learn to be a mentor

I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place.

Rufus Jones (1863-1948)

Adults need a space and place to move deeply into their own experience and grow in the light of Jesus and his way in the world. Simply telling others where they must go or what they must do won’t cut it. Our mentoring tables need to be set for unhurried conversation.

Dialogue is a critical gift. The back-and-forth conversational work of listening and question asking, reflection, clarification, and discernment are necessary for development and maturity. Too often, educators or developers of others focus on the presentation or the performance—the monologue—without majoring in the hard work of cultivating dialogue. 

Most of us yearn for more than the chitchat prompted by the fill-in-the-blank small group questions. We long for meaningful conversation around the biggest questions of our lives. We want to candidly ask others whether they think the dreams and hopes we carry within us are of the Spirit or not. 

It is a small yet powerful matter—our ability to talk and listen—to use words and silence well with each other. Margaret Wheatley shared a lesson she learned from a friend and colleague, Juanita Brown. 

Juanita taught me that all change, even powerful change, begins when a few people start talking with one another about something they care about. Simple conversations, held at kitchen tables or leaning against doorways, are a powerful means to start influencing and changing our world.

Around the VP3 offices, we have borrowed a phrase somewhere along the way— “conversation creates culture.” People who have experienced the power of dialogue listen and talk, even see differently. They trust the fruitfulness of the Spirit’s “behind the scenes” work when two or three people are gathered in Jesus’ name to discuss and ask questions and listen and pray about deep concerns in their community.

If our spiritual development is to move beyond a heady exercise and become a place where our faith is personalized and owned, we leaders and mentors must place a high value upon practicing the art of dialogue.

May we learn to use words and silence well with each other, in Jesus’ name. 

Conversation at its best is never just talking; it is how we kindle imagination and gain the courage to take action together. Through conversation, we learn to integrate the force of love into our daily lives and discover what it means to seek the reign of God in our time. 

Mark Scandrette