Thoughts On Mentoring…

To mentor is to train and counsel and advise. It is to model as much as it is to impart strength. Leading requires relationship because we are asking people to trust us. Otherwise, we are simply reducing mentoring to a conceptual leadership model of boxes to check as we run people through the machine, which often is falsely labeled as Christian community.

Mentoring is not efficient. It doesn’t fit the time study grid of a highly effective ministry leader very well on paper. To wear the mantel of a mentor may mean we don’t get a lot of actual “work” done at times. It is rarely convenient and rarely on our terms when the opportunity to invest ourselves presents itself. But when we love with the kind of love that is willing to step outside of our little ministry boxes people begin to genuinely believe us. When we trust them with our stories, they can soon find the freedom to trust themselves, and others with theirs. This is the beginning of earning the permission to speak into lives and be heard, which is at the core of a mentor’s credibility.

Since my own spiritual overhaul over the last several years I have begun looking at people through different eyes. They are not just names in our databases or slots on our music rosters. They are stories, lives, souls with dreams and hopes, and hearts longing for connection. They are eager to be invested in and in return will surprise themselves with the joy they experience from serving. As they come alive to their own stories they will become those who share and draw others in embracing their own stories. And so it goes.

As leaders we will inevitably reproduce ourselves in the people we shepherd. The question is what kind of leadership we are exhibiting for reproduction. Are we producing efficient, task oriented, goal driven volunteers who only feel God’s pleasure if they have checked off all the boxes correctly? Or are we creating an environment in which people can bring all of themselves, their whole story, to be embraced, loved, inspired, and utilized. Are we truly about creating a tapestry of lives that do community together?

My role as a mentor is one that invites people into the broken fragments, which in the hands of God become a beautiful mosaic. The lives, the stories, the restored hearts are all represented in the tiny shards he strategically places in the mortar. The beauty of the mosaic is that instead of God simply putting back together a broken vessel, he uses the pieces from many broken vessels together to tell his story. The mentor knows that there is something beautiful in progress and that God is always up to something redemptive. Those tiny specks that we almost discarded and disregarded are the very things that bring the colors to the story God is telling. As a lead worshipper, I am the one entrusted with reaching into the clutched hands of those I serve, asking them to trust me enough to let go of the sharp fragments, and then showing them that there is place in the mosaic that was saved and perfectly suited just for their own tiny pieces.

Because of You…

I’m often reminded that we don’t always do a great job of honoring those who inspire us, challenge us, and ultimately shape the changes in us that we experience throughout our lives. Most of us can think of individuals who have had an impact on us personally, helped us experience a shift in our thinking, or the way we view ourselves. Yet for many of us, we’ve never expressed to them their impact on us personally.

My most humbling moments have been those where someone has sent me an email or a note, had a conversation, or even given me a gift accompanied by a reminder of some way that they were impacted by me or what I do. Often I may not even remember the specific conversations to which they refer, but I remember that we shared a moment where I saw a light come back in their eyes. For whatever reason they credited me with that. I am always moved by even the smallest of those stories.

We all have those people who walked the extra mile with us. God meets us in the now through the love and encouragement of those around us. He doesn’t send angels with flaming swords. He sends helping hands and willing hearts. He sends someone with one morsel of encouragement that I need in that moment. He whispers a challenging word from someone whom I trust and respect enough to listen.

Celebrate those whom God has used to speak change into your heart and mind. Share with them specifically what it was in them that challenged you, encouraged you, and saved you. Express specifically how your life is different because you knew them, worked with them, or found yourself impacted by them. By doing so we encourage those who have encouraged us, and they experience the joy of seeing the fruit of purpose in their own life and story.

Those from whom I’ve gleaned the most have lived very sacrificially. Many have experienced great adversity and yet freely shared their experience, strength and hope with me happily. Wisdom and depth come at a great price yet for many of us we digest it from others as if it is being dispensed from a vending machine that we can keep putting quarters in and get our thought for the day.

It isn’t those who have done it all perfectly that always make the best mentors and communicators. It is anyone who is willing to be honest enough about their brokenness and who has learned to steward their pain well. These are the people I trust most. For them to hear that, “Because of you, I am changed.” or, “Because of you, I now have hope,” is the closest thing to purpose they may ever realize in their own broken story.

Share those milestones with those who walked you by them. Celebrate the joy of encouraging a life well lived. Don’t assume that they are besieged with appreciation. Your gratitude may be the only encouragement they ever hear.

This weekend I get to participate in celebrating such a life. Our founding pastor, Scotty Smith is transitioning after twenty-six years of ministry and we are throwing he and his wife Darlene a party! His last two Sundays with us will be tomorrow and the following week, May 20. There will be stories, songs, and appreciation extended for not only his message of God’s grace to us these many years, but for the way he has shaped a culture. We are different because he was here. We are freer because he shared his freedom with us. We steward our pain a little better because he was a faithful steward of his pain with us. We are a little more honest because he was transparent with us. We understand God’s great love a little better because he gave freely from the places where he has experienced that love himself.

Thank you, Scotty and Darlene for your friendship, your faithfulness, and freely sharing your lives with us. We are better for it, because of you!