I love mentoring students at Lincoln Christian University. Every year, I volunteer to lead a small group of young men called a “spiritual formation group.” I also lead a one-week off-campus missions trip each spring semester, which has allowed me to take groups of students to Poland, Mexico, Quebec, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago. But sometimes mentoring can be as easy as taking one or more of my students with me on a teaching or speaking engagement. Sacred conversations often happen in the car on the way to the event or on the way home afterward. I love teaching in the classroom, but I enjoy as much or more one-on-one mentoring outside the classroom. I am inspired every morning when I walk into my office and look at the world map on my wall: It is covered with the pictures of more than seventy former students who are serving God in more than twenty-five countries on six continents. When you pour yourself into others, the influence of your life multiplies.
I love mentoring younger students, but I recently became convicted of the truth that mentoring should go both ways in life. You need to pour into others, but you also need to be poured into. No matter your age, you should look for someone farther along the road in life who can give you advice and wisdom. Last year I asked an older professor friend named Bob Kurka to mentor me. During the fall semester, we would schedule time to each lunch together in the cafeteria and I would come up with a topic for the day. I asked questions about the topic and took notes on life wisdom he would share with me. Sadly, Bob passed on to his reward during the spring semester. I decided at that time to find another older mentor who could pour wisdom into my life. I am now sixty years old and recently I approached a seventy-year-old man who agreed to mentor me. I also made a personal vow to myself to always have an older mentor in my life until the day I die. I have come to realize that you can also be mentored by people who have gone on before us when you read what they have written. I am working to read every book ever written by E. Stanley Jones and by Henri Nouwen, both of whom are powerful mentors in my life.
If you have a special skill of some kind, look for someone who wants to be trained in its use. Mentoring and training can be as simple as four easy steps: (1) You do it while they watch, (2) you do it while they help, (3) they do it while you help, and (4) they do it while you watch. You can teach someone how to do anything, from tying a shoe to public speaking, using this approach.
One of the Church’s weakest areas today is also one of its main purposes—making disciples. Making converts or church members is easy, but making disciples is another thing entirely. We sometimes do well at the first part of the great commission—baptizing—but we need to improve on the second part: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded them.” Baptism, being a new birth, is only the beginning, not the end. We mentor and disciple people who can mentor and disciple others.
REFLECTIONS: Are you pouring your life wisdom into anyone younger? If not, ask the Lord to show you someone younger who you can approach about a possible mentoring relationship. Is there someone older than you in your life who is pouring their life wisdom into you? If not, ask the Lord to show you someone older who you can approach about a possible mentoring relationship. Do you have a specific skill that you can teach to someone else?
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.