Mentors teach emerging leaders to value knowledge. When a mentor acquires knowledge he is keen to pass it on to others. These are people who read a book and say, “I read this book and think it would be useful to you”. They are releasing information and resources to you. A mentor is a source of information who gives books, CDs, DVDs to his charge.
Mentors provide wisdom. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. A mentor applies the truth of the gospel or principles to life in a way that works and makes sense. Tolias was a zealous church pastor who almost destroyed his marriage through neglect as he focused on church work. His wife became bitter and resented the church. She was contemplating divorce. Due to these difficult marital challenges Tolias almost compromised his marital vows. After much prayer and discussion I counselled him to close down the church and focus on his family. When the church closed down I had an appointment with Tolias’ wife who narrated a harrowing tale of neglect and a sense of frustration. I met the former pastor and assisted him in handling the crisis. A year later I relocated but kept contact by e-mail. After about three years of languishing in the wilderness and working at his family issues, he made an international call to inform me that his marriage had been fully restored. In fact he was calling to let me know that his wife had proposed that they move their family some 800 km and be involved again in ministry. The application of wisdom saved his marriage and restored his ministry. Zeal puts career and ministry ahead of family. And yet the biblical record states that faithfulness in marriage and family qualifies a man for church leadership. How we often commit the error of transposition!
A mentor is not only a mirror but also a commentator. He provides a mirror for you to see who you are and then commends on it. Mentors provide an informed point of view. I see people seeking counsel from people who are ignorant about the context within which they are operating. Often people like that are looking for someone to endorse and justify what they have already set out to do. They do not want to go to people who know the context – who can give informed counsel. A mentor has to be someone who understands your business, or the context in which you are operating and can speak from an informed position. A corollary is that informed counsel will only be available if the mentor has been provided with true and accurate facts. Sometimes a mentor may need to seek confirming evidence to the story of the emerging champion before providing counsel.
Sam was a young man I had helped deal with past moral failures. Some four years after his rehabilitation, he called to inform me that he was facing charges of sodomy. He claimed that these charges were malicious and false. I was concerned because of the precedence of previous moral failure. I did not know whether to believe his assurances or not. I suspended judgement and told him that I would call him later. Since he was in another town, I called his pastor and discussed the issue with him. After some investigations I concluded that indeed this was a frivolous allegation. I called Sam a day later and informed him that I had done some background check on the facts and believed him. Initially he was incensed that I did not believe him and had to investigate issues. However I believe that to be able to give informed counsel to an emerging leader I need to be correctly informed and convinced of his situation. I supported him through a five month court case and gave counsel on how to handle the situation at work during that time. Eventually it was proven in court that the accuser was an extortionist whom he had refused to give in to. I have learned from previous mistakes that it is important to give informed counsel. Investigate the issues if possible. Do not be quick to provide comfort, support and counsel. You can easily become a partaker in another man’s sin. Get the facts. It is right and good for you and your mentoring partner. Get the facts right before you offer counsel.
Mentors can be viewed as coaches preparing their protégé to win the battles of life. They act as sounding boards providing the emerging leader with an opportunity to test ideas and intuitions before they become agendas and attitude. One of my fundamental principles is that once it appears to me that someone asking for counsel is already committed to a certain course, then I withhold counsel. Counsel should be sought before an emotional commitment to a certain course of action. Otherwise the protégé is no longer open to counsel.
Mentors nurture curiosity. They are door openers not door closers. There are some people who always close the door in your face. You say I want to do this, they say it won’t work. You say I am thinking of this, they say it won’t work. But mentors are possibility and option thinkers. They challenge you to explore the unexplored. They expand your imagination, rather than stifle it. Mentors learn to ask great questions.