTORING FOR CHRISTIAN MEN
By Mike Ramey
THE MENTOR DILEMMA--PART ONE
I never thought that I would be writing a two-part commentary on the subject of mentoring. After all, one would think that this subject needs little in the way of comment, or introduction. In talking with friends, and checking various business publications over the months and years, I have found quite a lot written and spoken about mentoring.
It would seem that the well had ‘run dry’ on this subject.
However, two things have turned up as blips on the social radar screen:
*It seems that there are STILL a host of individuals and groups are ‘seeking’ mentors for themselves, or for other parties--be they young people, or people new to a particular vocation or field--without true insight as to the role/definition of a mentor.
*There is a new, younger generation of brothers rising into the manhood ranks. Some of them coming from single-parent homes. Still others coming into to the spotlight of adulthood from some horrible experiences. Others are already out of college or university and making their way along the road of life, looking for a helping hand.
Thus the need to cover the issue of mentoring. For some, this might be old territory. For others, it may be the first time that the subject has been broken down for better consumption and understanding.
Brothers, allow me to get to the bottom line of this commentary in rapid fashion.
If you don’t walk away from this two-parter with anything else, please remember this: One cannot BE mentored IF they are not WILLING to listen AND act upon good, sound, and sometimes biblical advice.
Oh yes, make no mistake about it. While the term is not found in the Bible, the concept of mentoring IS clearly illustrated. However, it is better known as disciple-making, or shepherding. One could even liken it to building a legacy. In reality, one cannot ‘leave out’ the spiritual when dealing with the leading of young men and young women into a better understanding of their duties and responsibilities as adults--be they in the home, or in the workplace.
THE ‘TALK BACK’ CROWD:
THIS--in a nutshell--is why there is a dilemma in the mentoring process in my view: The neglect of the spiritual in order to achieve ‘results’ ONLY from a social viewpoint. One cannot be a successful ‘mentor’ without having a spiritual foundation. Neither can one ‘be mentored’ in a successful fashion WITHOUT biblical instruction.
I’ll get some nasty emails on the ‘deliberate insertion’ of biblical thought into a man-made concept. However, IF the truth be told, perhaps this is why mentoring has not had the desired ‘long term’ effects that this ‘buzzword’ has sought.
There is another reason: The social monstrosity known as the ‘talk back’ crowd.
Who wants to ‘attempt’ to mentor someone who is so wrapped up in their own clothing of bitterness, arrogance, and pride they won’t listen to sound advice?
Check it: We live in a modern age where it is considered ‘cool’ to ‘talk back’ to those in positions of authority.
Sadly, people do it all the time.
We see the talk back crowd on TV reality shows, as so-called ‘wise’ individuals get their kicks yelling and fussing at everyone from parents on up to police officers, judges, teachers, and politicians. We read about lawsuits filed against members of the clergy. We hear about fistfights breaking out between neighbors, shootings and stabbings happening between husbands and wives, and employees ‘giving a piece of their minds’ to employers--sometimes with the aid of a gun or assault weapon.
We are living in an age where the term ‘respect’ has gone out the window.
If one truly wants to be mentored--one has to have RESPECT for those who are doing the task of mentoring. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time--on both sides.
SOME WISDOM FROM THE PAST:
Years ago, there was a speaker by the name of Don Loney who made the rounds of many a school. This man was sharp, articulate, and on point concerning the world of teens growing up in the turbulent Sixties.
Loney once made some observations as to what habits would ‘kill’ a teenager’s ability to grow into a successful adult. I’m more than happy to share his observations here, and add a few more items for better understanding:
*The Late Habit. Simply stated, if a teen cannot get to class on time, they will REALLY have problems in getting to work on time in the real world. Punctuality is a virtue, not a liability.
*The ‘I Won’t Sweat It’ Habit. Simply stated, if a teen does not have a drive to be successful, they will be stuck in the ranks of being average--by their own choice. Brothers, there are too many young men who are content to merely ‘exist’ and not ‘grow’ in our modern times. One problem I have noticed among young men and young women is that there is a mistaken impression that the world ‘owes’ them something because they merely ‘show up’ to the classroom or the job. Let me be the first to ‘school’ someone about Real Life 101. ‘Showing up’ does not make one a willing participant in the learning or employment process. What one DOES after they arrive WILL determine their ability to succeed.
*The ‘I Quit’ Habit. Simply stated, if an individual does NOT get their way, they merely decide to quit, and go off by themselves, cursing those who ‘attempted’ to show them the right way to go in life.
Here are two other habits that have come into play in our modern era.
*The ‘Step Off’ Habit. Simply stated, this is where some adults and teens feel they can ‘kick’ a mentor to the curb with all the style and grace of a freight train. The mentor can provide sound advice, and wise counsel--but the ‘recipient’ is not looking for mentoring, they are really looking for someone to agree that they are right and everyone else is wrong. As long as they can ‘win’ the argument, these individuals feel that they have ‘bested’ the mentor.
*The ‘Keeping It Real’ Habit. Simply stated, and based upon our current era, those who claim to want to be mentored, will try their best to persuade the mentor that the mentor is not being ‘real’ if they put forth items such as proper speech, proper dress, and social graces needed for one to succeed. If one has not learned to say ‘thank you’, let alone have the humility to ask for help when they need it, they are NOT going to be a willing participant in the mentoring process.
Frankly, if a person is not appreciative of my taking time from my schedule to help them to be all they can, and be successful, as a mentor, I will be MORE than happy to move on and find someone who WILL heed my advice. No, I am not saying that I am ‘all that’, but what I am saying is that a true mentor does not have the time to have to prove themselves to a person who ‘claims’ to want to be mentored.
A ‘REAL’ EXAMINATION:
People WANT to be mentored--but on their own terms.
True mentoring does NOT work that way!
The downside of mentoring in our modern age is that the person being mentored oftentimes does NOT willingly receive, nor act upon the advice and/or wisdom they are given. THEN they ‘blame’ the mentor for the advice and counsel given.
Brothers, let’s examine what a mentor CAN and CAN NOT do:
*A mentor CAN NOT undo your past, but CAN point you in the right direction.
*Mentors CAN NOT fight your battles, but CAN teach you what you need to do to fight your own battles.
*Mentors CAN NOT change your ‘funky’ attitude, but CAN give you the tools to check yourself out in your own personal mirror.
*A mentor CAN NOT tell you only the good things, but CAN share the good and the bad about your abilities to help you correct shortcomings.
WHAT IS A MENTOR?
My own definition of a mentor is an older person--oftentimes of the same sex-- who will serve to guide, to teach, and to equip you to succeed at a particular stage in your life--and will let you go on to be successful. It may not be a ‘by the book’ definition, but one based upon my personal reflection, observation and experience.
*A mentor is NOT a personal or verbal punching bag.
*A mentor is NOT a person to be disrespected.
*A mentor is NOT a person whom YOU seek--they seek YOU!
*A mentor is NOT an ATM that you may tap at will.
*A mentor is NOT a person who will always tell you that you are right.
Now there are two types of mentors: those of the long-term variety, and those of the short-term variety. In order to make my point, we have to head back to the institution of the family.
You see--the FIRST mentors are your PARENTS. They are what could best be described as mentors of the long term. It doesn’t matter if one comes from a two parent or single parent home. The wisdom, instruction, love and understanding your parents supply to you serve as the foundation as to how well, or poorly, you will get along with other people. If a child grows up unwilling to accept the advice of their mother or father, it will be harder for them along the path of life, when they eventually DO meet other successful people who want to help them achieve.
Of course, part of the reason why the mentoring process has become stale and unappealing to many rests in the fact that the home, marriage, and parenting have been pushed aside for ‘social programs’. Moses received valuable instruction in leadership from his father-in-law, Jethro. In turn, Moses was able to teach, lead and train Joshua. Joshua, in turn, was able to lead the people into the Promised Land.
There wasn’t a social program in sight.
Then, there is another reason why mentoring has hit upon hard times.
While there are many cases of men helping women, and women helping men in the scriptures, the bottom-line responsibility for ‘mentoring’ young men and young women rests with parents AND older men and older women, which is contained in the Book of Titus, Chapter Two.
We’ll take ten right here…but be back for more, very soon.
THE MENTOR DILEMMA--PART TWO
In bringing this second part of my two part commentary on mentoring to the table, let me reflect back to a few highlights of part one:
*Mentoring begins in the HOME. Parents are the FIRST mentors in an individual’s life. IF parents DO NOT parent--for whatever reason--it is going to be harder for any individual to accept the advice, counsel, and wisdom of other successful adults throughout their lifetime. They have no reference point.
*True mentoring DOES contain biblical counsel. If the mentor does not have a firm foundation in their OWN spiritual life--meaning that their walk has to square firmly with their talk--the advice they give CAN be suspect.
*The one being mentored has to realize that they must ACT on sound advice. If the person does not want to act on the truths given to them, the relationship is a waste of time. A mentor is only brought into a person’s life for a period of time. The individual and the mentor must eventually part ways, as the individual has to walk their own road.
MOVING ONWARD--WITH A WARNING:
Mentoring is not a biblical term, but a man-made creation. However, it is rooted in two very biblical concepts: disciple-making and shepherding. As I also mentioned in the first column, while there are many cases of men helping women, and women helping men in the scriptures, the bottom-line responsibility for ‘mentoring’ young men and young women rests with parents AND older men and older women, which is contained in the Book of Titus, Chapter Two.
Now, I do realize that there are a host of social programs scattered about society designed to bring mentors and students together. It seems that there are always people who need mentoring, but few mentors available. At the risk of offending those who are involved with these programs, let me throw a little reality into the mix.
Some social programs are not needed because they ‘duplicate’ existing relationships. True mentoring is going on all the time, without the sanction of focus groups, government programs, and social engineering. As a matter of fact, if I may be so bold, some social programs exist mainly to enrich those who RUN them. The more bodies that the program leaders and workers can reach; the better their statistics look at grant renewal time.
However the downside to this appears in THEIR OWN HOMES.
I know many a social worker, psychologist, or worship leader who has neglected the responsibility of raising their OWN kids, to help someone else. By the time they look back at their homes, their kids are pregnant, strung out on drugs, or locked up.
If one’s HOME is not in order, how can one ‘claim’ to be helping the community?
Even in the scriptures, one of the requirements for leadership is one need to have a stable home life.
I know that I’ve stepped on a few toes, and I’ll probably get some very interesting emails from those involved in such programs. But I would invite them to read me out before blasting away on their keyboards.
In the view of the late Russell Kelfer of DTM Ministries out of Texas, true mentoring takes place in a one on one, or one to a few setting. The mentor must have sufficient time--possibly a lifetime--to pour their knowledge and wisdom into an individual or select group of individuals. Mentors do not ‘punch a clock’.
GOING BACK IN TIME:
Some of today’s social program leaders probably don’t remember another ‘grand’ experiment that took place a few years ago in the arena of education. That being the removal of the Bible from the public education process.
A decade after that, corporal punishment along with teacher authority were quietly ushered out the door. A decade after that, parental authority was shown out the same doorway.
A decade after that…the first in-school shootings took place.
Instead of the social engineers admitting that they were wrong, and bringing everything back in, the talk of ‘school vouchers’ has taken center stage.
So much for the wisdom of those who design social programs.
As I mentioned in the first column, there are long-term mentors, and short-term mentors. Parents are the first mentors, and they would be classed as long-term.
When parents--married or single--are encouraged to do their jobs in the home, successful young people are a natural byproduct. No social program on earth can duplicate the love, care, and discipline of a parent.
There are also short-term mentors with long-term impact.
Teachers fall into this category. So do college professors and graduate assistants.
There is advice and counsel I have received from more than a handful of teachers and professors, which has--and continues--to serve me well as a ‘grown up’. The need for being punctual. The need to stand your ground when folks don’t agree with you. The movement into a profession or vocation that you are truly gifted to become a part. How to wait patiently should one find their career path blocked, or stopped by unplanned reversals. Having pride in your race and your people. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.
When teachers are given the chance and authority to do their jobs, success follows!
No social program on earth can successfully duplicate a dedicated educator.
PLENTY OF MENTORS-- IN THE CHURCH:
If I may continue, no social program can replace the impact of being mentored by a church family. One can read about how the Christian life is TO be lived in the Bible (KJV). However, one can best LEARN the examples of biblical truth from men and women who have given their lives to Christ, and who are active members IN the local church!
As I mentioned before, part of the mentoring equation is spiritual.
One cannot neglect the spiritual in the mentoring process. Otherwise, you will have a severe shortfall in one’s knowledge pool.
*Male pastors teach, instruct, and lead younger male ministers.
*Older laymen teach, instruct and lead younger laymen.
*Older women teach, instruct and lead younger women.
*Older singles work with younger singles.
*Older married couples work with younger married couples.
Some of this work takes months--or even years--before sound fruit is harvested from the orchard of life. Now, I might not be the brightest bulb on the tree. However, it seems clear that there is success when the church is allowed to function as set down through clear, biblical instruction, without the aid, or intrusion of society, social programs, or focus groups.
THE DUTY OF A MENTOR:
According to Kelfer, here are a few items--from the scriptures--that a mentor MUST do in order to be considered successful. I’ll be happy to paraphrase them:
*A willingness to let the person being mentored GO. Meaning that the mentor’s job ends when it is time to let that individual go out and DO what they have been trained to do. (Example: Moses and Joshua).
*A willingness to provide biblical TRUTH. Sure, war stories are nice…but training someone else to fight life’s battles on their own is the main objective. The person being mentored is NOT a carbon copy of the mentor; but has been carefully taught the truth of what they will be facing in life. (Example: Mordicai and Esther).
*Modeling of an upright and uncompromising life. One cannot mentor via long distance. A mentor has to let individuals IN CLOSE for not only instruction, but also up-close observation. It is one thing to tell someone how to handle something. It is another to let them SEE how YOU handle the matter you are trying to convey. (Example: Barnabas and Paul).
*Modeling of character in the face of adversity. This is where the rubber meets the road. How the mentor handles disappointment, tragedy, loss, reversal, and loneliness is the fuel that gives the one being mentored the strength to go on. (Example: Naomi and Ruth).
*Correction and encouragement are two sides of the same coin. If you spot bad behavior, the mentor has a duty to let their charge know about it, and call them on it. On the other side of the coin, don’t make the load on your charge so heavy that they are in a hurry to drop it, and get away from you.
THE DUTY OF ONE BEING MENTORED:
Some, but not all of the following items come from the book ‘Smart Moves’ by Lyle Sussman and Sam Deep. The duo also wrote ‘Smart Moves for People in Charge’ and ‘Yes, You Can’. All three books are a part of my library. I will also paraphrase some of their thoughts:
*Loyalty. A person being mentored cannot afford to harbor a spirit of ingratitude towards their mentor. They also cannot give in to ‘gossip’ or ‘innuendo’ that happens to surface about their mentor, especially IF the mentor happens to be of the opposite sex.
*Professionalism. A person being mentored must keep the relationship above board, and be aware that the mentor also has their own responsibilities and tasks to perform.
*Punctuality and Observation. Be on time, or have the flexibility of time when your mentor is going to show you something, or teach you how to do something. Sometimes, a mentor may call you in for a ‘session’ before or after working hours.
*Respect. At all times, respect your elders who are taking the time to train you. The times may change, but ‘Old School’ rules concerning respect NEVER change, nor go out of style.
*Reflection. Take the time to ‘chew on’ what you have been taught. It may come in large chunks, or small portions. The biblical admonition: Write it down and make it plain so that you truly grasp what you have been taught.
*Gratitude. Always take the time to thank those who have helped you ‘grow up’ and mature. They didn’t have to invest time in you; they did it because they saw something in you that inspired them to get involved with your life.
*Becoming a mentor. Eventually, you will have the opportunity to ‘pass on’ what you have learned to another individual or small, select group of individuals. Don’t hesitate when the chance comes. Take the time to charge, encourage, and strengthen a young person coming up behind you. After all--someone took a chance on you!
ANOTHER TERM FOR MENTORING:
Hopefully, these columns have shed a little light on the topic. However, I did want to save the best for last, as we head for a close in our time together this month. I will sum it up in one statement: True mentors are legacy builders.
What good does it do for a successful man or woman, be they parent, teacher, or businessman to keep their ‘secrets of success’ with them when they go to the grave? Part of our modern day problem rests in the need to match example and training with information. We have far too much information, and far too few people either willing to break it down for easier consumption, or learn what the information means through one-on-one experience.
Brothers, a mentor is NOT going to chase you down and attempt to share their wisdom with you. One has to be ready to be ‘found’, and willing to learn. It begins with the right attitude, and the humility to admit that there are few things that you need to learn along this road we call Real Life. By the same token, those mentors who are ready to teach need to ‘step out’ and pour that wisdom sorely needed in our modern day.
As I mentioned before--mentoring starts in the home, and spreads outward into society. Society cannot dictate to the home. Real mentors come from the home, and impact the school, the church, and then society. One person at a time.
MIKE RAMEY is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE. A monthly, syndicated column written for men from a biblical, business, and common sense perspective. The column appears on fine websites throughout the world.
Emails welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2003 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.