On the first day of third grade, a little blonde girl I’d never seen before came up to me on the playground and announced, “I’m going to be your best friend this year.” Although she was perfectly nice, it didn’t work out that way. It takes more than a declaration to become friends. She was new and probably lonely and definitely gutsy.
As young pastors and other professionals are encouraged to Get A Mentor, I think about that little blonde girl. As in the case of best friends, we can’t merely hunt down and claim a mentor. It’s an organic, natural process. Relationships are made and they bloom or not.
In a perfect world, we mentor each other. Exhibit A.
I know people who seek out Church Celebrities in hopes of being mentored by them. But it still doesn’t work that way. Maybe we ask someone to be our mentor, but the relationship never clicks. Perhaps it’s too one-sided, based on I-want-something-from-you rather than mutual sharing.
One of the most fortunate shifts in 21st Century Church Culture is the transition from transactional ministry (I joined the church so that I have a place for my funeral) to relational ministry (I wanted community with these people). Of course many congregations are still driven by transactions (If I pledge money, I get to have my baby baptized. If I work with Middle Schoolers, I will get into heaven.) But those churches are missing the point.
Imagine serving or mentoring someone or sponsoring somebody for the sheer joy of it. “Sponsoring” refers to more direct advocacy for someone, explained well here, especially for women. But I’m also a big fan of sponsoring talented men who sponsor talented women.
I love it when someone asks “who would be good for” a certain church position or project, and I get to suggest names. It’s a splendid way to lift up a young pastor whose awesomeness has gone unnoticed or a seasoned colleague who now has the time and wisdom to excel in new ways.
We need to do more of this: natural mentoring and sponsoring.
And less of this: using people for personal gain – even if it’s semi-innocent and unconscious.
Consider who has mentored you without a formal mentor-mentee relationship. Who has touted you among other people? Let’s do more of this for the sake of healthy spiritual communities.