Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review - As Iron Sharpens Iron

If you're not a big reader, you may be tired of all these darn book reviews this month :)  I wasn't keeping up with reading (and reviews) earlier this fall, but have been catching up on my reading pile over the past few weeks. A growing interest of mine is mentoring, and I finally got to read a classic on the subject this week - "As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character In a Mentoring Relationship" by Howard and William Hendricks. It's a book I skimmed many years ago that didn't make much of an impression at the time, so I really wasn't expecting much more than an outdated men's ministry tool. I was wrong.

As Iron Sharpens Iron is an extremely practical and insightful book covering all aspects of mentoring relationships. Part One takes a close look at these from the perspective of a man (really, of anyone) seeking a mentoring relationship. Part Two flips things around to look from the mentor's perspective - why mentor, what to look for in a protoge, how to help the your mentoring partner set a learning agenda, and more. There is also a helpful appendix on how to establish a mentoring program in your church.

The principles within apply well both in formal mentoring contexts as well as informal. Both have advantages, but the authors make a strong case for informal mentoring relationships and taking things slow (especially for men). Here are some of the highlights I found within the book:
  • Established the benefits of mentoring relationships for all, including peer mentoring
  • Very practical and realistic advice on initiating mentoring relationships (one of the most common stumbling blocks) - including a nice list of 20 ideas for starting such a relationship
  • Clear focus that mentoring is about relationships, with intentionality for growth
  • The ten marks of a mentor - as well as the profile of a protege
  • A very useful guide in the appendix for personal or group use, to walk a person or pair through the book and apply it
  • Overall, an approach that seems like it would work well with modern (and postmodern) audiences of all ages
One of my favorite tips in the book was that when talking to someone about initiating a mentoring relationship, don't use the word mentor or mentoring!?! It tends to scare many people off unnecessarily. In talking to several men, both younger and older, I've found this to be quite true.  Likewise, if you're looking to start a mentoring program, they suggested that you don't actually make it a "program", and that you don't have to refer to it as "mentoring" :)

I've read over a dozen books and scores of articles on mentoring in the past few months. I now wish I started with this book - it pulls together many best practices and great ideas that I've seen scattered across many other sources. The intended audience for the book is definitely men, and leaders of men's ministry. Yet the principles and practices taught are definitely applicable to any audience. You can find "As Iron Sharpens Iron" at Amazon and other book retailers.


Chris Sanchez said...

Enjoyed the review and your blog. Thanks for stepping up!

Larry Baxter said...

Hey Chris, thanks for the kind words!

Best wishes for your studies (if your profile is accurate). I'm also finishing up a masters at seminary and pondering the MDiv. As you can probably tell, I always have a nose in a book too or too. This week it's Chazown and Generation iY.