As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
In the U.S. starting in 1991, Promise Keepers was a Christian men’s movement that hit its height in the mid-1990’s. It still exists today (https://promisekeepers.org). It had a profound impact on those who attended the events which were usually conducted in large stadiums capable of seating 50,000 or more in cities around the country. The organizers of Promise Keepers realized a little late that they had not planned for a strategic follow-up. The events got men excited about God, but once the event was over, many who attended lost their excitement and really missed growing in their faith walk. I attended one of the events with my eldest son in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1990’s, and can confirm that they created a remarkable lineup of outstanding speakers and music. Men came from the events with a mountain top experience but soon returned to the valleys of their lives without much having changed.
As a result, Promise Keepers started to create books and other resources to fill in the post-event void. One such resources was a book written by Howard Hendricks and his son, Bill, entitled As Iron Sharpens Iron – Building Character in a Mentoring Relationship which came out in 1995 and which I still consider one of the best books on the topic. It encourages men into mentoring relationships with more mature men as an effort to provide accountability and deep relationships. As Tony Evans says in his comment in the preface to the book: “Mentoring is not an option; it is a necessity.”
Mentoring is a topic I’ve written and thought about for well over 25 years. Even before Promise Keepers, a group of men in my town in 1986 had come together to meet for lunch or breakfast on a weekly basis. We shared each other’s lives: our activities, challenges, successes and failures The original concept was for each of the men to have a personal board of directors – a group of other men to whom they were to report and get input.
The idea is similar to landing an airplane. When a plane is in the process of landing, there are instruments and air traffic controllers on radar to tell the pilot if he is off course, either high or too low on the glide path, or if the speed of his plane is correct. Each “director’ was to be an instrument or “air traffic controller” to give constant feedback in order to keep each other on the right path and make a safe landing.
I initially called this concept the “Integrity Group” when I first wrote about peer mentoring. Integrity is a word that comes from the Greek word integer which means “that which cannot be divided.” The central idea is that one’s spiritual and Christian life cannot be separated from who we are in secular life. Many of us tend to compartmentalize our lives – that is, we tend to break our lives into separate compartments such as our business life, our social life, our family life, our exercise life, our spiritual life, etc. Having “integrity” in our lives means that we are one and the same in all situations, whether at home, at work, at church, in private, and in our relationships. Someone has said that integrity means doing right even if no one is watching or would know you didn’t.
Put in a more different way, integrity is doing what God wants you to do. Having said that, God does not want us to do things in isolation; He wants us to do it in community with others. We need those strong relationships around us to keep us within the guard rails of life, or to use my analogy above, to make sure we have safe landings. No one is perfect – in fact, as imperfect people we struggle in life to deal with our imperfections, and we really shouldn’t try and do that alone. As I have said many times, being isolated is an invitation to disaster – in isolation, you are just an accident waiting to happen. A train wreck, as it were. Pastors are particularly vulnerable. I have found them to be the most isolated of anyone in the Church, and they desperately need someone to be a sounding board for their life. Over my years, I have found that most failures by ministers has one thing in common: the minister was accountable to no one. There was no one watching on radar to tell him he was flying too fast, too low or off course. The resulting crash was inevitable.
Today’s millennial (or the next generation) is desperately seeking mentors, but our unscientific polling reveals that mature mentors are scarce. There is a distinct supply/demand imbalance. The vast majority of next generation (in the 80 to 90% range) would like to interact with someone more mature at a heart level, yet estimates are that the mature mentors represent less than 5% of that generation. That’s not enough mentors to go around. One possible alternative is to explore peer mentoring.
I have continued to meet with two other men of approximately the same age who committed to one another to make it a priority to meet. We have done so weekly for close to 24 years. It has been a powerful influence on each of our lives, careers and families.
My challenge to the next generation is to find a mature mentor, or failing that, seek and find similarly minded friends who desire to have their own personal board of directors and mentor each other in a peer group. Consider meeting in a small group of 3 to 4 and work on mentoring one another. Sharing one another’s lives, burdens, problems and issues is an invaluable tool in your toolkit of helping you do what God wants you to do. My challenge to pastors is similar: find at least one other person to be a peer mentor to whom you can be accountable. Make time on your schedule to interact on a consistent basis. This may save you and your ministry from failure.
If you are interested in getting more practical input on this topic, please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can address practical suggestions for forming a peer mentoring group as well as providing resources and books to assist you in getting started.