It’s been a few years since I started mentoring younger guys.
To be honest, what I was really doing at the outset was a lot more
clueless unstructured. I was simply having conversations.
And yes, mentoring will involve conversations, but I’ve come to learn along the way that it’s also about a little more than that.
My definition right now? Mentoring is helping someone get somewhere you’ve already gone. You have to be a “过来人”, someone’s who been there and done that.
Of course, bear in mind that I’m no Edmund Chan – these three really simple things I’ve learnt as a mentor will just help you avoid the mistakes I made along the way!
1. MAKE TIME
This is a simple one but you’d be surprised. At times, I’ve found that our connected world has made communication even more difficult.
Think about WhatsApp or Telegram for example: It’s easy to think that as long as I don’t open that message and read it, I don’t have to deal with it.
Out of sight, out of mind.
But when you take on the role of a mentor, that sort of mindset doesn’t fly anymore.
You have to accept the fact that there are now people under you. And because you’re responsible for him or her, you now have to consciously decide what is important to you. You assign value to what you’ve decided is important and act accordingly.
So in a very real sense, for starters, that means simply making time to meet. You might need to intentionally schedule a time slot with your mentee every month (perhaps right after every session).
It means making time to respond. You might need to set ground rules for yourself and your mentee, maybe something like “I promise to always reply in under 48 hours, no exceptions”.
The heart behind it isn’t legality, but fostering meaningful engagement. And that’s something that just doesn’t happen without intentionality and effort from both sides.
2. DON’T RUSH TO FIX
Guys really do like to fix things. I can certainly testify – I hear someone share a problem and the instinctive thing for me is to offer advice.
There have often been times when I’ve just heard someone out with the intention of quickly offering a solution.
But when I really reflect after I dole out the advice, I find that I sometimes did so out of impatience rather than a true desire to help.
It’s like my own mentor said to me just last night: “There’s a difference between hearing, and hearing to understand.”
It’s humbling to realise that we cannot solve every problem we hear.
I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s better to just hold a space and hear someone out. It’s humbling to realise that we cannot solve every problem we hear.
And if that’s true, then what your mentee needs sometimes, is simply a listening ear.
In fact, I’ve found at times that they already have the solution from God!
All they need from you then, is someone to bounce their thoughts off, someone to help them keep coming back to the God-oriented solution already planted there by the Holy Spirit.
So let’s be quick to listen first. Then when we speak into our mentees’ lives, let’s give words of quality, which brings me to my next point.
3. GIVE OF WHAT YOU HAVE
To be honest, more often than not, I often catch myself just sharing out of my own wisdom. And it’s so easy to lapse into that, especially when you know all the model answers.
What’s the better way? I think there are two main ones.
The first, is spending time with God first. What does God want to say to your mentee, through you? That really sums up a lot of what a mentor’s main role is.
We need to first be refreshed by God before we can do the same for others. The consequences of not doing so are in fact, disastrous.
The second: get a mentor. All of us could use a mentor for some aspect of our lives. It’s just how it is. No one is the finished product.
When you’re also in another mentoring relationship of your own, one of the positive side effects is that it keeps you humble and it keeps you empathetic.
What you really should be aiming for is to stay sharpened and hungry by those above you, so that you’re constantly growing and constantly in the state of wanting to pass that on to those under you.
I hope that after you’ve peeped these tips, you don’t feel like the bar’s been raised and that you can’t be a mentor. I don’t mean to overcomplicate things.
Mentoring can have many forms. It can be issue-based, like how to relate well to the opposite sex. Or it might be a specific skill, such as leading a cell group.
It can be done in a variety of ways, like going through a Christian book together, having intentional and regular conversations – even in a group setting! Whatever’s the best fit.
Whether it’s in an “official” mentor role or not, I think we should learn to take responsibility of the generations underneath us, and begin to steward our time so that we can give of ourselves and what we’ve learnt in our encounters and journeys with God to them.
Mentoring is helping someone get somewhere you’ve already gone.
I look back on myself when I was at these guys’ age, and I just want to be that someone for them whom I didn’t have. And for a younger person, that makes all the difference.
So don’t shortchange yourself. Talk to God about who the younger people in your life might be, and see what avenues and opportunities there are to impart and share what God is pouring into your own life.
Then keep pouring out into the lives of others. That’s what we do, receive and pour, receive and pour.
- How has being in a mentoring relationship helped you to grow?
- How intentional have you been in your mentoring relationships?
- Is there an area you think you could mentor someone in? Who might you be able to reach out to today?