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The Bold Task of Finding a Mentor

"Key people at key times have had significant, positive impact on my life."


Jackson is four years old. He likes to breakdance (as well as any four-year-old can), loves Hot Wheels cars, and wants to be "prayed to" on a regular basis. As I'm tucking him in, he asks, "Dad, would you please pray to me?" I say yes, but then explain to him, night after night, that I'm praying for him, not to him. It's a common mistake, I'm hoping. But through the process, Jackson is learning not only the importance of prayer but also how to pray.

As a dad, I'm mentoring my young son in a spiritual discipline. I'm hoping that down the road, he and his brothers will seek out others' counsel to help them learn and grow in all areas of their lives, especially in spiritual matters.

Photos by Theresa Wiebe

As I look back over my life, including 15 years of vocational ministry, I can point to highs and lows, growth peaks, curves, and crashes. My personal timeline shows key people at key times having significant, positive impact on my life. Whether mentors or coaches, there have been various people who have gifted themselves to me. These people have helped me focus in ministry, grapple with spiritual matters, wrestle with major financial challenges and decisions, and not take myself so seriously. When I look at the fruit in my life, I can often relate it to others who have had specific influence on me, and I'm grateful.

Definitions

I define a mentor as someone who has experienced the same issues I'm now facing and can teach me about the steps they've taken. Good mentors have learned through experience and are prepared to release their invaluable insight to others.

A coach doesn't give answers, but helps me determine what is most important in my sea of questions and what steps I need to take towards my desired outcome. Good coaches listen well and ask really great, open-ended questions.

Just ask

I remember Tim Geddert, professor at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, retelling the story from Luke 11 where the traveller shamelessly knocks on his friend's door at midnight—for a loaf of bread! Geddert spoke of the boldness of this person. Can you imagine a friend knocking on your door, late at night, after you and your family are sleeping, asking for something you thought could wait until morning? Perhaps your friend, soon to be removed from your speed dial list, wants some advice on how to develop a multi-site church or start a new ministry serving those who are jobless in the community. Surely these concerns can wait until the morning.

But the guy keeps knocking. What are you going to do? After several attempts to say no, you realize your bold friend is on a mission and you will come to his aid.

Are you in need of bread? Have you been asking people to "pray to me?" Would a good listener help you sort through some things? Would you appreciate hearing how someone has gone before you? Ask someone in your life to be your mentor or coach. Just ask.

Ask someone you respect and admire who is knowledgeable in your particular need, job, or ministry.

Take the risk and ask your first choice. Don't assume they're too busy or won't be interested. Often we make a decision for other people. We cancel out options without actually inquiring.

Pray about it. Ask God to give you names of people and to prompt those people to respond to your request.

Cam Rowland is director of church health and communication for the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference in Winnipeg.

Originally published in the Mennonite Brethren Herald, February 2007.

 

 
 
 
 

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