Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 2010 Roundup

Here are several excellent posts by other bloggers in May 2010 that I thought were especially good...

If you want to make God mad... by Steven Furtick
If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Well, apparently, if you want to make God mad, tell Him your limitations.

Thinkholes: 6 Common Hazards that Inhibit Thoughtful Leadership by Will Mancini.
The ways we neglect uniqueness and miss what God is doing.

One Statement and One Question that Impacted My Life by Ron Edmondson
At our age, we can't afford to waste a moment of our time...

What is the Purpose for Small Groups, by David Rudd.
The importance of a shared mission and dedication to growing as disciples.

The Power of Encouragement by Mac Lake
What exactly does encouragement do for those we lead? 7 ideas...

Bad call, great apology - Matt at 37signals
Umpire completely misses a call that cost a pitcher a perfect game, but the story doesn't end there.

My own posts I enjoyed writing the most were Life Doesn't Get Easier and What is Mentoring.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where Do I Want To Grow Today?

It's been a month with a lot of extra quiet, time to reflect, and reading and thinking about mentoring and personal growth. As I do that I've really been challenged to think about where I'm looking to grow - not just grow in ability or effectiveness in helping others, but where do I sense God looking to work in my own life. So as June comes to a close (already?!) I thought I would put out there some areas where I would like to see improvement...
  • Bible reading and devotions - always a challenge to keep things fresh and consistent
  • Loving my wife as Christ loves the Church - wow did He set the bar high!
  • Being more transparent, open about struggles and pain as well as successes - tougher than it sounds for someone in my generation, and though I'm doing this more and more, I still come across often as guarded
  • Giving it my all at work, as if working unto the Lord - with a lack of deadlines I can procrastinate way too much
  • Hating to start things until I think I have it all figured out - just realized this week I've made almost no progress in the past three years on something I've been telling myself is very important (taking procrastination to a whole new level here!)
  • Exercise and eating right - life-long challenges, but sadly my belt is tight on its last notch! Self-control is a bear for me more often than I wish.
  • Sensing a big gap between how I want to be someone who equips and helps others to be all that they can be and help them grow, and my ability to see that happen. That's really frustrating.
On the plus side, these aren't just areas of total stagnation - I really am feeling like things are improving... it's just so slow sometimes - or so much a case of two steps forward and one step back. 

Where is God at work, or trying to work, in your life?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Little Prayers

This morning my wife was playing tennis with a friend and had the kids along playing in the park. One son lost a brand new (and currently favorite) toy of the younger son, and they looked and looked with no success for almost a half and hour. She called me, just to vent, and asked what to do. I prayed for her and said "Pray about it with the kids, then look quickly one last time." After I hung up I asked God to answer that prayer to find the toy jeep, not because the jeep was important, but to help the kids learn God is faithful when we seek Him in prayer. (If they instead needed to learn God isn't a magic genie, that's ok too, but go ahead and ask and leave the answer up to Him.) Not two minutes later my wife rang back "We found it!! It was right in front of our noses the whole time. The kids are yelling "Praise the Lord!" and "Hallelujah!"  I'm thankful for a God who loves us so much He's never to busy to hear our prayers, no matter how small, and to answer them -- whether directly or by turning our hearts to Him and changing our attitudes from frustration to gratitude.

Honestly, would they have found the toy without the prayer? Given where it actually was, quite possibly. But I can almost guarantee the response would have been to see frustration levels increase, with a few harsh words at the older son why he didn't remember where he put it. Instead there is a van that's full of very thankful children (and mom) who are joyful and thankful. It doesn't have to be a physics-defying miracle to be an answer to prayer. Mom didn't have to call me, but she did. Had I not been right in the middle of reading the Bible and in awe of God's faithfulness I don't think I would have said to pray when the answer looked like it would be a sure "no." I would have said the one boy needs to buy the other a replacement. They would have learned a lesson in justice instead of a lesson about grace. The world will teach them much about justice... I love when God orders things to teach about grace, and when He gets the glory.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mentoring in 3D

Bill Hybels wrote a book called "Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith," which talks about how to share your faith in a very natural way, and encourages people to take some extremely basic steps - including treating people like friends instead of projects! As I reviewed some notes on this book, it struck me just how similar the basic principles taught are to what I'm suggesting in mentoring relationships. The theme of the book is "Living in 3D" - Develop Friendships, Discover Stories, Discern Next Steps.

Developing Friendships

Easy, right? Well, not for everyone, and almost impossible if you don't actually make the time to simply hang out with other people. Caring genuinely about other people and desiring to build into the lives of others is foundational to both evangelism, discipling, and mentoring others.
Proximity Principle - what's a natural thing you like to do that could be done with others, or what's a natural place you like to hang out at where you can find others with similar interests? Figure out what that is, get up, and just walk across the room and start getting to know other people!
Congruity Principle - be true to who you are, realize God wired you a certain way for a reason. Be yourself, and let others be themselves.

Discover Stories

Best way to share your faith is to blast someone with what you think they need to hear before getting to know them, right?! Bzzzzt! Wrong answer! Here's a better idea - start to build trust and relational integrity with other folks, by actually listening - finding out their stories. What has made them who they are? What are they passionate about? What are they scared about? Everyone has a story. Take the time and make the effort to hear them.
Commonality Principle - Focus on the things you have in common as you build relationships. (I know, basic stuff, but why do we need to make it hard?)  If you're a Colts fan, cherish that, and enjoy hanging out with other Colts fans.
Sensitivity Principle - If people are struggling with things or need to make some change in their live, chances are really good that they don't need you to dump on them about it. This ties in to caring for others and listening. There is a time to have tough conversations, but often that time will be clear when the other person invites you into their world and their struggles.

Discern Next Steps

Once you have taken the time to build an authentic friendship, and have built relational credibility by learning and listening to their story, it's now a great time to discern the next steps that the Holy Spirit is inviting you to take in order to encourage the other person to (better) understand God's love for them, and to take a step towards or in a relationship with Christ. What are some possible next steps? * Giving resources (books, links, CD's)  * Giving the gift of your TIME  * Focus on common recreational interests (to strengthen the relationship)  * maybe the next step is to tell Your story (succinctly and genuinely)  * Invite them to church or some bridge event  * express your heart - just let them know about your care for them and your desire for God's best in their lives.  Whatever the next step, take it and then you turn it over to God to do the rest.

Hybels passion and principles described in Just Walk Across the Room are for building bridges to non-believers, forming friendships whether they lead to spiritual conversations or not just because God loves them. But as you look at what is described above, these are really some basic yet powerful things to keep in mind simply for building spiritual friendships with other believers and in being open to informal mentoring relationships.

Live in 3D.  Got a story to tell? Share it with me!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mentoring and our Purposes

At Calvary and other churches we like to look at the mission of the church in response to the great commandment and great commission in terms of five purposes: Connecting to God, Growing in God, Serving God, Sharing Christ, and Worshiping God. This is best done in community, which means that we also need to help people connect with one another, grow with others, and serve one another, and help others to know how to share Christ, all out of a desire to worship God. Sometimes we use a baseball diamond to graphically portray this discipleship pathway.

As I've been thinking about the development of mentoring relationships and a mentoring culture it seems these same steps are very important.

  • Connect - mentoring is a relational process that requires two or more people to connect, to get to know one another, and to build some mutual trust. For the person looking to mentor others, taking intentional steps to connect with people is crucial.
  • Grow - the purpose in development of a mentoring relationship is simply to grow in an area that is important for a person, to grow in some way to be more like Christ.
  • Serve - a key attitude needed in the heart of a mentor is a desire to invest in the life of another, to be a servant looking to help the other grow - not setting the agenda but serving in a way that builds them up. It's also important in the development of a mentoring culture to stress that this is an important ministry, using whatever gifts and SHAPE that God has given us to build up the body.
  • Share - there is benefit to two people getting together and helping one another grow. But to see a mentoring culture flourish, it's important to reproduce mentors and leaders - to equip those we serve to go and do likewise, to share with them the motivation and skills needed to invest effectively in the lives of others.
  • Worship - we must never forget that mentoring is not a self-help program nor is it about growing for our own sake. Rather it is a way to build up the body of Christ, and to glorify God in the love we share and in the use of the gifts He has given us.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Google Voice now available

Google Voice has left limited beta and is now available to the public. What is Google Voice? It's a free service that gives you a number with a ton of great features. It can ring multiple phone numbers (home, mobile's) when someone calls - filters for blocking or redirecting calls, ability to listen in on messages as they're being left on your cell phone, voice mail transcribed and sent to you via email, texting via the web, different greetings for different people, and more. You can use your existing number, or more likely, choose a new phone number. Been hanging on to a land line but wanted to have some backup to your cell? This might be for you. There's even a mobile app for Blackberry and Android phones (Safari page for iPhone use). Google has a page with video clips describing the features, or watch the overview below...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Forming Storming Norming Performing

Every team or group goes through various stages in their life cycle. I was mentioning how Tuckman described four typical stages in the life of a team as forming, storming, norming and performing. This was while we were playing volleyball and it struck me how well this cycle applies to the group dynamics of both a volleyball team and a leadership team.

Forming - the 'polite' stage where the team first forms and everyone is trying to figure out who everyone is and how they can contribute to the team. It's a time of optimism and hope, even though the team isn't very effective or producing much just yet.

Storming - the honeymoon is over, personalities emerge, sometimes team players vie for control, and disagreements crop up. Having a good coach or leader becomes important. People may resist tasks, have sharp swings in attitude, argue, get defensive, and question those who put this team together.

Norming - people start to 'get' one another, see strengths and build on them, and start to work well together and see bright spots of effectiveness. When issues crop up, they might deal with some well, or may bounce back to storming for a while. Natural or unofficial leaders emerge, who may not be the same once visible or appointed in the earlier stages. The team needs less direction. People start to accept one another (even with weaknesses), become more friendly, express criticism constructively, and have established team ground rules (whether explicit or implicit).

Performing - the team starts to achieve high levels of performance. They can take on new challenges and accomplish them successfully, and seldom revert to 'storming'. Other people want to be on the team, which can absorb one or two new members with little trouble. It can take a long time to reach this stage, and some teams never make it! Teammates know how each other will think and act, they listen to one another, and they self-solve problems together. Their cohesion level is strong, and they hate to disappoint the others. Camaraderie while working together is the norm, even if they aren't best buddies outside the team setting.

What's the tie-in between a volleyball team and leadership team?
Within the storming phase the main sources of friction are actually the same!
  • When a ball is served between two players, they will either let it fall to the ground untouched or both will go for it and crash into each other. Stepping on toes due to confusion as to 'whose ball it is' is a major issue with leadership teams, resulting in the ball getting dropped or a clash as people claim 'that's my ball!'
  • When someone makes a mistake, you'll often get one guy on the team starting to lecture that person on how to 'do it right'. They'll do this before they even know the person, whether they want correction, or whether it was a simple mistake. Unsolicited advice, which comes across as telling someone what to do, is a big source of friction and defensiveness on leadership teams - especially when trust levels have not been built.
  • The player in the middle of the back row may think that position gets played a certain way (e.g. middle-back defender) while a teammate may have always seen that position played a completely different way (e.g. middle-up). It's the same "position" but it means vastly different things to different teams. If this isn't recognized, both players look like they are completely incompetent to the other player, when it's really just a lack of shared definition about their role. This is a huge issue on teams in business or non-profits as well. Lack of clarity on the role, and unvoiced expectations, are a major source of frustration and lead to poor performance of the team.
I also noticed that the same resolutions occur both on the volleyball court and in the organization, when teams progress to norming and performing...
  • People encourage one another and expect the best. You'll often hear "great play!", "you can do it", "let's go team!"
  • Mistakes aren't criticized, jumped on, or seen as incompetence. The player freely admits "My bad" and the team moves on.
  • Position expectations are clarified - "You cover short, I've got deep." It's clear what everyone is supposed to do, who's got what, and even when they don't, people have each others backs.
  • People can freely make observations/criticisms that would be taken badly at a lower stage. "I know you're a great jump server, but it's off tonight and we can't be throwing away points. Use your floater."
  • Strong execution, scoring some great points on a great team play, is exhilarating and itself promotes unity of the team, leading to a positive cycle.
Facing friction or frustrations on your team? It's not unusual - it's typical of every team at some point! Hang in there, look for the strengths of your teammates, cheer them on, and keep the goal of the team in mind. It's worth it. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day! Every year now I can't believe how big my kids are getting. A friend on Facebook shared a really cool video - "I'm Watching You Dad!" Definitely something to think about!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review - 200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One

I've finished reading my first full Kindle book on iPad. It was a pretty pleasant experience, thanks to a large degree to the compelling quality of this unusually titled book. It's "200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One: Creating a Lief of Meaning and Influence" by Shawn Wood via Abingdon Press.

200 What? Yes, that's the same reaction I had. The book explores a story from the Bible which many of us have missed or glossed over. It's the story of Huram of Tyre, a craftsman and artist. Huram was a bronzeworker helping construct the temple in Jerusalem. The way he went about his craft is an inspiration for all of us. Through the book we start to see that being an artist, doing things for an audience of one, is for all of us. The premise of the book is straightforward, explained in these "five components of life-artistry":
  • Get great at something
  • Do something with that talent
  • Invest yourself in things that will last and that others will benefit from
  • Work for an audience of one, because sometimes our best work is seen only by God
  • Finish what you start
"In order to get great at something, it seems that God intends for us to build upon the foundation of skills and wisdom that He has given us, and not just daydream of skills and talents that we wish we had. He intends for us to use the greatness that he has given us to serve others... Choosing to be great at something will mean choosing not to be as good at many other things."
Shawn is an excellent storyteller, and the book is only 144 pages, which made for a very quick and enjoyable read. The chapter on "Do Something" was very convicting, as it put the bane of perfectionism in the crosshairs. There's a tremendous difference between perfectionism that keeps your from starting until the conditions are perfect or you know all the answers, and doing something you were designed to do with excellence. Another challenge that hit me hard -- "There comes a point in your life where you have to decide if you will continue to live a life centered on yourself or if you will make the difficult choice of investing in things that will last." You are an artist. Your grandest work is life itself. What are you creating?
"As a follower of Jesus, it is my goal to get great at something, and then do something with my gifts and skills by investing in things that will last and that will benefit others. In living this lifestyle I will work for an audience of one, because I understand that sometimes only God will see my best work."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Power of Encouragement

I love encouragement! (Giving and getting :)  But have you ever thought about the purpose for it, or why it can be so powerful? An obvious answer is that it makes another person feel good, which is great. But most of us can think back to a time in our lives when the encouragement of someone we respected made a real impact in our lives, perhaps making a lasting difference.

Mac Lake shared 7 things that encouragement will do for our friends and/or those we influence or lead, and they're so good I wanted to share them with you --

  1. It helps them see the work God is doing in or through their life.
  2. It motivates them to continual improvement.
  3. It enhances their confidence and courage.
  4. It expands their vision. When they know the progress they’ve made has been recognized and appreciated it causes them to dream bigger.
  5. It validates their giftedness. Most people struggle with clarity in the area of their giftedness. A specific word of encouragement can help bring needed confirmation.
  6. It creates relational bonds between the leader and follower.
  7. It teaches them to encourage others.
How about it? Is there someone you know who is in need of encouragement this week? Don't merely flatter with nice words, but let them know how special they are, something specific they're doing really well, a character trait you admire, or a difference you see they're making in the lives of others. Make encouraging others a daily part of your life!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Sabbath

Some days I'm just overwhelmed with thankfulness for all the good people and good things in my life. Here is how my Sunday played out today...

A good night's sleep, eager to get to church where I got to serve as greeter. I've come to love seeing friendly faces and trying to make new friends with those I don't know. Our children sang two songs from VBS Summer Camp - they were adorable! After much thought this week one child chose to be baptized. The worship time and the sermon were excellent, with a great challenge to keep God in first place - and that when we do He will order the rest in a way that works out great both for us and for other people.

Afterwards, over to a friends house to share a feast. Ribs, cooked to perfection, glazed in honey chipotle BBQ sauce. After lunch, no one was in a rush to be anywhere so we just hung out. I got the comfy couch and almost fell asleep. It's nice to just enjoy good company. Then I went home and read a very good book (Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell). This evening, off to another good friend's house for another cookout. Dogs n burgers n sausage. I had a great time - talking half the time to people's kids and getting the inside scoop on family life, and the other half learning more about the background and life experiences of some other friends. Home again to continue reading, spend some time in prayer and the Word, and just listening to music.

I did absolutely nothing 'productive', and wouldn't change a single minute of my day. A quote from Velvet Elvis about the Sabbath:
"The real issue behind the Sabbath isn't which day of the week it is but how we live all the time... Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts. Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and to those I love most... Jesus wants to heal our souls, wants to give us the shalom of God. And so we have to stop. We have to slow down. We have to sit still and stare out the window and let the engine come to an idle. We have to listen to what our inner voice is saying."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review - In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

I'm rereading with a friend an excellent book "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson. He unpacks a very small passage in 2 Samuel 23:20-21, the story of Benaiah, future bodyguard of King David. Benaiah chases a lion into a pit (on a snowy day of course) and kills it. Not a very safe (or smart?) thing to do, but Benaiah was no ordinary warrior.

The book starts with a gripping retelling of this story, and from the starts challenges the reader to not back down from fears, but to face them. Did David the shepherd like the fact that bears and lions attacked his sheep? No, he probably prayed for the safety of his sheep. But what he didn't know at the time was that this target practice in life-or-death situations was the pre-game warm-up for one of the most amazing upsets in sports history -- facing Goliath.  "It's our past problems that prepare us for future opportunities." What we don't see when we pray for safety or comfort is that sometimes if God answered our prayer, it would rob us of a great opportunity, and short-circuit His plan/purpose for our lives.

The book focuses on seven skills useful for those who would chase lions:
- Overcoming bad odds and adversity
- Unlearning fears
- Reframing our perspective on risk
- Guaranteed uncertainty
- The risk of playing it safe
- Seizing opportunities
- The importance of looking foolish

Each chapter has an excellent summary review - this is very helpful as it lets the bulk of the chapter focus on story and inspiration, while making clear takeaway point in the summary. The only difficulty I had with the book was that the challenge the author makes to live life on the edge is such a powerful and engrained part of his own personality. It's much harder for those of us made more like beavers to rise to the challenge! Some other favorite quotes:
"God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time."
"Spiritual maturity is seeing and seizing God-ordained opportunities."
"Half of spiritual growth is learning what we don't know. The other half is unlearning what we do know."
"The cure for fear of failure is not success. It's failure." (we overcome our fears by facing them)
"We should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances."
"God is in the business of recycling our pain and using it for someone else's gain."
"You have to be willing to look foolish in the world's eyes. If you aren't willing to look foolish, you're foolish."
Batterson wrote some other excellent books "Wild Goose Chase" and "Primal". Wild Goose Chase centers on relying on the Holy Spirit wherever He leads you rather than being stuck in a cage of routine, guilt, failure or fear. Primal is a cry inviting us to return to a more basic Christianity, something more ancient and primal, that centers around loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is my favorite of the three. All of these books are excellent reads, highly challenging and encouraging.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What Makes for a Great Boss?

I saw a link tweeted by Ron Edmondson about a Harvard Business Review article "12 Things Good Bosses Believe." The article, by Robert Sutton, asks what are some common traits or beliefs held by great bosses. It's an interesting article, and has some items there you may not have thought about. But half way through I was wondering if he was serious - the list was shaping up to be completely different from what I would consider crucial to being a great boss or leader. (Perhaps he's targeting a boss of an entry level position or shop foreman?) Nor did many of his comments address things I talked about in a recent post on the difference between a 'boss' and a 'leader'.

Some of the items on Sutton's list of 12 things good bosses believe:
  • My success depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things
  • Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much.
  • Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
  • How I do things is as important as what I do.
  • Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
About five more on his list involve awareness of your limitations, trying not to be a jerk, and trying to shield your people from jerks. Hmmm... not bad beliefs - I would like my boss to be practical, down-to-earth, and trying to solve problems. But are these really among the very top beliefs or attitudes among truly great bosses?? Has corporate America really gotten so pathetic that avoiding being a Dilbert boss is the mark of greatness?!

The article did get me thinking though, what are some of the most crucial beliefs I would expect to see in a boss/leader that was great? Here's my short (and imperfect) list, phrased as things the boss' subordinates would say:
  1. They're crystal-clear on the mission of my organization and the role my team plays in it.
  2. They set clear expectations and give immediate feedback - both on things I'm doing well and on things that I need to do differently - I don't have to wonder where I stand.
  3. They care about me as an individual.
  4. They're actively trying to help me develop to be the best that I can be.
  5. Their main activity is supporting their team as they do the work, eliminating roadblocks and/or providing resources or training.
  6. They ask me what I think on decisions that are going to affect me.
  7. They're not afraid to defer to someone, including someone who reports to them, who knows more about the task at hand than they do.
  8. They strive to keep great people around by letting them work on things that utilize their greatest strengths while fostering a positive work environment.
  9. They don't ask me to do things they wouldn't do themselves.
  10. They listen to me and exhibit humility. (Sutton and I agree on this one!)
What beliefs do you think make for a great boss?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Don't Wait to Start Living -- It's Not Going to Get Easier

This morning over at the GoingToSeminary web site I share a bit of my back story in as posted called "Life Doesn't Get Easier."
"We like to think, during times of challenge or stress, that life will get easier
I have bad news. Are you sitting down?
It doesn’t.
Not without intentionally letting some things go..."

I talk about the importance of not waiting til tomorrow to live, to serve others, to enjoy life. That mythical period of life where things will settle down, get easier and we'll have more time to do the things we really want - if you're not making that happen now, it won't happen later.

Check it out -- Life Doesn't Get Easier

Monday, June 7, 2010

What is Mentoring? (Part Four)

We've just looked at traditional definitions of mentoring, more modern definitions, and some biblical considerations for mentoring. This wrap-up post on 'What is Mentoring?' will try to integrate some key ideas from these.

The Mentoring Group has an excellent archive of articles. They define the two key goals of mentoring, whether in pairs or groups, in a way consistent with the approaches I've described previously:
  1. Set important development goals and
  2. Build competence and character to reach those goals

In fact, I think these common factors are much more important than the differences in various processes: mentor vs mentee initiated, groups or pairs, the longevity of the mentoring relationship, or who's driving the bus. Here's my working definition for mentoring that is an umbrella for a number of equipping relationships.
"Mentoring is a intentional relational process in which one person invests in the life of one or more others to help them grow in areas important to them by helping them focus effort in these areas and grow in competence or character necessary for progress."
Mentoring, in this broad sense, may occur informally or formally, in pairs or in small groups, through a variety of methods including the sharing of resources, insights or experience (as in traditional mentoring), by asking powerful questions (as in coaching), by systematic instruction and modeling (as in discipling or teaching), or by guiding the way (a guide or counselor). Effective mentoring may occur between an experienced/older person along with a less experienced/younger person, or among peers. In a mentoring relationship there may be one identified as the primary 'mentor' and one as the primary 'mentee', or these roles can be dynamic as each one seeks to help the other(s) in the relationship grow in competence or character.

Spiritual mentoring is mentoring in which the Holy Spirit is actively involved and in which the goal is ultimately to see another person grow into who God has designed them to be. As we are all, without exception, in need of growth as disciples, spiritual mentoring should be marked by humility, a servant's heart, and a willingness to learn from the other person(s).

The key components to mentoring are that it is...
  • Intentional - growth does not readily occur without a desire to grow, willingness to dig beneath the surface, and willingness to actually do something to change when an insight has been shared or discovered. In addition, there must be some purpose/direction/mission towards which a person seeks to grow, or a challenge they seek to overcome.
  • Relational - mentoring is an inherently relational process that requires mutual respect and trust.
  • Transformational - if there is no change in attitude or ability, and no progress made in a desired direction, there is no mentoring occurring.
The modes and methods of mentoring, and the choice of who to involve in a mentoring relationship, should be determined by the needs of the mentee and how they will be most likely to grow in the desired area of competence or character. This is true whether the relationship is initiated by the mentor or the mentee. The mentor is more likely to lead (in terms of initiative and in specific outcomes) in discipling or in teaching a skill. The mentee who is comfortable with owning their own personal development and learning, and/or has clear goals, is more likely to manage the relationship, whether that involves coaching, or seeking a peer mentor or a more experienced guide. The different approaches of Campell  (mentor handpicks a small group and main topics), Zachary (mentee driven, learner's agenda, serial one-on-one), or Paul's with Timothy (discipling and leadership development initiated by mentor who sets the agenda and passes on a fixed message) are valid mentoring approaches, as each is highly intentional, highly relational, and seeks life transformation.

It is possible to grow in 'mentoring skills' which are useful in a mentoring relationship (or even informally when no such relationships is recognized). These skills include: careful active listening, encouraging, inspiring, helping another person see reality, and providing feedback at a level and in a way appropriate to the trust and respect present within the relationship. It is also possible to develop a 'mentoring culture' in which the value of mentoring relationships is broadly promoted and understood, and where the 'default' is for leaders to be involved in mentoring. How? Ah, that's a great question! It's one I hope to think about and discuss for the next few months. I'm no expert, so share your thoughts and comments!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What is Mentoring? (Part Three)

This post continues to look at the question 'What is Mentoring?' In part one we looked at the 'traditional' model of an older experienced person passing on wisdom and information to a younger person. In part two we considered a contrasting 'modern' model (or postmodern) of mentoring which was far more mutual and relational. Here we'll look at some approaches on mentoring that are seen in the Bible. In part four we'll wrap up with a summary of how I currently define mentoring, considering these approaches.

Regi Campbell in Mentor Like Jesus takes a different from either this traditional model or the more contemporary model of mentoring relationships. Campbell advocates an approach which mirrors what he saw Jesus doing (what he calls next generation mentoring) - a mentoring approach which is purposeful, self-less, done in the context of a handpicked group, for a defined period of time, incorporating Scripture and prayer, in which the leader models his faith in a transparent way, and teaching occurs along the way. There must be mutual commitment, and there is an expectation of multiplication, a willingness for participants to pay it forward.

What about the Apostle Paul - how does he view mentoring - in the context of making disciples and passing on the faith? There is a well known passage describing this process to Timothy: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (II Timothy 2:2, NIV)  A few things to note: the word 'reliable' here is sometimes translated faithful and involves a person both full of faith but also trustworthy. The word 'qualified', as opposed to meaning powerful and highly proficient has a connotation more like 'sufficient'. The person needs to be available, and at least minimally able to teach, but Paul isn't looking for superstars. Finally, there is a key need to be able passed it on by teaching others. This mirrors the Great Commission, making disciples who themselves become disciple-makers.

There are many examples of mentoring relationships in the Bible: Jesus and His disciples, Jethro and Moses, Paul and Timothy, Barnabas and Paul, and others. Older women are instructed to teach younger women (Titus 2), and younger men are to be submissive to older men (I Pet 5). Does this mandate a top-down hierarchical approach to mentoring that matches the 'traditional' view. Not necessarily. Note that when Paul encourages Timothy to step up and lead in I Tim 4:12 he encourages him "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, in purity."

As men, we're often prone to want to seek out our 'right', to Lord authority over others. Instead, as Christ loves the church, we will be far more effective as leaders, and far closer to the Biblical ideal, if we earn respect by a life that demonstrates love for Christ and others, and putting other people first in humility, rather than acting like we know it all or must be listened to. Also, the injunctions to lead and teach younger men do not specify the methods. Indeed those gifted to pastor, equip and teach do have a responsibility to build up the body and to help along newer Christians. We would do well to choose an approach that is culturally relevant and that demonstrates love, respect, and humility, while keeping the content of our message Biblically sound. In the next post (part four, the last in this series) I'll try to tie together these traditional, modern, and Biblical views.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What Is Mentoring? (Part Two)

In Part One of "What is Mentoring?" we looked at the 'traditional' approach to mentoring. But let's look at some other approaches or definitions that have become increasingly popular in society today...

Lois Zachary in The Mentee's Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You points out that for adults "the best learning occurs when there is a mix of acquiring knowledge, applying it through practice, and critically reflecting on the process. This means that the model of mentoring popular in the 1980's, in which an older, more experienced adult passes on knowledge and information to a younger, less experienced adult, is being replaced by a new model... The new model emphasizes the value of mentees engaging actively in their own learning and critical reflecting of their experiences. Good mentoring therefore depends on a reciprocal learning relationship between you and your mentor." Zachary refers to this paradigm shift as moving from "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side." The mentor is no longer an authority but a facilitator of a climate conducive to learning. The timescale for a mentor has shrunk considerable, from a lifetime with one mentor to a far shorter timeframe, and multiple mentors and models over a lifetime.

There Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them by Earl Creps also makes a strong case for this new model, encouraging older leaders to intentionally look for younger mentors (R-Mentors) to learn from them and to encourage them. Creps approach is very non-traditional. (I do recommend this book to old-school leaders, they will learn much if they're willing to hear that they're not cool and not seen as relevant!)

"Spiritual mentoring is a triadic relationship between mentor, mentoree and the Holy Spirit, where the mentoree can discover, through the already present action of God, intimacy with God, ultimate identify as a child of God and a unique voice for kingdom responsibility." -- Reese and Anderson in Spiritual Mentoring: A Guide for Seeking and Giving Direction. A key element here that the Holy Spirit is the main 'mentor', while the human mentor helps the mentoree see and respond to what God is already doing in His life.

In The Leadership Baton: An Intentional Strategy for Developing Leaders in Your Church by Rowland Forman, Jeff Jones and Bruce Miller, there is a solid chapter on mentoring. They point out that at in the past such discussion would be unnecessary as the concept of apprentice and learning from a mentor was a given. They refer to mentoring as a personal learning process, with a goal of bringing people to maturity in Christ. "Mentoring is an intentional spiritual friendship." The intentionality comes from the need for mutually agreed-upon goals, and both the spiritual emphasis and need for a friendship are very important. An analogy they use is mentoring as producing champions, through scouting talent, being a role model, a teacher, a coach, and a team player. Their discussion of mentoring has aspects of both traditional and contemporary mentoring. There is still a sense of direction, with the passing of a baton, but it is more relational, mutual, and as the core views the process as simply a friendship that is intentional and spiritual.

Next time, in Part Three, I'll describe how I currently view the term mentoring, how it seems to occur in the Bible, and describe what aspects of each of the models above I find helpful.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What is Mentoring? (Part One)

In order to discuss the benefits and strategies for mentoring it's important to understand is meant by the term "mentoring." That's actually more difficult than it sounds, as the word is used in very different ways by different people. Here are just a couple of definitions I've come across in reading...

"Mentoring is a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protege reach her or his God-given potential" -- Bob Biehl in Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor and Becoming One.

"Mentoring is a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources." -- Paul Stanley and Robert Clinton in Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed. They also provide an expanded definition: "Mentoring is a relational process in which a mentor, who knows or has experienced something, transfers that something (resources of wisdom, information, experience, confidence, insight, relationships, status, etc.) to a mentoree, at an appropriate time and manner, so that it facilitates development or empowerment." These authors actually look at seven different types of mentoring relationships which go from very informal to highly formal.

Merriam-Webster defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or a guide."

The above are what most refer to as the "traditional" view of mentoring, where an older experienced person takes a younger person under their wing and helps them along by sharing insights and experience. It's a one-to-one relationship, and may last for quite a long time.

In Part Two of "What is Mentoring?" we'll take a look at some approaches more popular today which contrast with traditional mentoring.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June is for Mentoring

Ok, maybe the connection between June and mentoring isn't as strong as May and Flowers, but today I'm embarking on a summer adventure in spiritual mentoring. I'm not sure how this is going to play out, but I'm excited nevertheless. There are several reasons I'm becoming more excited about mentoring...
  • I've recently started getting together one-on-one with several young men at Calvary and I'm loving it! We're each learning quite a bit, about ourselves, about Scripture, and about following God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
  • In the past year as I've been studying at Rockbridge Seminary I have had a different mentor for each course, and I've had some great conversations and encouragement through this.
  • I want to do a Ministry Project on Mentoring for a competency requirement at Rockbridge on building healthy relationships. That will involve some reading and self-assessment, but primarily involves some practical project or experience in which I'm actively involved in mentoring.
  • I hope to meet with several other folks at Calvary who are involved in the Men's Ministry and/or have shown some interest or experience in healthy mentoring relationships. If there's interest we might even get together as a group and discuss what spiritual mentoring might look like in our church. The traditional model of older believer passing on great wisdom and instruction to a younger believer is daunting for both - are there other approaches which are more mutual, relational, and where the agenda isn't set by the 'mentor'?

So, stayed tuned for more on mentoring this month - what it is (and isn't), different approaches that people take, insights gained and shared with those I'm getting together with, and some book reviews. If any of you have insights or experiences you want to share, please share in a comment!