As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
This is a topic I’ve touched on over the past two years, but thought I would take another look at it. The topic comes up wherever I go, and often gets a lot of questions about how it works, or how to get started.
For openers, mentoring comes in multiple forms. We usually think of the term as describing a relationship between an older more experienced person with a younger one. Most of my mentoring relationships are in that vein.
But for pastors and others, both here and abroad, there is a need for another type of mentor – someone who is a peer or a colleague. It’s what I refer to as “peer mentoring”, where a group of peers get together on a regular basis to invest in each other’s lives.
My own experience with peer mentoring comes from meeting with Ralph Ennis and Stacy Rinehart for weekly. Although I am the eldest of the group (somehow, I am always the oldest), we are in close proximity in age.
Over the past 25 years, we encountered a broad spectrum of life issues: child rearing issues, kids going to college, health problems, death of parents, marriages of our offspring, and issues of our vocations. There really was no limit to what we talked about – life is not linear, and so as our lives meandered with issues, we dealt with.
We literally “one anothered one another”. We started with a friend who expressed a desire to have a spiritual board of directors. For those not accustomed to corporate lingo, a “board” provides oversight and input into each other’s life. Major decisions or life issues were to be brought before the “board” for input or comment. It was a priceless benefit to each of us.
If you are a pastor and you feel isolated, you should consider finding someone to be a peer mentor. From my experience, the candidate needn’t be another pastor. Here are five suggestions to help you along the way:
1. The qualifications for a peer mentor may look like the character traits of an Elder in listed in 1 Timothy 5 and Titus. Seek out a like-minded Godly man who is committed to developing a deeper relationship with you and is willing to be transparent. They are out there, but you may have to spend some time canvassing your colleagues.
2. Be patient in developing a relationship and learning about each other. One way to start, if you don’t know the person well, is to have each person tell his story to the others. Women are more relational, and often can develop deep connections better than men.
3. The ideal number of peer mentors is 3 or 4, because if one is out-of-town or unavailable, the others can get together in his absence. This comes from Ecclesiastes 4:12 which mentions that “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
4. You have to commit to meet regularly as schedules permit. How you meet – in person or over skype or What’s App – is up to you. Our meetings changed as to time of day and the day of the week based on our personal schedules over time.
5. Using the term “mentor” often causes confusion. For what it is worth, my group never used the term until much after the fact.
I was recently asked if one can have peer mentors (or even a mentor) at a distance. I have thought about it, and while it is not ideal, it can be done with technologies like Skype or iM (Instant Messaging through a Facebook app), or other apps like What’s-App. The platform doesn’t matter, but the connection does.
Sometimes, one in the group had a pressing issue which required a deep back and forth about considering options or consequences to possible solutions. That was OK, and usually each of us in our group had our moment in the sun when our issues were so deep that we needed that kind of focus.
In “We is Better than Me”, , I encouraged men to live in community with one another. The concept of an accountability group is similar and can be encompassed with your peers. I tell men at our weekly Friday bible study that God did not put us on earth to be isolated. No one commits a carnal sin in a group. A person who thinks he can survive alone in this world without a close friend or peer is deluding himself.
Few men and pastors have deep relationships that would be tantamount to a peer mentoring group. I find it sad because they are missing out. The challenge for you is that, if you feel a need for someone else to speak into your life, you need to take the initiative and seek it out. It won’t happen accidentally.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Peer mentoring can be a useful tool in your tool kit by encouraging your mentees to seek other peers to join them on their life’s journey.
RESOURCES: A good read for all men is “Man in the Mirror” by Patrick Morley which was recently updated.
WORSHIP: Listen to Paul Baloche sing “Today is the Day” reminding us to put our past behind and starting fresh each day.
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