I’ve found myself wondering lately if mentoring — as an intentional form of raising up the next generation — is lost?
In our fast-paced, keep your nose out of my business, anxiety riddled culture — have we lost the know-how to be with people in intentional, honest, and life-giving ways? And just as importantly, has the value of this kind of relationship been lost on this generation of students?
Without faithful examples, and our focus drawn away from mentoring — towards other things — have we forgotten how to do this? Or what it looks like? Or what it can yield in another’s life?
I believe there to be three essential elements that must be present in order to foster a healthy mentoring relationship:
3. A faithful example
Time. It’s one of those strange things that we’ve all been given — in the exact same quantity (24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days in a year) — and then tasked with being a steward of it.
We all have decisions to make about the time we’ve been given.
As mentors-types, we have decisions to make about how much time we will commit to relationships of this nature, about who will get what amount of our time (because we cannot do this for everyone), and how we will bring meaningful shape to our time with another.
And our students, as mentorees, will also have decisions to make regarding the time they’ve been given. Students often believe that their lives are “so busy.” But the truth is, the college years provide a level of flexibility and discretionary time that is unlike any other season of life. Students will have to value this kind of relationship enough to make it a priority in the lives.
Without time — offered up by both the mentor and mentoree — a healthy mentoring relationship will not be possible.
Perspective. I think this is the often unrecognized element that both mentor and mentoree need to be more aware of.
As mentor-types, we have the advantage of: years lived, life experiences that we’ve made it through, more education, and ultimately a perspective that has been stretched and shaped beyond that of most of the students we encounter.
We don’t have to have all of the answers, or be perfect people — we simply have to bring our in-progress lives into these relationships in ways that God can use to offer a different perspective to what students are currently experiencing themselves.
And our students will need to come with an openness to different perspectives. Too often, young people falsely believe that what they are going through is uncharted territory — when it’s only uncharted to them. Or they believe that it’s somehow not OK to be struggling with whatever it is they are struggling with. Or that they will somehow be better, or stronger, for having roughed it through their current situation — on their own.
But to hear from someone whose been there — and lived to tell about it — can be the change in perspective that makes all the difference in the world to a student.
Without the offering of (or openness to) a different perspective — a mentoring relationship will be short-changed.
A faithful example. The third essential element is a life being well-lived. In a culture of inconsistency and hypocrisy, a mentoring relationship must include a call (to both people) to live a congruent life.
As mentor-types, we must be women and men who strive to live lives that align with the words we speak — and ultimately reflect the way of life Christ modeled for us. Boldly we must say — and live — “Come follow me, as I follow Christ.”
And our students will need to commit themselves to trying to live a more faithful existence — in every area of their lives. Examples of faithful living are few and far between in our culture. Depending on the family that they have come from, students may not know what a faithful life of following Jesus looks like.
Nor may the recognize how their own lifestyle choices are hindering the their ability to faithfully follow Jesus.
So to walk together — in an intentional mentoring relationship — can be a powerful, life-changing experience.
Without a model of faithful living, or walking and talking example of what it means to live as a faithful follower of Jesus, what we offer students (and where we lead them) is of limited value.
I think we too often believe the process of mentoring — or the life of a solid mentor — to be something that takes too much. It’s too involved. It’s too demanding.
And maybe it is all of those things…
But isn’t this generation of young people worth it?
Don’t they deserve some of our best and most focused time, attention, and effort?
Don’t you think many of their concerns and fears in life could quickly be eradicated by considering a different perspective?
Don’t you believe that all some students might need is a better — more Christ-like — example to model their own life after?
Let us re-learn the art of mentoring, and invest in this younger generation in ways that produce an abundance of young adults who desire to more fully invest their lives in the generations that come behind them.