Mentors help us reach higher than we could on our own. I can have a strong independent streak. I know this about myself. I have to keep checking myself to make sure I’m allowing others to speak into my life, intentionally inviting others to help and engaging my team. One day, during my undergrad days, I was trying to move a large piece of furniture by myself when my roommate Desneige came home. She said “Here, let me help you” and I kept saying “It’s ok, I can do it myself.” Desneige’s answer was brilliant “I know, but God gave us friends to make things easier.” That has stuck with me, I might think I’m able or even be able to do something on my own, but that doesn’t mean I should. God gave us each other to make the load easier, you and I do not have to carry it alone.
Bill Hybels says “Our hearts were not built to handle the hardships and heartaches of ministry alone”
I picture my mentors like that person, when I used to climb trees as a kid, that would create a step by putting their two hands together, and then give me a boost into the tree. They help me reach higher and go further than I could on my own.
A mentor is someone who helps you recognize what God is doing in your life. They help you clarify the things that are in your head and in your heart.
Mentoring needs to be intentional. You need to ask someone to be your mentor. They need to know they are playing this role in your life and what you need their mentoring to look like in this season. Where do you need help growing? Where do you need greater clarity in your life? What questions do you need them to ask you regularly? How often will you meet – where and when?
Leaders, I challenge you to be intentional about setting up a mentor for your life and leadership.
Who could be your mentor? Who asks you the deeper questions? Or could ask you the deeper questions, if you intentionally ask them to play this role in your life? Another way of asking this is, who would you take to the Garden of Gethsemane with you?
Here is why every leader needs a mentor (This list could also help you know what to look for in a mentor):
1. They want God’s best for you. They do not have an ulterior motive.
A mentor is someone that truly wants what is God’s best for you and your life. They want to see you flourish for God’s Kingdom. That’s why your mentor should be someone outside your family or even outside your immediate leadership context (e.g. your church or camp) as it is difficult for those on the inside to not have other motives for you and when they are in the middle of the same leadership challenges/opportunities their own motives for the situation can come through. A mentor sees your identity and calling beyond any one role.
2. They help you navigate the road more smoothly
A mentor should be someone that is a little further along in the leadership journey than you, or further along in the area where you are seeking growth in your life. They are someone who has “been there, done that”, not that they have it all figured out, or that they faced the exact same challenges, but they are a little further along in the journey than you. Their wisdom and experience makes you sharper. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
3. Offer you a fresh perspective
They are someone you can be completely honest with and you trust them. You don’t have to worry what they will think of the things going through your head and your struggles as a leader, they know you are human. When you are stuck in the middle of your life and decisions, they can help you see the big picture. The key mentor in my life has so often helped me clarify what God is up to in my life by helping me have a fresh perspective on my situation. When we are in the middle of all the challenges and opportunities that come with leadership, it can be harder to see the balcony perspective. Often, with just one question, my mentor has helped me clarify what is really going on and God’s work in the midst of it all. She asks really good questions like: Where is your loyalty? Where is God in this? Is that your over sense of responsibility or from God? What is holding you back? What’s your deeper prayer?
4. Push you in the right direction
Pick a mentor the models the characteristics and values you admire, and they can help you move in that direction. If you are trying to grow in a certain discipline, like Sabbath keeping for example, find a mentor who does that well, learn from them and ask them to push you in that direction. Further, when we are considering a step out of the boat for the Lord, our mentor can be the one to cheer us on.
5. You are not the only one
It can be incredibly good in leadership to have someone else say “I’ve struggled with that too”. Someone that normalizes our experiences and helps us see we are not alone. Leaders need someone that can say, I lived through a season like that, you are not crazy, but you can get through it.
So – if you have a mentor, how can you lean into that relationship more?
If you don’t have a mentor, get going! Send someone an email with one of the tough questions you are facing right now and invite their input. Invite someone out for coffee. Go for a walk. Pick up the phone and ask someone if they could be a mentor to you.
If you need a starting place, when I started with my mentor, we started by asking these questions of each other:
- One highlight from seeing God at work.
- The biggest challenge right now?
- The biggest question in my head right now?
- Where my heart is with God and what I sense God is saying in this season?
- Invitation to challenge me or speak into life.
- How am I REALLY doing?