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The Wisdom of Mentoring5 min read

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So, I just had my biweekly lunch w/ my pastor, who is mentoring me as I work towards being a full time pastor.  He’s a really atypical pastor in that he is leaving the pastoral line of work for professional coaching.  He planted the church I am in about 14 years ago, and is going through the tough process of letting it go to others.  He also just submitted a manuscript of a book he’s written for people wanting to optimize their life – not a Christian book, but more like one of those Peter Drucker books. 

But what I like about him is his wisdom in the frustrations of ministry, his disregard for religious expectations, and his desire to do things with effectiveness, integrity, and reality.  His own life is not squeaky clean and perfect, and he is transparent about his own brokenness, which is why he is beloved at our church.

So I wanted to start recording the things I learn in our long lunch meetings.

1.  In transition, many people make the mistake of taking action instead of waiting.

When we are in chaos and transition, our instinct is to take control
and get ourselves out of the difficulty as soon a possible, rather than
charting God’s course through it to the real destination.  The immediate destination of being pain free may be compelling, but the shortest route to being "pain free" may not be the best route to your desired future.

Until we learn to hear the voice of God and wisdom, which speaks quietly and peacefully, we need to trust God more and act less, esp. in times of transition.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your understanding
Acknowledge him in all your ways, and He will direct your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:3-4)

2. One of the goals of mentoring is helping people become aware of
their blind spots so that they don’t make rash decisions under pressure.

For the person aspiring to success, the biggest danger in getting there are the unseen land mines in their soul – the gaps in character, the reactive knee-jerk responses that indicate areas for healing, and the actions and attitudes that are ungodly that they just don’t recognize, but could hinder their progress by offending others. 

A mentor’s goal is to sensitize the mentee to the reality of these things, and get them to appreciate and accept input.  That is easier once the mentee understands and believes that (a) the mentor is doing this to help them succeed, not to slow them down, (b) this is a critical part of mentoring, and (c) that their mentor is actually seeing real things that they are already partially aware of because God has been trying to tell them in other ways.

3. When making decisions, one should understand the limits of one’s options at both sides of the spectrum before deciding.

One of the benefits of brainstorming is understanding ALL of one’s options before eliminating the bad ones.  If we limit ourselves to too few solutions or avenues before we decide, we may not make the best decision. 

For instance, if you are having financial troubles, one of your avenues might be to declare bankruptcy.  Most Christians, however, never even consider this because they feel it violates scriptural principle.  And it very well may.   But seeking the limits of one’s possibilities may expose other options that were not previously considered, and may also put these other options into a clearer light.

4. Decisions made in times of transition and crisis are critical and
inevitably set you up for your next season – and bad decisions keep you
from moving forwards into that next season of success

What could have been a graceful exit from problems into a time of prosperity and peace may instead become a new season of problems, if wrong decisions are made.  We all have a tendency to panic, get angry, or feel forced to make certain decisions during times of crisis, but if cooler heads prevail, the seas may calm on their own, or wisdom may make the path clear if we wait for it.

During these times, it is critical to surround one’s self with counselors (Proverbs 15:22).  And act consciously with a plan, rather than reactively without thought.

That’s what I learned today.