The short answer is “YES!”
There may be a time for the “sink or swim” method of teaching, but that is not mentoring. Mentoring is beyond telling, or even showing, someone how to do something. It is a steady guide through the learning and/or growing process that ensures the success of the individual being mentored. Above all, mentoring requires trust.
I’ll share with you two examples….
I love to snow ski, but it didn’t start out that way. When I first went skiing I asked a friend of mine to show me how. He said, “It’s easy. Go to the top, point your skis down and, by the time you get to the bottom, you’ll know how.” Well, long before I got to the bottom, I had given up. I took my skis off and walked down the hill.
On the other hand, a few years ago, I decided to take up running. This is something I had done from time to time, but I bought myself some new shoes, started running around my neighborhood and entered a couple of 5k races. Then I met a guy who also ran and asked me if I wanted to run together.
He showed me some different places to run. He always made sure I was doing OK. He checked on me if I was having a hard time keeping up with him, and made sure I had enough water. He taught me about Gu – on the run energy food, easy to carry, easy to consume. He introduced me to running culture and to other runners. He also introduced me to trail running. After one of our runs (I had said that I was not interested in running anything longer than a 5k (3.1 miles), he told me we had just run about 6.5 miles and maybe I should do a 10K with him on New Years. That was 2012. I relented and have since run several 10ks, several 10-mile races, 2 half-marathons and my first marathon. In August, I will be completing my first 50K and I am considering a 50-mile race next year. I would not have been able to do that without his mentoring. I am now getting ready to mentor a good friend of mine, as he gets ready to run Tough Mudder in September. This is a 10-mile race with obstacles and lots of mud, ice water, and electric wires to run through – but that’s a whole other message by itself.
Mentoring isn’t really mentoring if it doesn’t lead to further generations of mentoring.
It’s not enough to teach someone how to do something; we must also teach them to teach others how to do so. You might say, “I’m not a teacher. I could never do that.” But everyone has a different part to play and everyone has different strengths. We have been given those strengths to use to help others, as well as ourselves.Each part does its own work, plays its own part in building up the community. You don’t have to be a teacher to show someone else what you know. However, you do have to have patience and, most importantly, I believe, a love for what you are doing and a love for the one you are mentoring.
So, are you ready to develop mentoring relationships? Here are a couple of tips and a couple of warnings…
Mentoring relationships cannot be forced, but they must be sought out. As you travel on your journey, look for those further along than you from whom you can learn and look also for those behind you on the path to which you can provide guidance and encouragement.
Build trust and friendship before you offer instruction. No one wants to be told what to do by someone they have no relationship with.
Lead more by example than by words.
Be patient. Don’t rush it. Relationships take time to develop and sometimes they just don’t. If you find one that doesn’t work, keep the friendship, but find someone else to mentor or to be mentored by.
Don’t take on too much. Jesus mentored 12 men. One of them didn’t follow. I think, that for most of us, two or three is the maximum. One at a time is probably enough, but it depends on the time commitment necessary and the time you have to spend.
Everyone should be mentored AND be a mentor. If you have not been mentored, find someone who is able and willing to mentor you. If you are currently being mentored, start looking for someone to pass it along to.
Mentoring is essential in sports, business, education, hobbies, religion, community… really, everything.
Truth be told, mentoring looks like this:
– people guiding each other through rough waters by reaching forward and backward… all the time.