The Impact of Mentoring: What Legacy Will You Leave Behind?
How does one describe mentoring? In Christian education, one might consider words such as: facilitating, leading, tutoring and teaching. Another area that should not go unnoticed is that of nurturing. “The mentor serves to guide, nurture, protect, and facilitate the learning of one under her or his tutelage” (Anthony 2001, 460). Nurturing not only considers teaching and caring for others, but contributes to the mentee’s growth and development in faith and service.
The majority of my Christian life has been spent mentoring and discipling others through Christian education and leadership. Scripture is the foundation for this calling. One scripture in particular resonates with me, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:13-16 NIV). It is clear to me that mentoring is practical ministry. It is the passing of the baton to others, such as Paul did for Timothy. We must be devoted to it, watch our own doctrine and theology, and be diligent in the process.
Devotion to Christ and to others is part of the mentoring process. That call of devotion came to me at a young age and since that time God has placed me in situations that provided opportunities to shape others in their Christian faith and service through the process of mentoring. By the time I was 16, I was preaching and teaching others. Two women pastors mentored me in Christian education and leadership. Throughout Bible college and seminary, I was mentored in scripture, Christian life, and how that faith can impact others, as well as receiving my academic degrees. One kind of mentoring was formal (college and seminary) and the other was non-formal (early years).
Mentoring can be accomplished through non-formal teaching as well as formal teaching. Formal teaching is found in the classroom with curriculum and a structure for education. “Nonformal education is especially suited to the mission of Christian educators, whose task it is to equip persons to use their gifts and talents to minister to other people” (Newton 2001, 506). Non-formal teaching is “highly functional, change-oriented, and learner-driven” (Newton 2001, 506). Non-formal teaching is Christ’s model.
Looking at Christ’s life, we can see multiple incidences of non-formal teaching: on a mountain teaching the crowds (Matt. 5:1), on a boat with the disciples (Matt. 8:18-27), at the well with a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26), and with the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-31). In each instance, Christ considered the learner and yet challenged each for change. The two women pastors, Sister Opal Eckert and Sister Mary Slaughterbeck, were mentors to me in my early faith and life, much of it through non-formal teaching. I was shaped for living my life for Christ and fulfilling the purpose He had for my life. These women had devotion for Christ and for a young girl seeking to understand her walk with Christ.
As a mentor, we not only need to have Devotion to Christ and the mentoring process, but to have correct Doctrine, which is connected to the task of teaching. What we believe about theology and doctrine affects our teaching. It is a foundation of teaching. If we do not understand truth, then how can we teach truth? If the truth is not in us, then how can we share truth? Doctrine, theology and Christian education have been linked together for many years. It is part of our historical legacy through other Christian educators. “Scripture is the primary lens through which the Christian educator perceives and prescribes the character of education in the church” (Estep 2008, 44). “Christian education is a theological discipline – a work to be rooted deeply in and derived squarely from theological concepts and biblical truths” (Zuck 1998, ix). Our doctrine is foundational, that we might present truth to those who are listening. The task of doctrine and theology is not only for the pastor, but also for the teacher.
After Devotion and Doctrine, we must consider Diligence of mentoring. We must be diligent in our mentoring of others, strategic in the process, and begin with prayer. Ask God for the opportunity of mentoring. From my perspective, I have sensed for some years that God has wanted me to mentor others in ministry. I did not know how that would come about, but through teaching at the seminary, ministry mentoring opportunities have
A question to consider is, What legacy do you want to leave behind? The legacy to leave behind is our impact upon others and for me that is through teaching and nurturing others in leadership and Christian education. Much of the ministry into which God has placed me resembles the verse found in Jeremiah 1:10, “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant (NIV).” Through situations of tearing down the spiritual strongholds and destroying what the enemy has laid in the path of others; there comes a building and planting in which we have opportunity to build others for His Kingdom and to plant seeds of hope, healing, and preparation for a future built
The Results of Mentoring
At seminary, I have had the experience of mentoring with several students. Carrie Hudson, our Coordinator of Academic Support Services graduated from ATS and returned to consider another degree. Along the way, God has allowed a teaching and nurturing relationship to develop between us. Carrie shared, “God has used the gift of mentorship in my life in tremendous ways with a variety of different people from various walks of life. One thing that is crystal clear to me is that the experience of being mentored must be shared with others through a willingness to bestow that same gift to the people God places in your life.” Carrie instructs our Cleveland IT500 hybrid course. She is mentoring students to be successful in their seminary education. Mentoring is a continual action with a baton being passed from one person to another.
This same continual action of mentoring is shown through Karen Drennen, who will graduate this June with her MAPT in Christian Formation. She hopes to begin her PhD program in fall 2012. Karen will teach the IT501 online courses beginning this summer, after serving a year as a small group leader. She is a second career student, following a nursing career. She has a heart for Christian Formation and teaching others. She commented, “Having a strong diligent mentor has enhanced my seminary experience, and indirectly helped me clarify my calling to the teaching ministry.” Mentoring is coming alongside of the mentee and sharing life, calling, vision, and purpose. It is a living organism that continues to breathe life unto others, assisting them to find their purpose
We want to leave a legacy that builds upon what Christ is already doing within others. Through teaching and nurturing others, we share our Devotion to Christ; we share our Doctrine and theology; and we have Diligence for the task and the race ahead. It takes time to build relationships and to discuss ministry, leadership, and Christian education/formation, but it is time well spent, because it is the legacy that we leave behind for the next generation of teachers. “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Tim. 1:13-14, NIV). Then as a good mentor, pass the baton to the next person.