Maybe it’s just an Irish idea, but if someone helps you and so makes it possible for you to take the next step up the ladder in any area of life, whether that be in education, business or the Christian journey, it seems the most natural thing in the world to do the same for others. And so I guess that was how I started encouraging others and spending time with them helping to grow and mature their faith. Part of the problem in my case was very simple – the fact that, having been brought up in a fairly strict church and Sunday school, my faith began as a way of escaping hell.
Later on I discovered that this way of thinking leaves out a vital part of the message: that Christ not only died to save me but chose to live His life through me. Having come to this realisation, I greatly appreciated having someone to walk with me in this journey, someone who mentored me. Being honest, I thought it was quite natural once I knew this, to share it with other young Christians so that they didn’t make the same mistakes I made. So, when a friend came to Christ, I started meeting with him in his home each Sunday night on a 10-week Operation Timothy programme after church. This began a change in his lifestyle and also his family, as his wife would sit in the corner knitting as we spoke. Before the 10 weeks were up, she got converted and in the next year both his teenagers got saved. Almost 30 years later, this man led his Dad to Christ a few weeks before he died.
I guess in those days, as now, I was learning to help people realise the wonder of the Good News and trust God to use me to help them. As we encourage our mentees into the discipline of spending time daily in the morning with God, reading His Word, praying and hearing from Him, I have found that the Holy Spirit then takes over and we leave the results to Him. My job is simply to share Jesus and walk with them – the results are with God.
If I were challenging potential mentors I would ask them these two questions. Firstly do you have a biblical message that continues to be real in your life and so challenges you, that you want to share it with others? Secondly are you willing to invest time in the lives of others consistently even when progress is slow? (I guess the biggest investment in mentoring is your time – this will demand sacrifice on your part.)
Mentoring can take many forms and what follows are a few lessons I have learned over the years:
1. Consider it an honour and not a duty to invest in another. Helping a young person to grow in their faith and walk with God is time well spent!
2. Set goals early in the journey together so that both parties see there is change/development happening. This also helps with commitment from the mentee.
3. Using a manual or book can be very helpful and will bring structure to your meetings. However, one of the keys also has got to be developing a hunger for reading the Bible and building a personal value system based on the Scripture.
4. I find it is helpful after a few meetings, to encourage the mentee to begin a prayer diary and learns to pray out loud with you. This can be a great breakthrough for mentees.
5. Encourage the mentee to keep a personal journal, maybe just a few lines each day or every few days, to note what they are learning and what God is saying to them.
6. Encourage spending time with the Lord each morning. From my experience those who do a morning quiet time survive much better and grow deeper.
I think one of the immense joys of mentoring is to take a long term perspective. As I look back over the last 40 years and see some of the young men and women who I have invited into my life I am thrilled to see the change that has happened in their lives and how they have in turn passed it on to others. Yes, sometimes there are disappointments, but as we discover ‘failure is never final’ in the Christian life. Sometimes prodigals can turn out to be our most exciting mentees as we see God break through in their lives. Our job is to keep loving and praying, it is God’s job to change hearts.
Mentoring is not the most glamorous of roles but I have found it to be very fruitful and rewarding. I’m glad the Lord gave me a passion to be involved, for 40 plus years, as I fulfilled my calling as a mentor in faith and business.
Chairman of Lynas Food Service