There is no one-size-fits-all technique for mentoring. So don’t try to squeeze yourself into a mold of how others mentor. Be open to discovering the ways the Spirit has uniquely wired you to pay attention and companion others.
That said, there is much we can learn from other wise people who have walked well with others. VantagePoint3’s founder Randy Reese is one of those wise friends in my life from whom I learned much over the years.
A couple of years before his sudden passing six years ago I asked him on a webinar, As a mentor or spiritual friend to many, Randy, are there certain things you listen for along the way?
Randy responded with these seven things:
Who have been helpful or hurtful people in their story?
Stories they talk about that surface an unusual amount of emotion in them. All of a sudden you notice they really spiked in anger, or happiness, or sadness.
Stories that cause a person to light up or bring joy. When they start talking about certain things, people, situations, topics, their face lights up.
Stories of perceived successes, failures, and struggle. Pay attention to when they share those stories. Ask a follow-up question.
How they understand their relationship with God now. It’s such a simple question to ask, “Tell me about your relationship with God right now.” And hear what they have to say.
Pay attention to what seems to be defining them now. How do you understand who you are right now? They will give you a lot of free information.
Ask the magic wand question. If you could wave your magic wand, what would you love to do or how would you make things different or how would you like to see things turn out? This is a great question to ask, but it can also surface many other things we may want to explore further.
I am curious with you, What are those key things YOU pay attention to when you listen to another person?
There is such a great diversity of effective mentors and spiritual companions. For this reason, it is important for us to remember those from whom we have received this mentoring attention. What did your mentors seem to pay attention to?
And it is important for us to discover the unique ways we are hooked up to companion others for their growth. Over this next season of life, I would invite you to be open to God’s nudging in your life. How is the Spirit shaping and equipping you to be a blessing to others as you walk with them?
We have two opportunities this fall to deepen your confidence as a spiritual companion or mentor.
I have been inspired recently by Emily P. Freeman’s words when she writes,
“I have a vision of a generation of believers who understand that the goal of life is Jesus and all the ways he wants to offer himself both to us and through us to the world.”
Yes, yes, yes!
Beginning with Jesus’ earliest words to the men and women who would become his disciples, “Follow me,” Christianity has understood itself to be a faith imparted by one to another. For in Jesus we discover not only a worthy model for the journey but also an intimate invitation to a life together. Jesus reaches out by his Spirit, speaking and sharing his stunning life with us.
Over the last couple of months leading to Easter, I have been offering reflections upon Jesus’ distinctive way of being with others. One could even call it his mentoring way. He continues by his Spirit to develop his followers in this same mentoring way today, life upon life.
We have put these short reflections into an easily accessible and downloadable format:
Take a look and ponder: Where might Jesus be inviting you to a deeper relational life with himself and with others?
A few years ago I stumbled across a journal entry of Henri Nouwen; and as so often before, his words deeply resonated with my heart. Nouwen wrote,
“I have come to realize how hard it is to have a real spiritual conversation. I keep wondering how people with deep religious convictions can speak together at table about the life of the Spirit…. It always strikes me how grateful people are for a good spiritual conversation, but also how hard it is to make such a conversation happen.”
In the circles in which I move, I sense a longing among people for better conversations, more soulish conversations, conversations around the big questions and wonderings of their lives. And yet, despite all this longing, people confess a reluctance, or perhaps inability, to initiate such spiritual conversations. Why is this and what can we, who feel such things, do about it?
From youth soccer sidelines or neighborhood chit chat to informal dinner conversations to small group Bible Studies or mentoring appointments, how can we deepen our conversations?
To begin with, I want to invite you to watch our webinar Jump Starts for Intentional Spiritual Conversations, in which we dove into this set of questions.
In preparation for this time, I found myself deeply affirming that the quality of conversation we offer others is inextricably tied to the quality of attention we provide others. How then can we grow in an attentiveness that leads to cultivating more meaningful spiritual conversation?
Three initial thoughts come to mind, growing edges of sorts, for those of us who long for better spiritual companionship and conversation. Read More
Shortly after Randy had become a follower of Jesus, he met Warren, a successful farmer who had the biggest farming equipment Randy had ever seen. If you come from a farming community, it was the kind of equipment you wish you had the opportunity to play with. Warren was also a big man, the kind you would be glad to have on your side if need be.
While Warren worked the fields with his Versatile 875 tractor, Randy would come out to have coffee with him. The conversations always turned to how each was doing in their walk with the Lord, and what might be hindering their walk. Even in the everyday ordinariness of life—riding a tractor in this typical farming community of Yorkton, Saskatchewan—amidst the hilarious laughter, and at times through swelling tears, in their midst they discovered God.
Although Warren did not have a seminary degree, and even though he didn’t go to the latest mentoring seminar, he had an intuitive way of making space for Randy’s life. He asked the right questions—questions that probed, allowing Randy to discover the Spirit’s leading. Through Warren and these conversations, Randy came to see himself truly—and he discovered how his life might be used to serve God in the future. But, more than that, through Warren’s companionship, Randy experienced the real and present love of God. Read More
God has ordained things that we grow in faith only through the frail instrumentality of one another.
St. John of the Cross
Our growth in Christ does not occur in isolation; it takes place within the company of others who provide presence and perspective along the journey.
One specific form of being “in the company of others” is called spiritual mentoring; that is, a relationship between two or more people and the Holy Spirit where we can discover who God is, who we are, and what God desires to do through us.
Finding a spiritual mentor or even being a spiritual mentor has been a proven way over the years of discovering more of what this life with God is all about.
Craig had never thought about mentoring before. It was during his facilitator training retreat for The Journey that he first heard about walking with another person in an intentional spiritual friendship. “The more I thought about what I’ve read in the Scriptures,” Craig, 63, said, “it seemed to me that mentoring relationships have been lost in the church for decades.” Read More
God is already up to something good…
Helping others grow up into Christ rests on an understanding and conviction that the primary shaping work in a person’s life belongs to God. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). Our burden as people, and as mentors in particular, is to first be alert and receptive to God’s relentlessly creative handiwork in the world. All our best thinking and acting, listening and asking questions and praying, is secondary to and cooperative with the Spirit’s work.
This is such good news for us. Read More
What is required to be a mentor or a spiritual friend to another?
Many times we overcomplicate this question. For one reason or another, we tell ourselves, I simply don’t have what it takes.
I have found over and again that these four questions below have a way of orienting our hearts around what is required to walk well with others.
Allow these questions to ready your heart:
- Am I willing to listen? Listening is fundamental to building trust in the relationship. By listening attentively to one another we remind each other that our lives profoundly matter.
The third practice for a friend or mentor to walk well with others is prayerfulness.
Prayer in this mentoring context is about cultivating a deep trust in the loving movement of God in the life of another. As mentors or friends, we pay attention to the everyday life of others, helping them identify and see what is already in play and at work. Amidst the comings and goings of work and school, amidst the meals and chores, amidst the anxieties and arguments and joys of family and community, we become what Barbara Brown Taylor calls “detectives of divinity.”
Three primary practices shape walking well with others as a friend or a mentor. Last week I addressed the practice of listening, this week question-asking, and next week prayerfulness.
Three primary practices give shape to walking well with others as a friend or a mentor: listening, question-asking, and prayer. My reflections in this blog series are adapted from our VP3 resource entitled, A Mentoring Guide: Christ • Conversation • Companionship. I highly recommend it.