A Key to Successful Mentoring

While it may seem a bit presumptuous at first glance to think you can multiply what you know in the life of another —that you can re-produce what you’ve learned by passing it on— it’s really not presumptuous at all. It’s a responsibility, really.

What would have happened had your parents said “I can’t teach an eight-year old anything! Me? No… Not me.”

You’d be stuck at eight forever – or learn from somebody else.

No, there are certain things that happen at age eight that are best learned from Dad, Mom, Uncle Mike, Aunt Lori… and if they enjoy teaching you, even better!

It’s true at school, at work, and at church too. When people enjoy teaching others what they know, a meaningful spirit of community develops. I’m partial to church (have you noticed?), particularly the artists and talented sorts who call church “home”. This key unlocks mentoring no matter the building, but I believe it’s especially true in the Christian life, much of which includes church.

Can you celebrate another’s success?
If you can – if you will – you have in your hands one of THE most important keys to successful mentoring.

When your learner gets-it. When you see the light go on in that head of theirs. When their eyes brighten and they do it themselves and then look up at you for that smile that affirms, and you’re already there with enthusiasm and a good word, you’ve got it. If it’s not there yet, work at it. You’ll be amazed how quickly it catches fire and becomes a delight.

Take one more look at Luke 2:52. Sometimes we read it as a post-script to the Christmas story, but Jesus was twelve in this verse. Luke writes “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with god and men.” Do you suppose Joseph and Mary had anything to do with that? That prayer and worship and service were important in the home he grew up? That there were probably other adults who influenced and re-inforced their teaching? Do you think Joseph ever said “Here, Son, let me show you how to turn that table over without straining your back,” never thinking for a minute He’d one day need that skill in the Jerusalem temple?

Something to think about. Teach what you know to someone younger or less experienced and celebrate his or her success. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll love it. Totally love it.

2 Replies to “A Key to Successful Mentoring”

  1. annkroeker

    I’m not currently in a formal mentoring situation (other than parenting!), but your words are a great encouragement to those who are. Using the parenting analogy is so simple, but such a great reminder.

    When I was younger someone once reminded me regarding spiritual mentoring that even if the only verse I know is John 3:16, there may be somebody in my life who doesn’t yet know it. At the time, I laughed, hardly imagining somebody not knowing John 3:16. Since then, however, I’ve met many people both young and old who don’t. So it’s more than hypothetical for an illustration–it’s literal!

    Whatever you know is valuable to pass on to someone who doesn’t yet know it–whether knowledge or know-how.

    I do love that look of “getting it” lighting up my children’s faces. You’re right: I love it. Totally love it.

  2. Phil

    Hi Ann –

    Thanks for your good words. Lately I’ve been asking myself how much mentoring goes on without a stated protege/mentor dynamic.

    When one who knows takes the silent initiative to share with someone who’s interested, much can be accomplished even before the desire to know is in full bloom. Shane Weber wrote about how it happened with him in “Learning and Teaching” and I’m inclined to think a lot of mentoring can take place without the “protege” evening knowing what the word means! 😀 If we’re excited about celebrating another’s success, we’ll be inclined to share what we know just because we want to!

    When we all read the classic “Johnny Tremain” in Junior High School I was intrigued by the artisan/apprentice relationship described there, but it seems we stopped the official practice somewhere along the way, and only recently have decided to re-start it with new tags.

    Perhaps in the years between it was simply regarded as “responsibility”. Or maybe the industrial revolution changed the lenses society looked through or something and we lost sight of it for a while. Someday I should look into that, shouldn’t I?


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