Some things I believe about mentoring

re: mentorships in general

  • Good mentors share the mental models and key skills that really make a difference. They also show how to use them and give supportive+challenging opportunities for mentees to practice.
  • Mentoring can be done directly or indirectly, with an individual or in groups.
  • Direct mentoring requires a lot of work both on the part of the mentor and the mentee; the relationship should be well defined and periodically reviewed. The standards for a successful relationship ought to be determined ahead of time with room for gut intuition on both sides.
  • Assessments and written objectives can help track progress. Try to pick goals well; find the goldilocks zone for learning. Set the bar in the right place.
  • You can’t learn everything at once; deciding what should be learned and in what order is important, a skill in itself.
  • Some aspects of ministry should be learned by studying life under the sun. But what is learned in that realm is not always compatible with the ministry of the Kingdom of Heaven. One must be wise.
  • Mentoring works only when both parties are emotionally engaged and motivated, and both have the available time, resources, and skills.
  • A good mentor needs more than a cheerleader, though they need that too. They need mentors who are willing to give honest feedback; have insight into what to work on, how, and in what ways, all backed by solid pedagogy and prayer.
  • Feedback is “superficial and incomplete” if it only tracks and corrects behavior. Feedback should also probe “beneath behavior to the assumptions and mind-sets that underlie it.”

re: suffering

  • Pain + Reflection + Prayer = Progress
  • “The priest’s shortcoming simply cannot be concealed. On the contrary, even the most trivial soon get known. The weakest athlete can keep his weakness secret as long as he remains at home and pits himself against nobody; but when he strips for the contest, he is soon shown up.” —On the priesthood, III.14, Chrysostom
  • There will be ups and downs. Learning always has its challenges. Because you will ask others to learn from you, you need to know what it feels like to be a learner yourself. You need to know how to overcome obstacles, internal and external, and not give up.
  • The duties and skills of ministry are difficult. It takes time to learn these skills and hard work. Baxter was right when he said, “Sloth will tie the hands of many.”

re: faith

  • Training is an act of service and love dependent on the Holy Spirit who grows us. Both parties must learn to be humble and depend on the Holy Spirit for growth.
  • Pastoral interns should be humble. They are not the heroes of the church or the singular work of the church. Good mentee will do his best to take things off his mentor’s plate, to learn through service.
  • Hiding is the worst. You develop only if you bring your full self, imperfections and all.
  • Ideal mentees are not those who are already formed, but those who are willing to work hard, respect their mentor, and push themselves toward a goal with both direct and indirect mentorship.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray. Growth isn’t magical. It’s doing the daily grind well. It’s suffering, getting knocked down, learning from it and doing it again. But unless we grow in the Spirit, we grow in vain. So every step is taken in prayer and dependence. In this way, the Holy Spirit changes us and uses us. A lot of it is slow and steady. But sometimes there are exceptional periods of struggle and other times exceptional periods of obvious usefulness and excitement. Either way, we serve God.

Six Pillars of a Good Mentorship

And here are the six pillars of a good mentorship according to Ken Blanchard and Claire Diaz-Ortiz. Good list.

Mission. What does each person hope to get out of this relationship? There is value on both sides. It’s important to create a mission and guiding principles for the relationship.

Engagement. There must be a plan in place for how the relationship and its mission will be sustained. What communication method does each party prefer? What will be sustainable? What will meet the goals? Commitment to regular meetings is important.

Network. Each should help the other cultivate relationships, but respecting each other’s contacts is essential. Ask for introductions.

Trust. Trust is key for any healthy relationship. Stay connected. Be dependable. Use clear, honest communication. Don’t abuse the mentor’s time. Don’t embarrass the mentee.

Opportunity. Bring value to the other person. Create opportunities for each other that further the mission of the mentorship.

Review and Renewal. Decide when to check in. You don’t have to end the relationship, you can back-burner it. There will be seasons when it is needed and seasons when it is not.

Christopher Chelpka @christopherchelpka