Three Kinds of Mentoring

I've been thinking a lot lately about mentoring.  How it should work, what the purpose is, etc etc.

When I mentioned some of this to my friend Shawn about how I'm trying to figure out what mentoring means and how to intentionally vs naturally mentor someone he asked: "What are you mentoring him for?"  Currently, I think there are three areas of my life that I need mentors and, as well, should be mentoring someone else:

  1. Spiritually

  2. Professionally

  3. Relationship (Marriage)

I'm of the school of thought that we shouldn't simply take in knowledge without being able to give out to other people as well.  I've found many times that when I'm talking to someone about what I believe or trying to give advice, it's the first time I ever put some of those thoughts or ideas into words.  As I get older, however, I continue to learn how young I am... and, often, feel a touch inadequate to be some sort of "mentoring giant" that has much of worth to pass down.  But it's important to try anyways.

There are a few times in the past where I've felt mentored, even if it was "unofficial" or even unintentional.  Dr Hurtgen from my undergrad has taught me much more than he knows.  Steve Ayers taught me how to be confident that what I know is, in fact, what I know.  Leonard Sweet has been an inspiration to think differently and given me much more of his time than I would have ever expected.

Of course, I hardly talk with any of them anymore.  I haven't even talked with Steve since I graduated...  but they were still mentors in their own ways.

In the area of relationships, Shawn and Leslie took us under their wing and hung out with Ashley and I as we were figuring out what dating, being engaged, and then being married meant.  Their mentorship was different; it wasn't relaying information or trying to prove certain things to us... they let us into their lives, were our friends, and let us see how their relaitonship worked as well as the struggles they went through.  It's been painful as time, busyness, and circumstances have seen our relationship drift a bit further than any of us would like.

Professionally, when I first came to LifeWay, James Jackson tried to take me under his wing and help me adjust to professional life.  He gave great advice for the time - to orbit the corporate hairball.  More recently I've found a mentor who doesn't even know I exist, Robert Scoble.  I'd definately like to meet him someday, just to pick his brain a bit and tell him thanks for all the advice he's unknowingly given me.

So, I have all these mentors of various capacities... but none of them are the kind that we talk about in the church.  I don't meet with someone once a week (or even once a month) to just sit down and learn from/learn with.  The closest person I have in that capactiy is Matt Tullos, who has been a professional and spiritual mentor, but he's leaving LifeWay to pastor a church, so I know things will change and I've already been seeing him less.  So maybe I need to redefine what I'm looking for in these mentorship roles:

  1. Spiritual: I think I'm actually looking more for a rabbi here.  Someone like Christ was to the Disciples.  Typically I think this would be the pastor of whatever church you're going to.  I love Gary, and he's a great teacher... but he has had his hands too full with actually running Mosaic.  Where's a wise old sage when you need one?

  2. Professional: I love the way that Penelope Trunk persues professional mentoring.  She unashemedly says that you must have one.  I would love to have more intentional mentors both inside and outside of LifeWay.  John Porcaro has been great at helping me understand marketing through our brief conversations and I hope to continue to be able to learn from him... I'm not sure who I can learn from about doing video conversion and such, which is my new daily job.  Or do I not look at today's job, but towards tomorrow's?  Is there a better word for this, or is "mentor" the most appropriate?

  3. Relationships: This is a tricksy one.  I think the best way to learn is by being open about your marital relationship with other people - couples, married, and singles all included.  I love that we've grown closer to to Kris/Laura and Benji/Lesie.  I do wish we had older couple to learn from as well, though.  This is the hardest to seek out, I think... because just like a relationship, this has to happen naturally.  Perhaps this is just best defined as close friends?

And what about being a mentor myself?  I don't want to be just taking things in... I want to give back.  I love the fact that Ashley and I have the honor of leading a small group.  I think the connection we've had in that community has been amazing.  It's a chance to be open, honest, and do a little bit of teaching with people that we truly love and that I know love us.  I think I'm doing the best at giving back spiritually.

What about professionaly?  Am I even far enough along in my career to truly make a difference for someone?  I think this is where I'm able to maybe help some of the many colelge students at our church.  There are so many things that I simply didn't know/understand going into my first job out of college that I wish someone had prepped me for.

Relationships?  This is an area that Ashley and I are very passionate about... perhaps too much so.  I think a lot of people misunderstood our excitement about being loved and loving others as being matchmakers or even gossips.  I've stepped away from trying to help others in this area, perhaps a little too far.  It's tough to find the balance in these things that  you are passionate about lie.

Alas... my lunch break is about over.  I guess this post is probably just an opening salvo in what will be quite a while of me figuring out what these different kinds of mentoring mean.  If you're reading this, feel free to chime in.  I've got a feeling that mentoring and the issues thereof is going to be a theme for me this year...