Mentoring: The Questions

Last night I could not sleep. This isn’t anything new. As a matter of fact, I have been tossing and turning through the night for the last couple of months. I’ll crawl into bed around midnight and then kick the covers around until about three in the morning when I am finally just so exhausted that I am unable to care about comfort anymore. There have been many nights where I get so frustrated by my lack of sleep, I find myself pleading through tears that God would just make me fall asleep already.

Last night was not out of the ordinary. I was in bed by 11:45pm or midnight, and immediately my mind began racing. Thoughts about the last couple of weeks tumbled through my head and somewhere around 1:30am I found myself having a full-on discussion with myself about what the heck a mentorship looks like.

To back up and give this some context, I have prayed multiple times over the past few years, in varying intervals and intensities, that the Lord would provide for me a mentor. Just “a mentor” is what I would pray, because rarely did I ever have an actual woman in mind that I would be willing or excited to be mentored by. I suppose I have to define “mentor” at this stage in the game, too, since I have had a handful of informal mentors pour themselves into my life. By “mentor,” I most decidedly mean someone who will look at me and approach me with words akin to “Hey Megan, I’ve noticed this, this, and this about you and think you have a lot of potential here, here, and here. I’ve been praying, and I would like to talk with you more about entering in to a mentoring relationship with you. Here’s what I’m thinking…” and then voila: a beautiful, formal mentorship is established complete with all the dreamy things included in a mentorship, like never ending cups of coffee on rainy days discussing all things Jesus and digging in to the deep Truth that is both hidden and readily available to be found in the Bible.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? The only problem is, I don’t actually know what a mentorship consists of, or how much it consists of what, or what it looks like, or how it works, or anything really. I’ve just got these ideas of what one may look like, based mostly on the mysterious sayings by students at college who didn’t talk about it, but made it clear that they were special somehow. It was all very vague.

In the young adult ministry that I attend at my church on Tuesdays, we briefly discussed this and touched on what a mentorship may look like, but there was nothing concrete enough to satisfy my curiosity. If anything, the discussion then raised even more questions.

Fast forward to last night, around 1:30am, when my mind was reeling with questions and statements and explanations about a mentorship relationship that I know virtually nothing about. The thoughts were so intense that I spent the next forty five minutes talking to myself as I lay in my bed in the dark. Finally I realized that I would not be able to settle myself and fall asleep unless I wrote down all the questions that I had, so I pulled out my trusty iPad and got to typing.

Before I share with you the questions that were raised I want to make it clear that these questions are, on a very basic level, standard questions that I believe everyone who is in communion with Christ should be able to answer. I think mentorship is a very biblically rooted relationship and I can point to numerous instances in the Bible where a mentor/mentee relationship can be seen, starting with Jethro and Moses and going all the way to Paul and Timothy. Really, I see so many mentoring relationships in the Bible that I think it’s rather silly that more people haven’t done more research in to what it looks like. I think everyone should be in some sort of mentoring relationship, whether as the mentor themselves or as the mentee. (“Mentee” being the one who is being mentored.) And to be clear, I include myself when I think people “silly” because I have done no further research of this either.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to begin to unpack these questions and start a discussion wherein we can address this topic together. Remember, I’m starting from a place where I know little to nothing about mentorship other than that it’s important.

It will be a time of us learning together, and hopefully you, my dear readers (all two of you), will join me in researching and answering these questions. I don’t want it to be me teaching you what I’m learning, but rather all of us coming to an agreement and settlement on, at least, the generalities of what a mentorship looks like.

Exciting, right? I’m ready.

Here are the questions that tumbled their way from my mind to my computer late last night. I reserve the right to rephrase them, add extended questions or explanations to them, or outright delete them. They are my questions, after all. However, should you ask your own, you bet your bottom dollar I’ll answer it, as is, as best that I can.

  1. How does a mentorship begin? Does the potential mentor approach someone and invite them in to a mentoring relationship, or does the mentee seek out someone they would like to learn from?
  2. Is there a foundation on which a mentorship is built, as in, guidelines and rules? Is there a Biblical argument for any such set of guidelines and rules, or are these things generally agreed upon by both parties prior to the formal relationship beginning? (Of course, I think we can agree that kinks may be worked out as the relationship ages; but what are the general, bare-bones foundational items necessary in such a relationship?)
  3. Obviously there is some level of authority given to the mentor. What does this look like? More specifically, where does this authority begin and end?
  4. Mentorship is important and can be seen throughout the Bible (Jethro to Moses; Moses to Joshua; Elijah to Elisha; Jesus to the twelve/three; Paul to Timothy; etc.). What are the commonalities found between each relationship? Which relationships are unique and what stands out about them as compared to, say, a friendship like between Jonathan and David?
  5. Is there a distinction between mentorship and discipleship? (ie., Jesus and the twelve disciples vs. Jesus and his main three.)
  6. Is mentorship solely the mentor investing in, teaching, and guiding the mentee, or does the relationship also have qualities of a friendship (as in, a collaborative relationship with an open line of communication for the benefit of both the mentor and mentee)? There is clearly counseling from the mentor to the mentee, but is it allowed or encouraged for there to be times wherein the mentor seeks counsel/advice/wisdom from the mentee?
  7. What are some aspects of the mentorship and what does it look like? This echoes #2 and #4 closely, but is also distinct in itself. Is there prayer, Scripture memorization, and book studies? On second thought, maybe this is a 4b question and not it’s own separate question.
  8. How long is a typical mentorship? Is there a set amount of time, like a year or two? Do mentorships normally extend beyond a few seasons and last a lifetime?
  9. What qualities and characteristics should a mentor have? A mentee?

What about you all? Do any of my questions raise some of your own? Share in the comments section and I’ll add them to the list as I begin to research.

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