In the last few years, God has brought on a strong urge think about mentoring those younger than myself. In fact, I’ve got five working relationships with young men at various ages and stages of interest. I’m teaching guitar lessons to a 10-year-old and an 12-year-old. I’ve been incorporating another young man, about 14, into our worship band. I just had lunch the other day with an 18-year-old, encouraging him to pursue the high calling of pastoring people through worship, and I’ve brought in another 18-year-old on board to expand the ministry of modern worship to our students and children. I’ve begun a long-distance relationship with a 20-something on the west coast with semi-regular phone calls and prayer. For each of them, there’s no magic formula. There’s not even a game plan. In fact, I’ve adopted a methodology I largely call “absorption mentoring.” So much is absorbed just by being around someone else. As I think of the three or four men and women in my life who have deeply impacted me as mentors, 10% of it was planned, didactic training, and 90% was “rub.”
This takes the pressure off me a bit when I know time is limited and stretched broadly. In a sense, I can just be me, warts and all, and witness the Spirit take the good of it and impact another life. What I’m noticing about these relationships, too, is that each person absorbs something different…often what’s best for them to absorb at the time. This kind of mentoring often yields a more precise and pointed mentorship than I could ever plan.
Why is this valuable? I’ll just share my experience and let you extrapolate. God has always planted in my heart a simultaneous passion for the local church and the global church. The biggest burden on my heart right now is for modern worship to re-embrace a long-standing practice in church history–old hymns to new music–and all its accompanying bells and whistles (liturgy, theological reflection, etc.). For several years, I’ve prayed and strategized about how best to make an impact. The result has been a multi-pronged plan, involving bridging relationships of hymns movement folks, producing our own music, blogging about it, etc. But I surmise that the greatest impact I’ll have in accomplishing this vision will be by drilling it deep into the heart of another person through the one-on-one process of mentoring. In a sense, I hope to create “visionary clones”—people who, because they can stand in the places I stand, will see the beauty and benefit of the things which have captured my heart for God’s people. I think a person who is mentored like that will be come a sold-out zealot for the cause, and their impact, in turn, will be worth 10 books, 100 albums, and 1000 blog posts.
Mentoring is also valuable for the mentor. From each of these young men, I’ve learned things about myself. The process has forced me to be more self-analytical, exposing my flaws and continual need for the Gospel. They’ve also asked questions for which I don’t have answers but have realized I probably should. They’ve forced me to revisit my personal vision, mission, and philosophies, testing the hull for cracks and deficiencies. All of these are uncomfortable but healthy exercises afforded the mentor.
Many have said that mentoring is not about being far along in your process, just farther than the next person. I’ve found that to be very true. For those of us who are simultaneously passionate about and unsettled by the state of worship in many of our churches, sometimes we can get stuck in thinking too narrowly about how to make the greatest impact toward change. And sometimes we’re caught whining in the corner instead of getting out in the middle of the room and doing something about it. Mentoring is a creative way to do something about it. Its impact is extremely hard to measure, but I for one can say that I am who I am chiefly because of the mentors in my life.