Coaches. Mentors. I like to call them “Pauls”…those who are blazing the path ahead of us in life.
One of the most powerful relationships on the trajectory of your life is that of a mentor or coach.
Mentorship is a lost concept in our world. Millennials are usually resistant to the idea of needing someone to help them along in life, so we’ve pushed mentors away. Why? Because one of the biggest characteristics of a Millennial and/or Generation Z is this: WE DON’T ADMIT NEED. We think we got it in the bag. Which is hilarious because everyone knows we are lying to ourselves. But we don’t want to admit we need help. We think we know better than the people before us. Let’s get real, friends. Our track record is proving otherwise. We gotta get out of this rut and say what’s true: We are messed up and need coaching. We are designed to need each other. Women need women from generation to generation.
I’ll be honest. In my years of experiencing and teaching the importance of mentorship in Christian groups, Bible studies and women’s events, I usually get the same response from Millennials. “Oh, I want a mentor, I just haven’t found one.” The first dozen times I believed it. But after the twentieth person used that same line, I started doubting the accuracy of the statement. What I found beneath the surface has been the same thing in almost every situation. The gal “wanting” a mentor wasn’t really looking for a mentor. She was looking for an older friend to call a mentor. Someone to pat her on the back, but not get in her grill. Simply put, she didn’t really want someone telling her where she might be wrong or speaking into her life.
Mentors need the freedom to tell you where you’re wrong. It’s not really coaching if they’re only allowed to tell you when you’re right. Coaching involves correction. Correcting your parenting. Changing your thought patterns. Telling you when you’re wrong…because let’s face it, you are wrong at least part of the time. If you’re honest, probably MOST of the time. A mentor can often see this because they watch your life up close and personal.
Vulnerability is key in a mentorship relationship. You gotta get real. Up close. Personal. Your coaches should be able to see you raw and honest because that’s when you can really see where you need help.
Here’s something else to think about mentorship if you’re in leadership… Dr. John Townsend says good leaders NEED someone inputting them. It’s proven science and studied that vulnerability in a leader and having a mentor is the key to going further as a leader. Strong leadership has a direct connection to our willingness to be discipled, coached and mentored by others. (Listen to podcast HERE). I challenge you- study the great men and women of the faith in history. Guaranteed they had multiple people pouring into their lives on a coaching level.
Everyone needs a mentor. YOU, my friend, need a mentor. (Or maybe a few.)
What is a real coach or PAUL? This is someone who is ahead of you in life. They have already been where you are and have moved to the next season. They have made mistakes and victories, and because of those, they can help you navigate the current season you are in. They can help you avoid pitfalls and challenge you to do better and reach for God’s best.
If you are in the middle of toddlers and diapers, you need to look for a mentor that has at least teenagers. Here’s why. It’s not until a mom has ALREADY navigated that entire stage of toddlers and diapers that she can actually tell you what worked and what didn’t. This is why I am not a fan of mommy-blogs. Sorry to crunch on your toes…but mommy blogs are unbiblical. They are one mom with toddlers telling other moms with toddlers how to navigate a season they are still in the middle of. At best, it’s the blind leading the blind. Mentorship is about avoiding pitfalls of life, not falling into them together.
I once had a conversation with a friend who has young children and was struggling with the potty-training stage. He was frustrated with the books and online community out there trying to tell him and his wife how to do it. He told me, “Faith, I don’t want to hear how to do it from someone who is actually doing it right now. I want someone who has ALREADY DONE it. See, if your mom wrote a book on potty training, I would read it! Cause she has already potty trained nine kids. She has a lot of data points to pull from!” For the record, he is a Millennial. So yes, we can get it right sometimes.
I echo my friend’s words. I understand people blogging their journey. I have blogged my singleness journey and probably single people have been blessed by that. But I’m not blogging to mentor them. I’m blogging as a friend and fellow sojourner. Mentors provide challenge and light for the current road you’re on, because they’ve already been there.
Note: I AM NOT SAYING that a mentor has to have been everywhere you are right now. For example, I believe an older woman who never had her own children can mentor someone who does. Scripture is full of examples like this. We’d have to throw out half the New Testament if experience were a requirement for advice. In fact, I’ve heard my mom say multiple times that some of her best parenting advice has come from people who don’t have kids. There is proof that we can glean from those who haven’t lived the exact story we have.
What I am saying is that having someone mentor you who is in the same season of life all around isn’t mentorship. It’s companionship. That’s important (more about that next blog!) but it’s not mentorship. It just won’t be a healthy arrangement. You’ll wind up scratching each other’s backs rather than challenging each other to be who you need to be.
No matter what age you are, you need to be challenged. You need someone who can pour into you. Someone to tell you where you are going wrong. Someone to “get in your grill” and talk straight with you. Paul was a mentor. He took several younger men under his wing, including Timothy, and discipled them. He allowed them to walk alongside him and taught them the ropes of ministry and following Jesus. He had a relationship with them that allowed him to speak truth into them in ways that other people couldn’t. He blazed a path as others followed behind.
Paul said, “Imitate me as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
From the time I was a teenager, my parents told me regularly to seek out the wise counsel and mentorship of people who would point me to Jesus. They told me that every dad and mom have “holes in their parenting” that God will use other Godly men and women to fill. I can’t tell you how GRATEFUL I am for the mentors and coaches God has put into my life. Right now, I have several mentors- married couples and individuals who regularly speak into my life, give me spiritual homework, pray over me, coach me in leadership and ministry, disciple me in marriage and being a wife and keep me accountable. There have been moments when I have cried at their kitchen tables or over the phone. I have texted them in the middle of the night. They have said hard things to me. And I LOVE them for it. I need their perspective and counsel. It’s never easy to open up and admit we need help…but the more mature we are the more we will realize that we NEED this kind of relationship to stay healthy and continue growing. We need someone close enough to show us our blind spots in life.
From experience I can honestly say that mentorship is the biggest reason I have been able to grow and learn and do the things I’ve done in my life. In various ministry leadership positions, I’ve been able to thrive because of the men and women who kept me accountable, provided wisdom and coached me in my personal life. And yes, they’ve sometimes had to “get in my grill”. They’ve asked me hard questions. They’ve put their fingers on things that needed to change. They’ve wounded me at times so I could be healed and be whole. They’ve also been some of my biggest cheerleaders, encouragers and prayer warriors. I’m indebted to them. I owe who I am today to their kind care and loving counsel.
Does it hurt sometimes? YES! Is it uncomfortable to get that real and raw and close with someone who you know can see through your soul? ABSOLUTELY. But I don’t think you can go far and deep in Jesus if you don’t open yourself up to discipleship.
Take the challenge, friend. Be willing to ask for help. For coaching. For mentorship. You will never be the same again.
Evaluate Your Relationships. Ask yourself- who around you do you want to be like in life one day? Who has older kids that you hope your kids are like one day? Who models the kind of life in business you want to emulate? Who has a walk with Jesus that you want for yourself? Now go and ask them how they got there. Example: “Hey, I notice your adult kids really love Jesus and are great communicators… I have little kids, but I’d love to pick your brain about how you got there. What did you do at this point in your mothering that made the difference NOW?” or “I notice how much you understand the Bible and worship in church… can you show me what your daily time with the Lord is like?” That’s what mentoring is all about. Avoid the potholes, friends! Have courage. Ask for help.
For more practical help on mentorship, check out the links scattered through this post, read Godmothers by Lisa Bevere, or check out this conversation I had with Pastor Tim from Pennsylvania about Millennials and Mentorship.