The Value of Life-on-Life Mentoring
Written by Anthony Mullins, National Coordinator for pastoral residents. interns and coaching.
Have you ever had a parent, teacher, coach, pastor or mentor tell you something you did not want to hear, but you knew you needed to hear? I mean the kind of words that hit you like a truck in the immediacy of the moment and yet somehow those words are strangely life-giving. I suspect most of us have and we are better for it. Sometimes the most profound learnings in our life are embedded in challenging words from someone we respect and admire.
“I want to involve you in church leadership, but until you consistently show up, I can’t and won’t.” Those words were spoken to me by Tom Mahan, then GCI pastor in Kennesaw, Georgia. Most importantly for the purposes of this article, he was a significant mentor in that season of my life. Those words stung because he was “calling up” something better from me. His words were like a mirror revealing an area of needed growth in my life as a disciple of Jesus. (Link to Calling Up article in Equipper archives.)
In my twenties, I was employed as a sales representative by a national event-planning company requiring extensive travel. Most years, while at that particular firm, I would travel out-of-state upwards of thirty weeks per year, which often included Sundays. My presence at the weekly worship service was erratic at best. In those days, Pastor Tom recognized the Lord had given me an ability to connect well with young people. He expressed a desire for me to lead the fledgling youth ministry in our church and he knew I had a keen interest in teaching and discipling teenagers. There was just one problem—my lack of presence, availability and commitment to the cause. My mentor had an important decision to make. He could simply acquiesce to the situation or he could bring appropriate challenge to this teaching moment. For my benefit and growth, he chose the latter.
My personal experience tells me bringing challenge only hits the mark if first there is a relationship of trust. Trust is built over time together and through a lot of relationship. In that way, a relationship of trust resembles a Crock-Pot instead of a microwave. It’s a slow-burn rather than a quick fix. Therein lies the beauty of a mentoring relationship. Mentoring, done well, is a life-on-life relationship girded by Christ’s love for one another. My relationship with Tom looked like sharing meals together, watching football together, talking about church life and leadership together, discussing theology and what it meant to be Christ-centered in all things, and praying together. Because of that relationship of trust, Tom was present to celebrate some of the sweetest moments in my life and to mourn with me in the face of heartache and perceived failure. Tom mentored through the lens of a great life mantra: care about what people you care about, care about.
As a pastor and ministry leader in Grace Communion International, I am standing on the shoulders of giants who took the time and effort to mentor me well. The challenge Tom brought me that day was a catalyst for change in my life. It helped me see the importance of showing up in lives of people in my community of faith. Soon thereafter, I made an intentional job change to be more available to what the Lord was doing in the life of our church. The Father was at work in the “calling up” to draw me into a deeper abiding relationship with Jesus and more active participation in his ministry by his Spirit. I am forever grateful for those courageous words of challenge from a mentor and friend.
You have what it takes to be a good mentor: time and the compelling love of Jesus Christ.
The best use of your life is love.
The best way to express love is giving your time.
The best time to love is now. – Anthony Mullins