Life-Giving Mentors

By Major Clarence Bradbury, D.Min.

Mentoring is in (again!).  Throughout society there is a movement toward mentoring, with resources widely promoted for education, commerce and community organizations.

What is Mentoring? Mentoring is actually God’s idea.  Although the term may be new to some, the concept is ageless. Mentoring is God’s way for us to lift one another toward our full potential. It’s a ministry of coming alongside another for support and guidance. The models we see in scripture are given for our learning and application. Jethro and Moses, Eli and Samuel, Mordecai and Esther, Naomi and Ruth, Deborah and Barak, David and Jonathan, Elishah and Elijah, all modeled mentoring relationships before the word first appeared in Greek literature.  Mentoring practices abound in the New Testament.  Most obvious in the early church were those of Paul and his entourage – Barnabas, Timothy, Luke, Silas, Titus, John Mark, Onesimus, to name a few.  Paul wrote a command to believers, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9). As long as our mentors are walking with Christ, it is biblical to build trust and accountability with peers and leaders who stimulate our spiritual development. The life-stories of Jesus glue the New Testament together. God sent His Son to be our Savior and our supreme model. Jesus was and still is the Master mentor. For three years He never ceased to teach and model a life worth copying. Scripture says, “He ordained twelve that they should be with him . . .” (Mark 3:14).He shaped His followers by being with them and sharing their lives. Then He sent them forth to preachafter schooling them in ministry and imparting His vision. The mentoring method of Jesus was life on life. This continued to be the practice of the early Church, and it is an essential element of disciple-making in our day.

Why Mentoring? In schools across the country we see a 40% attrition rate among teachers in their first five years. Many new teachers cite the feelings of isolation and lack of support as critical factors in their decision to leave.  Mentoring for teachers is a growing practice to help lower the departure rate.  While attrition among Salvation Army officers in this territory is lower than what we see among teachers, we do have reason to be concerned.  On a territorial survey, only 15% of officers report that they have a regular base of support and accountability.  Feeling isolated and vulnerable at times, they could benefit greatly from a mentoring connection. Who needs mentoring more than families? Parents are frontline leaders in mentoring their children, especially in the formative grade school years. Every outlay of precious resources – especially time – in those early years will yield a handsome return … eventually.  Never shall I forget the lessons learned from my master-mentor mother.  She was keen to spot teachable moments to transfer home-spun wisdom acquired from years of living, while trusting and serving the Lord. Mentoring builds identity, esteem and confidence.  Consider the coach/player relationship in organized sports.  Our 9-year-old grandson Josiah has just commenced football.  Returning home from his first practice, he called me with this report; “My coach told me I am one of the top beginners he has ever had on his team!” Distractible as this curious youngster may be, he’s been snagged by encouragement from someone he has reason to trust. May this coach’s tribe increase, on and off the playing fields of America!

“My coach told me I am one of the top beginners he has ever had on his team!”

Who can Mentor? Richard Tyre wrote, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, a push in the right direction”.  By this definition, almost anyone can be a mentor – a relative, a teacher, a coach, even a “chance” friend whom God sends our way. There are many different kinds of mentors and God can use them all to touch our lives. Mentoring can make a positive impact in your corps.

Where can I Start? In the Southern Territory, several officers are available to teach “The Mentoring Connection” in a local, regional or divisional setting.  Coordinated through the Jack McDowell School for Leadership Development in Atlanta, this half-day training focuses on ten mentoring practices of Jesus.  It also provides practical resources to build confidence for a ministry of mentoring.  This tool can help us focus the priorities of our corps and territory during the coming year.  Workshops may be scheduled through your Divisional Headquarters.  For information, e-mail the SLD at ebc_sld@uss.salvationarmy.org or call us at 404 756-2468.

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