While I was growing up, besides my parents and close family, I did not have any immediate mentors. I did not have a person with whom I met with on a regular basis for coaching and counsel.
This is not an attempt to paint a picture of a lackluster environment in which I grew up. It is rather an attempt to put forth reasons for why having a mentor is integral to your leadership. In order for us to lead well, we must be led well. Here is how I define a mentor: A mentor is
- A person, outside of my family, who has a heart for young people.
- A person who does not care about their position but rather found an affinity for helping people.
- A person who would provide me with counsel, advice, affirmation or correction.
- A person who would pray with me and pray for me, apart from my immediate family.
- A person who cared enough about me to spend a sufficient amount of time with me.
- A person who sacrificially wanted to invest time into something that might not pay out instant dividends.
- A person who could provide wisdom where it is lacking.
- A person to provide a listening ear when venting is inevitable.
- A person who is passionate about seeing another grow in the faith.
- A person who is inspired by seeing maturity and progress in someone younger than them.
I knew a lot of people. I had many acquaintances. I have met very many helpful people. But, I seldom experienced someone coming alongside of me, wanting to mentor me. There were temporal mentors who came in and out of my life, but these were few and far between. I met many potentially great mentors. But they were usually more interested in providing constant rebuke instead of frequent reassurance. There were very few bridge builders and too many advice givers. I do not know the reason for this. I hope this was not your experience. I pray that we are able to alter this experience for other people.
All of this changed when I moved to California in 2006. I experienced something that I was not used to. Beginning with the first few months of me being in a new state, I met new people. People who seemed different. People who cared more about an internal state of the heart instead of the external direction of your hair.
I did not really know what to call these people. Because my vocabulary increased by entering seminary, I realized that this rare species of people were called mentors. These mentors that I met were Godly men who cared about other young people. They were actually not appalled with a young gun sporting a lime green polo with a bright pink tie. Instead of stinging rebuke, they provided refreshing encouragement.
They cared about me, came alongside of me, prayed for me, prayed with me, coached me and cared about me. There was nothing in it for them. It meant everything to me. The effect of their coaching began to slowly show vital life signs.
As time progressed, we moved forward from a mentor-mentee relationship into a flourishing friendship. It was absolutely beautiful. It is deeply impactful. I wish that more people would experience this. This is why I believe that everyone needs a mentor.
We know that mentorship is not a new concept. We read in the book of Proverbs the following: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). The Bible is also replete with mentor relationships. Here is just a small sample of mentor-mentee relationships:
- Jesus and the Disciples
- David and Jonathan
- Paul and Silas
- Paul and Timothy
- Barnabas and Mark
- Moses and Aaron
This is not an unknown concept, but it is a neglected one. My desire in this post is to spur you on to pursue a person who would be able to mentor you. You will be better from it and will benefit by it. Why do I need a mentor you might ask? I am fine just the way I am. I do not need anyone to speak into my life or offer advice. I can just Google everything I need to know. The truth is, we all are in a desperate need of a mentor.
Here are six reasons why we all need a mentor:
1. Because it will make a tremendous impact on you as a leader. Leaders are not born but made over time, a long time. Most of us need coaching. Some need more coaching than others. If we are to be influential in the life we lead, we are going to need some serious help. This is specifically why God is the creator of the concept of community. In a community where mentors are prevalent, we grow as leaders and mature into adults. If we desire to make a maximum impact on the people we encounter, we need to be mentored. It does not matter if we lead two people or two hundred people. The skills we will attain in a mentor relationship will last a life time. The knowledge we will acquire can be applied in virtually any career field we end up being in.
2. Because it will provide you with an outside perspective on your life. This is something all of us are in need of. People pay huge amounts of money to hire consulting firms who come in from the outside to give insight. Surely, we have overlooked some character flaws that need to be addressed. A mentor is an interested party who has a viewing angle that many do not have. Think of them as a proofreader for your life. An editor with a keen eye for detail. The benefits we become recipients of are invaluable. The operative word in this reason is outside. Because they are outside of your regular social context, they possess a perspective filled with clarity.
3. Because it will provide you an unbiased opinion of who you really are. Many of us have not pursued a mentor because we grew up in a great family. This is phenomenal. This is a huge blessing. If this is you, praise God for it and thank your family because of it. But your biological family is biased about you. When I was in middle school, I used to run track. Once when I was competing in the 100 yard dash, I came in last. My dad had to run alongside of me to inspire me to finish. After the race, he met up with me, embraced me and told me how good of a race I ran. When I preach a sermon and totally “bomb” it, my mom thinks I hit it out of the ballpark. My wonderful sisters think I am the best thing since Starbucks invented their rewards program. Do not get me wrong. Without the above, I would not be who I am and where I am, in terms of personal growth. These people served as a huge encouragement to me. In fact, I would be worse off without them, for sure. But, it is important for us to be in an unbiased mentor relationship. A mentor can look at your life, without a familial filter. A mentor can provide for you clarity, apart from your family. Solicit the help of both types of mentors — biased (biological) and unbiased (neutral parties).
4. Because it [the mentor-mentee relationship] will lay a foundation for life-long friendships. I am praying to God that my mentor relationships will outlast the latest trend of skinny jeans and hipster glasses. If we want to lead well and finish well, we won’t be able to do it alone. We need to find coaches and mentors with whom we can live life and do life, together. You can call it a core group. You can call it a group of guys/girls. Whatever you call it, make sure you are cultivating it. If the Lord wills for you to live another decade or more, you will experience unexpected situations. This is where the relationships you have created will help you be better situated. In the western culture we live in, the individual has replaced the tribe. We need to get back to being tribal. Become a member of a tribe by being in a mentor relationship. It will serve as a blessing for your life.
5. Because it will enable you to stretch your imagination beyond current capacity. Mentors are able to take your dreams, shatter them and replace them with something you may not have ever imagined. They are an unbiased party. They won’t mind if you weep because they thought your latest idea will be a flop. They will cultivate your creativity. They will be able to harness your passions so that they are clean and clear and under control. A mentor is like an alignment center that will help you stay straight and steady. They are not afraid to tell you the truth. They don’t practice partiality and are all about intentionality. A mentor is able to dream with you and expand your ability to live a life, wide awake.
6. Because it will be a support system that is unmatched by any other (besides your spouse, if you are married). All of us will experiences instances where we need sound counsel. We will also experience situations where we just need a listening ear. Other times, we will need some sort of support. Mentors act as a support system for your life. They are able to give you penetrating insight. They care for you and care about you. It is not good for us to go through life alone. Other people need to live out their Christianity in a practical way by assisting you in a tangible way. I am not saying a mentor is a financial life-line. But, they may act as an emotional one.
Find a mentor today. Look for someone in your church, in your community or in your organization. Step out of your comfort zone. Relinquish your reservations about mentorship. Approach someone who is older than you who can provide sound counsel to you. You will not regret it. It is going to be a life-changing experience.
Question: Have you had a great mentor in your life? What was your experience? How have you benefited from having a mentor?