This post is a part of the Dancing Jesus: Mentoring in the Church blog series that will be ongoing through the month of September. You can read about the series and view the schedule here. You can subscribe to all of the posts here.
I have a confession: for the longest time, there was nothing I hated more than the thought of being mentored in a church. And I suspect I’m not the only one who’s felt this way.
It’s not that I’m against the idea of mentoring, I believe it’s of the utmost importance to learn from people who have more experience in life and in following Jesus. It’s a model that Jesus handed down to us through his rabbi-discipleship relationship he models with the disciples. Eventually those disciples began to be referred to as apostles, a word which means “sent one.” And sent for what? As Jesus says at the end of Matthew’s gospel, sent to make disciples of all nations. So from the get-go following Jesus has been about this form of mentoring or discipling.
And maybe that’s why for the longest time, I hated being mentored – because it had less to do with me learning to follow the way of Jesus and much more to do with shaping me into some sort of cog or known quantity to fit into the church machine.
Since that time, I have been exposed to some fabulous mentors, mentors who have helped me to see the light about mentoring and become much less cynical about being mentored in a church. These great mentors have had two things in common: they didn’t believe they had everything figured out – that they might learn something from me while I learn from them, and they have been first and foremost concerned with developing me into who I am to be, and not something that I’m not. That is, although each of these men have much more experience and more education and have thought longer and deeper on the same issues that I think about, they have been willing to guide me in my own development rather than see me as an end towards their means.
In some ways, this makes mentoring more of an art than a process. One time I remember listening to a wood carver talk about how to really do a good wood carving, you must discover what already exists in the piece of wood rather than coming at it with a plan for what you will carve. And I’ve heard sculptors talk the same way. The truth is, if we as Christians are to take mentoring seriously, we need to embrace the role of being soul sculptors, discovering along the way who our mentees truly are. There are enough mentors in the world taking the approach of being mentee molders – having a mold and figuring out how to push a mentee into it. But soul sculptors – those brave souls who are willing to engage in the unknown and help people develop into who they might be, there are not nearly enough.
And so the challenge for us in church is to raise up that sort of courageous mentor, the type that will dive into the unknown, operating as a soul sculptor, helping scrape away the rough edges and discover who really is.
Bryan Dormaier, or B.D. as he’s also known, is a leader with Sacred Roots, a missional community in SE Portland. Bryan writes reflections on scripture, theology and life. When not working there’s a good chance you can find him in a coffee shop or bar enjoying the delicious roasts and brews of the northwest. blog: They Call Me Pastor Bryan | twitter: @_b_d