The Costly Privilege of Mentoring
At a back table of a small Costa, I, aged fifteen, sat opposite my church youth worker. With my hands wrapped around a cherry hot chocolate, I spoke to her about school, friends, and what I’d been puzzling out about my faith and walk with God. She listened, paused to think, and asked questions to help me reflect. She shared with me this verse: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ (Romans 15:13)
Six years later I still remember the exact moment she read those words to me. I remember feeling like I’d just been given a wonderful gift that shifted my perspective on how to pray and who I understood God to be.
This is just one of the many formative moments I’ve experienced as part of mentoring relationships. A handful of amazing women have chosen to invest in me, giving me the space and reflective tools I have needed to reflect on where I am, who I am, and who God is calling me to be.
As I have begun to mentor others – peers, young people, and children – I have realised how great the cost is of intentionally investing in another. Listening attentively and being both wise and bold in asking challenging questions and offering reflective thoughts – these things take time, prayer, resilience, and emotional energy. Becoming a mentor has shown me just how much of a gift those women gave to me.
Yet in mentoring there is not only a cost – there is a privilege. Being trusted with the thoughts, struggles, and joys of another person is no small thing, and it is incredible to see light come to people’s eyes as they realise, through a conversation, that God is choosing and calling them and giving them strength to follow him, even through tricky circumstances. Seeing people change and grow over a period of time is always stunning, and always good.
The changes that mentoring can support and catalyse can encompass as little or as much of life as mentees desire to bring to the conversation. If you’re a youth worker, you might choose to be mentored specifically about your youth work and ministry, seeking to explore and develop your pastoral and practical strengths. I have been mentored through being a church small group leader, my mentor challenging and encouraging me to grow specifically in listening pastorally and leading group discussions. At other times, I have been mentored more holistically, using the space to explore everyday life in order to discern what God might be doing.
Since that moment in Costa I have spent many hours in coffee shops, either being mentored or mentoring others. Each meeting, held prayerfully and as an open space of honesty, challenge, and encouragement, has shown me the fruitfulness of mentoring relationships. God speaks through these intentional spaces of conversation and challenge; he honours the time that we put aside to listen to him and grow in the callings he gives us.
So, as you minister, pastor, work, play, live, and pray, listen out for how God is forming you. Take time to be mentored (or offer to mentor another) – and in that space, that space of costly privilege, you might just find that God fills you to overflowing with joy, peace, and hope. You might just find that you grow in your strengths, both practical and spiritual, and become more of who he’s calling you to be.