Friday, January 27, 2012

On Mentoring

(January is National Mentoring Month.)
Nearly a year ago I had the privilege of listening to a casual exchange between Mary Graham, Michael Hyatt and Luci Swindoll on the subject of mentoring.
The set up was great, because it was really just a conversation directed by questions from Mary.
(And it was hilarious, because anything involving Luci can never be too rigid or serious.)

Michael talked about the importance of mentoring, the intentionality behind it and the investment that both the mentors and mentorees put into it. He has a group of men he mentors every year. They read through books, meet regularly as a group and are expected to really invest in that time.
It is extremely intentional mentoring, with men applying to be in the group and him accepting them.
He spoke of how some have sought him out and asked to be mentored, but there was no connection and they didn't put forth the energy or investment to actually get anything from the mentoring relationship.

Luci talked of how she had no idea why she was even in on this discussion... but then proceeded with thoughts on imparting wisdom that concreted the "why."
She said she never set out to intentionally enter into a relationship in which she was mentoring a younger woman.
It just happened.
In fact, when someone thanked her recently for being a mentor, Luci had responded in a, "What? Huh?" kind of way.
Like Michael, Luci has also had women seek her out and ask if she would mentor them. She spoke of how she did meet once with one woman, but there was no connection... it didn't flow naturally. So, she didn't meet with her again. But, there were some young girls working at Women of Faith that would just happen by her office to chat... or they would come over in the evenings to hang out. This relationship produced great conversation, where Luci would share her heart and thoughts on life, and the girls would listen, ask questions, and glean.
So, when one of these girls referred to Luci as her mentor, Luci was kind of shocked, but thought, "Well, I guess I am!"

My point in bringing up both of these approaches is that neither are wrong and both are right. 

I am becoming more and more aware of the three levels of friendship we need to have in our lives.

1. We need to be hanging out with and pouring into those around ten years or more younger, listening to them, encouraging them and sharing what we've learned.

2. We need to have friends around our same age and place in our walk that we can hang with and just talk about the journey with.

3. We need to have those who are around ten years older and up that can pour into us; listening to struggles, praying with us and imparting what they've learned along the way.

But what I'm also aware of is God will bring about these relationships based on our personalities and how we best function.
For some, it's going to be very orderly and scheduled, like Michael. God laid it on his heart to start this group, and so he did. It's proven to be very successful, and the relationships coming out of it are lifelong. He has also intentionally sought out men he respects whom he wants to learn from.
For others, it's more directed by who we're around often, who we mesh with and how things naturally flow, like Luci.
In both cases, Michael and Luci are taking the wisdom they have gained and the knowledge God has entrusted to them and passing it along. They are being intentional in the time they spend, but both in different ways.

This is far from a new concept. In Titus we see that older women should encourage younger women in their walk with Christ. We see Jesus pouring into his disciples all through the Gospels. Paul pours into Timothy and raises him up as a leader of the early church, through both time together and letters. (Hanging out and email?) These relationships were both intentional and natural.
Just like Michael intentionally started a mentoring group, and brings in men he knows will invest and click.
Just like Luci found younger women hanging around, wanting to hear what she has to say and just share life, so when they show up at her door she takes time to do just that... share her life.

I have some young girls that come over and hang out. It hasn't been something I've pointedly said, "Girls, we are going to hang out at this time and discuss these subjects." But, it's just happened as I've opened up my house and God has arranged our schedules.
Sometimes there's six of us gathered in the kitchen.
Other times one will text, "Are you home?" and be at the door within three minutes.
The other day I was chatting with one of them and she said something about, "I'm so glad you're my mentor." I kind of paused and thought, "Hmmm... well. I guess maybe I am."

I've had a younger friend ask if I would have an intentional relationship with her, where she was inviting me to speak into her life as we met every few weeks. I was honored, and we've been doing that ever since.
But, on the flip side, there was another friend who asked the same thing, and after one time of getting together I knew we weren't clicking and intentional investment from me was not going to be fruitful for her for that season.
We haven't met again in that capacity.

Mentoring, being mentored and friendships change with life's seasons.
Being a military wife has meant moving from place to place. Some seasons I've had a woman (or a few women) I can meet with, have coffee with, who will pour into me, encourage me, allow me to glean from them.
There are also seasons where I haven't had someone in the flesh, right there. This is when it's been helpful to have "mentors from afar." Women of Faith has been that for me, so have books, blogs and other resources from amazing women like Holly Wagner and Christine Caine
I think often we almost have a pity party that we don't have anyone pouring into us, when we need to take some initiative and start pouring into ourselves! And then when we have a season where a mentor/friend is there, we need to cherish it and glean all we can. (But that doesn't mean we stop pouring into ourselves with great resources!)

The whole point is, ask God to bring people into your life who will pour into you. Pray about it and follow where He leads. Sometimes you'll be the one showing up at someone's door, seeing if they have time to chat. Other times you'll be the one with people showing up at your door.
And some seasons God will lead you to set a time and place and be intentional about who is there investing and being invested in.
You will find great resources, because God is so faithful to lead you to what you need most.
But remember that, while intentionality is good, we should never force a relationship somewhere it's not intended to go. You can't invest in someone who doesn't want to be invested in. You can try, but it's fruitless. It's always best to follow where God is leading and invest (and be invested) in that.

God's desire is for us to share life. With each other... with Him... through all the seasons.

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