I am a big believer in mentoring. I know that sounds cliche because mentoring has become a bit of a buzz word lately — in the business world, academic world and church/spiritual world. But don’t let that dissuade you from getting a mentor and getting mentored.
I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken with a young guy or girl, fresh on their career and life path, bemoan that no one would mentor them. But who is primarily responsible for making sure young people are mentored well? I think it is the young person seeking mentoring. I think we must seek out and invite people to mentor us.
Here are some very practical thoughts and tips on the mentoring process…
In no particular order:
If you want to have a good mentoring relationship, you have to kill Yoda. Often when talking about mentoring, our mindset is to find a Jedi Master like Yoda who can become our personal life coach in all things. This is both unrealistic and unhealthy. Instead, find people who can help you in specific areas. I have a different person mentor me in finances than in spiritual growth, for example. Don’t look for Yoda because you will never find him.
The responsibility to initiate and sustain the mentoring relationship is primarily with the mentee, not mentor. You should go to a person you would like to mentor you and ask them specifically. And be sure to let them know that you are not asking them to be your Yoda. For example, I remember going to a guy and asking him to mentor me in a very specific area. I asked if he would meet with me once a month for six months for one hour. He said yes to that. He also told me that he almost never says yes to mentoring requests because most people don’t know what they are asking for or want some kind of open-ended undefined relationship. The truth is that most people who you would want to mentor you are already too busy and committed — be specific with them, initiate with them, and then show up prepared when you meet with them.
Everyone should have mentors and be a mentor. Do not ask someone to mentor you unless you are already mentoring someone.
Or, in other words, have lots of mentors. Again, I have people who mentor me in finances, spiritual growth, career growth, relationships, buying a car, etc, etc — all different people.
We need to broaden our understanding of mentors. Some are people I meet with or talk with regularly, but others I will never meet — or are dead. For example, St. Ignatius (who has been dead a long time) mentors me in areas of discernment and vocation. John Ortberg, who I have only met a few times, mentors me on preaching and discipleship through his books, sermons, workshops, etc. Bill Hybels mentors me on leadership and Nelson Searcy mentors me on organizational systems. Finance? Dave Ramsey — i just do what he says and it works. Culinary? Charlie Trotter (whom I have never met), Auguste Escoffier (dead for a long time), and Brother Lawrence — a 1600′s monk who was also a cook. But I also have mentors I meet with and know. Some are older, some are peers. And I have people I mentor in different areas. You need all of these!
Wherever you find them, you need to find people who are ahead of where you are, who you respect their wisdom and insight and maturity. When you find them, ask them to lunch (you pay) and have a list of 3-4 questions that you want to talk about. After you meet, if there is good chemistry, ask them if they would be willing to meet and talk regularly. Then go from there.
Ben Dubow is an ordained minister through the Next Leadership Association and served in full time vocational ministry for over a decade, as a pastor, church planter and Young Life staff member. His last church position was as lead pastor of St. Paul’s Collegiate Church in Storrs, CT. He is currently ministering through the workplace as a full-time chef while also preaching and serving at his home church, Riverfront Family Church in Hartford CT. Ben is also President of the Board for the Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC Charities, Inc), a ministry that includes an emergency homeless shelter, community pantry, and advocacy/case management for the under-resourced in the Great Manchester, CT area.
In addition to cooking, Ben continues to speak and consult for churches and non-profit organizations with a focus on leadership and organizational development. He is available as a speaker for both church and corporate events and retreats.