Mentoring Made Simple

Margaret was ten years old when a woman in her 30’s decided to start investing herself in young girls. There was no magic curriculum, no overly-structured strategy, just an authentic woman who loved Jesus and chose to love the girl that would one day become my wife.

Two weeks ago Margaret and I attended the 80th birthday party for that mentor. We would not have missed it for the world. Her children and grandchildren made her proud and the dozens of guests made it a success. But what struck me was the impact of Lenita’s life expressed through so many people to whom she had given herself. Margaret was not the only one. A handful of no longer young girls were present to honor the woman who helped them learn to be good mothers and deeper lovers of Jesus because Lenita chose to invest in them.

Margaret and Lenita on her 80th

When we walked up to the house, I watched Margaret sign into the guestbook. “Dear Lenita, you are my longest standing friend.”

It’s funny. Margaret didn’t write about the structure of their mentoring relationship, or the books they studied, or anything remotely complicated. What matters most is the depth and authenticity and consistency of Lenita’s friendship.

You see, I find that we get all twisted up over the notions of mentoring because of some funky ideas that mentoring is about structure or curriculum or Yoda-Like super-wisdom. In reality mentoring is about sharing your life, your experiences, and your perspective when needed. It is more about walking together over the long haul then solving a urgent problem in a perfect way.

Yes, there are multiple ways for mentoring relationships to work well. J. Robert Clinton and Paul Stanley did an excellent job looking at nine different types of mentoring relationships in their book, *Connecting*. However, the vast majority of mentoring is as simple as a relationship between one person who chooses to make his or her life available and another person who admits they have a need.

I like to keep it simple. I am responsible for my own mentoring. If I have something to offer, it is my responsibility to offer it. If I have a need, it is my responsibility to look for someone to help me. I don’t expect anyone to read my mind, I own responsibility for the mentoring I need.

So, let’s cut through the red tape. Who are you pouring your life into? What do you have to offer and who do you know that might need it? What are the areas of personal development you need to work on? Pick up the phone. Schedule a coffee. Do whatever it takes to get off the dime. Start asking questions and start sharing your life. Perhaps one day at your 80th birthday you’ll have someone sign your guestbook whose life was changed forever.

As the husband of a woman who’s life was marked forever, thank you Lenita.



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Your Thoughts? Your Mentoring Experiences?


the illusion of mentoring

Gandalf…Dumbledore…Yoda… fictional icons of wisdom and in the minds of many the epitome of the perfect mentors.  The only thing is, they aren’t real. They are part of the fiction that actually inhibits mentoring.

It seems that we are collectively waking up to the power of mentoring these days, however at the same time, behind this momentum at least two illusions sabotage access to mentoring for most people.

The first illusion is the romanticized notion that mentoring relationships should be dramatic experiences of breakthrough replete with fireworks in the sky and a soundtrack in the background. It is as if we expect mentoring to feel like semi-magical encounters with an all-knowing guru. However, real mentoring feels pretty mundane most of the time.

The second illusion actually discourages people who are in the game. Most days, the real experience of mentoring feels more like the simple exchange of friends over a cup of coffee than a lightning bolt of earth-shaking insight. At any given moment in a mentoring relationship, the conversations feel small, slow, incrementally laborious…anything but glamorous.

This second illusion is the subtle deceit which makes people doubt the value of the time they are spending together. It is the lie that these mundane and incremental conversations are unremarkable. The opposite is actually the truth. The remarkable impact of mentoring is not in the drama of a single moment, but in the cumulative impact of one person sharing their life and their experience with another over time.

The reality behind the illusions of mentoring, is that the small non-glamorous interactions between mentor and “mentoree” add up to life-changing influence over time. Operating under the radar, mentoring can actually change the world, one life at a time.

And that is my point. If you can let go of the grandiose guru-like or overly structured academic notions of mentoring, you will see that there are scores of people around you who might help you with the growth, challenges, or possibilities you are facing. Seek them out for a simple conversation where you learn from their insight and experience.

Let go of the fanciful notions of mentoring and you will discover that you have scores of life experience and insight that might serve people around you as well.

Who could you share your life with?
And, who could help you with the things you face?