At his or her best the mentor takes a person who admires them and wants to be a great deal like them and helps them instead to be their best self. They do so by sharing past experiences and allowing participation in current experiences. “Shadowing” is an invaluable tool to the mentor, it allows the person being mentored a look behind the scenes, perhaps a certain amount of input into decisions that would normally be above their level of responsibility, and allows for private discussions afterwards that can be highly educational for both parties.
I see the process of mentoring very similarly to the process of parenting. Parenting is after all the most intense form of mentoring. As parents we most often have a desire to see our children do and experience new things. We attempt to remove impediments to these experiences, to let them run without fear of falling. We recognize, however, that it is not always best for them to run free, that there are obstacles that cannot be removed from there paths. Then we know also that because some obstacles cannot be removed that our children must learn to overcome obstacles, sometimes the best way to teach this is to place things we control in their path upon which to stumble so that we may explain to them how to either avoid or overcome them. The mentor acts similarly. The process is much more open because both persons involved are, or should be becoming, adults. As a mentor you should always explain when you are placing a potential impediment in your disciples path. Openness is key to this relationship.
The final step in mentoring is the conversion of the disciple to apostle. In theological terms the disciple is a learner, but the apostle is one who acts on behalf of or with the authority of one who he or she has followed. This should be the mentor’s hoped for result, to have produced a leader who acts out of the confidence and authority given. The result is not a carbon copy who thinks and acts just like the mentor.
The process is not linear, and it may come in fits and starts. You may pour into someone’s life for months and never see it overflow. The key is to never let it stop overflowing out of you.
“The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”
1 Corinthians 3:8-9
What do you think? Got advice of your own for other leaders? Questions? Think I’m off base? I truly covet your feedback, please leave a comment.