The User’s Guide to a Mentor

Okay, last bit on mentors for a minute. Once you’ve got a mentor, or realize that you have a suitable mentor-figure in your life already, what’s next? What should you do to be a good disciple? This question is just as important as the ones that lead you to the mentor. A good mentor can go to waste. You can lead a horse to water, but he may be too dumb to do anything with it. So what would a smart horse do? Here’s some ideas…

– Maximize your time with him
A huge portion of what you can learn from a mentoring relationship comes simply from observation. Seeing how a veteran missionary acts and reacts in a thousand situations is priceless training. So what can you do? You can be in the same room as him at every possible moment. In the office, at the church, in the home, with unbelievers, with believers, when he’s planning, when he’s praising, when he’s slamming. Be his shadow. Of course, everyone’s time constraints are different, but for the record, two hours a week is simply not enough. I’m talking ten times that. If he doesn’t tell you to beat it sometimes, you’re probably not working hard enough at it!

– Ask for opinions, not just answers
Sometimes we advise students, ‘Ask all your questions.’ Unfortunately, most people’s natural curiosity levels are insufficient to generate the amount and quality of questions they really need to be asking. Here’s the problem with what we need to learn: we don’t know, and we don’t know that we don’t know. Most of us (me included) feel we already know about 90% of what we really need to know in ministry. This leads many young guys to prematurely believe that they’re trained and ready for ministry. In fact, the best place to start your training would probably be to write down everything you think you know about missions ministry and ask him what he thinks! Get his opinion – you may be surprised how different it is from your own. Get yourself a note-taking apparatus and use it.

– Be willing to serve
All disciples should try their best to earn their keep.  Obviously, this is not really possible – as in any relationship of grace, the benefit to one far outweighs that to the other. But also like any relationship of grace, the grateful desire to try to be a blessing is inevitable. Ask your mentor how you can be a help to him in his ministry. Make it clear that you’re willing to do anything – paint a wall, prepare a Sunday School lesson, print a bulletin, read a book, or drive him somewhere. Even better, listen to him when he talks about his burden and his concerns about his work. Then volunteer. Of course (do I have to say it? like any relationship of grace…), more great benefits come to the disciple through the work – namely, ministry experience and the opportunity to be critiqued.

– Train others as you are being trained
2 Timothy 2:2 = what you should do. If you’re thankful for having someone invest in your life, make the effort to make similar investments in the lives of others. Spend time with them, love them, instruct them, correct them, and keep them accountable (this will also continually remind you of what your relationship with your own mentor should be like). Not only should you make yourself a discipler, but you should make yourself a recruiter for your mentor. Those with a discliper will be the first to tesitfy to how hard it is to find one. Besides, a mentor who has committed to training young men will be overjoyed at the opportunity to train more. A smart horse drinks the water, and a thankful horse tells the other horses (had enough of the horse metaphor yet?).

See? Not that hard, right? But it’s sad how close some horses are to the water, yet won’t deign to lower their heads to drink (okay, that’s really it).

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