It’s been noted that the Apostle Paul spelled out mentoring as his leadership model very simply, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). This past week I have been thinking about the people who poured themselves into me to help me to be in the position I am in today, a position where I get: to preach about my faith and beliefs weekly, to walk alongside both those experiencing great joy and those who are suffering, and have the privilege of being set aside with the time to ponder God’s word and rest in His presence.
I’ve been thinking about this because one of the older almost retired ministers in my presbytery has been taking the time to encourage another young minister and I. He has sought out learning opportunities for us and offered his guidance and help as we attempt to complete jobs that are slightly beyond our abilities. Pushing just past the comfort zone so that we aren’t too complacent, so that we continue to learn and to improve, something we all need, has been his method. It makes me think of an ad I have on my office wall, it says, “you can’t find your strong if you’re not looking for it.”
He hasn’t left us out to dry though. He has taken the time to pull me aside, and I assume the other minister as well, to tell me the new-found hope he has for the church thanks to the young ministers he has been working with lately. He took me aside to tell me that even if I may feel in over my head in a given situation to remember that I am where I am supposed to be and that God has empowered me and will continue to do so and to trust my instincts. And he means it. At times over a few meetings I was, to my mind, at my worst, my feelings were on my sleeve and I was trying to say nothing because if you have nothing nice to say you should remain silent. when he noticed this happening he carefully got me to speak, opening the door to many important conversations that really did need to take place.
The point of all this is that I appreciate the boost in morale I received from this minister and the confidence I derived from his kind words. There are others who give of their time, no matter how long I keep them on the phone or hovering over coffee, no matter how silly I sense my question or issue is, no matter how busy they are, they find the time to pour into me, and I am grateful and stronger for it.
There is a cycle to all of this, when I was in seminary I helped out anyone I could, tried to build up the students around me and in earlier years. Today, I try to help the staff and volunteers around St. Andrew’s “find their strong” and I think they appreciate that. They also appreciate being told they are doing a wonderful job. In our culture we can sometimes be cynical to the point where we refuse to praise others because we fear it will “go to their head.” Sometimes that is just what everyone needs.
Who are you mentoring? What happens when you see potential in someone in your life? Whose example are you following? Who follows yours? What happens if they do? These are all questions worth spending some time considering because Paul, the apostles, and the whole church were built by people who carefully answered those questions.