• --j

Mentoring Strategies 6-10

This is the second installment of Mentoring Strategies, an expansion of the Strategies mentioned in "Letters to an Apprentice". If you want to read the first five strategies find them here.


When I was a young missionary in Peru, I was often corrected by my mentor. But one instance pops into my mind immediately. I had a Toshiba laptop that weighed like 20 pounds (that was a big deal in 1999), For some reason, I chose a desktop photo that I thought was cool and gave off the "rebel" image I was going for. It was the iconic image of Che Guevera. I didn't know anything about Che, I just thought it looked cool. Upon seeing my desktop, my mentor asked why I had that on my desktop. He then began explaining to me who Che was (communist, mass murderer, racist, womanizer, etc.) He didn't tell me to change my desktop. He corrected my view of an iconic image and then let me decide. I repented of my ignorance and put less focus on my image and more focus on substance.

Teaching life skills

Most of the apprentices I have mentored over the years have a notable gap in their everyday life skills. These skills are no longer commonly taught by parents, because we have become a consumer society, and we pay people to do things for us. One of the things I often teach to new missionaries is how to change a tire. I remember, on one occasion, I had a slow leak in one of my tires. I asked a young man who I was mentoring if he knew how to change a tire. He responded in the affirmative. Then I asked him if he could change my tire while I was working on something else. A look of panic crossed his face as he began to stammer and say, "Intellectually, I know how to do it, but I've never really done it myself." I said, "No problem, let's go do it right now together." We changed the tire and went on about our day. The next morning I saw him, and he said, "Thanks so much for teaching me to do that. I always felt ashamed that I didn't know how to do stuff like that, and you didn't make a big deal out of it. You just taught me." This is how and why you teach life skills to people.

Challenging Christian norms

At some point, you have to go beyond the faith that you inherited from your parents. A good portion of our spiritual and religious belief comes from tradition rather than scripture. For someone to grow, they have to begin to discern what is biblical and what is tradition. What is keeping you bound and what will set you free. I remember when one of my mentors gave me a few books, and we began discussing a biblical (not traditional) ecclesiology. We compared the church meetings in the first three centuries to how we meet today. It was challenging, and it stretched me. It made me questions what I believed and my motives, but it also propelled me into a whole new experience in my walk with Christ. It replaced obligation with passion. But those norms had to be addressed first.

Requiring them to do hard things

My mentor in the jungle trained me well, he debriefed me thoroughly, but he also made my life VERY difficult. I remember, after my initial time of training, we sat down with a map laid out in front of us. We prayed for the people we were reaching out to, and we began to discuss the populations on the map. He then pointed to a specific river system. He said, "This is your river, I want you to go there and share the gospel with them. You are responsible for the souls of the people on the Apurucayali river." I was a little scared, but also felt excited and empowered. It wouldn't be easy, but I was going to give it my best. My mentor was there for me throughout the experience, but he didn't treat me like a kid, he gave me a seemingly impossible task and said: "get out there and use what you've learned." It was just what I needed. But be careful. You have to know your apprentice and how they will respond to the challenge. I am a self-starter so I loved it. But some apprentices need a more hands-on approach and this kind of solitary challenge would be overwhelming to them. In that case you still want to give them a difficult task, you just want to walk more closely with them as they get started.

Providing Accountability

I recently had a friend of mine confide in me that he had not had a consistent time in God's word for years. He was embarrassed about it because he was in ministry and he knew people would lose confidence in him if they knew. I felt honored that he came to me with this very personal struggle. So I told him, lets do it together. Every morning at 6:30 he would join me in my office, we would have some silent time of reading and devotion and then we would discuss what God was teaching us, we would ask questions and go deeper. After a few months of this, I saw his hunger for God's word return, and he hasn't been the same since. Providing accountability is not just asking how someone is doing with a struggle; it is walking through that struggle with them and helping them bear the burden until they can manage on their own.

For more insights on Mentoring Strategies see the first installment or get my book in paperback or kindle.

#mentormovement #letterstoanapprentice #mentorshipmonday

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