From Greek mythology to modern churches, mentoring provides a link between generations
My father later became a Christian — at age 75.
Lots of men in the church looked after me, including my Bible class teachers throughout high school. They encouraged me as I studied and helped me answer the questions I had. They set me up to give talks for the youth — and eventually for the church. They were my mentors even though the term was never used. They wanted to help me become a strong Christian leader and they filled gaps in my development. Insight | Bailey McBride
Mentoring has been around since ancient times. The term comes from Greek mythology, when the youthful Telemachus was guided to adult action by Mentor (Athena in disguise) after his father Odysseus’ 20-year absence. Today we see countless conferences and seminars on mentoring.
In a Christian community, mentoring should take place at all times. To be a mentor, one must have enough experience with life to understand the issues a new generation faces. In a loving and Christ-centered community, mentors should help younger generations live with integrity and grow spiritually.
Unfortunately, in many churches adult Bible classes are organized by age, making it hard for intergeneration connections.
Here are some of the important qualities of effective mentors:
• Mentors are warm and caring people. All relationships depend on these qualities.
• They are good listeners — such interactive listeners that they can help the mentees see problems and issues more clearly.
• Mentors respect the information shared with them and treat it as a sacred confidence.
• They have full respect for the person and personality of the one being mentored.
• They do not solve problems or outline a plan of action. Rather, they help the mentee develop a solution or outline a plan for correcting or improving a behavior.
• Mentors see the full potential of those they mentor.
• They demonstrate empathy.
• They are completely genuine in their dealings. They always are truthful and forthright in dealing with everyone.
• They pray faithfully for those they mentor and ask for wisdom to help.
Some people have roles in the church that give them a perfect platform for mentoring. My adult children still tell stories of ways that youth ministers helped them see a new direction for their lives and gave them opportunities to serve Christ and the Christian community.
Effective church elders are mentors when they spot a talented Christian not being used and ask them to fill a role. Then they offer to help that Christian grow into that role. Both are strengthened by the relationship.
Many of the strongest Christians I know are women, and for too long in our fellowship we have under-appreciated and under-utilized them. I’m encouraged to see flourishing women’s ministries that allow women to mentor and train other women as they study the Word.
Barnabas became the mentor of Paul when he traveled to Tarsus and brought him to Antioch, as we read in the book of Acts. Barnabas also was a mentor to John Mark and took him to the mission field even though Paul thought it was a mistake. Paul mentored Timothy, Titus, Silas and at least a dozen others named in his New Testament writings.
Of course, the greatest example of mentoring is Jesus and his work with the apostles. In a short time he taught them service and teaching skills. Most importantly, he taught them to seek to know God more fully. They in turn spurred on a movement that has changed the world.
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