Finding your Yoda
I’ve heard people say, “Always have a Paul, and always have a Timothy.” My problem is that I want the actual apostle Paul to mentor me. Okay, I’m actually looking for a mix between Paul, Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, and John Piper to seek me out and invest in me. I imagine the guy meeting me every morning at a local coffee shop, dropping some wisdom on me, and paying for my breakfast before I have a chance to get to the bill. I would be okay with paying, but it would be nice for him to cover it. I’ve got kids, you know.
We know that guy doesn’t exist. But God has put people in our lives for our edification and growth. He has given us a community within our churches and ministries to help us grow in our relationship with Him and our ministry toward others. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from years of seeking out mentors in my life.
Don’t look for perfect people to mentor you—look for progressing people.
Observe people’s lives.
Inviting someone to invest in you will play a huge role in your future decisions and values. Hebrews 13:7 tells us to “consider the result of their conduct” before we imitate someone’s life. Do they follow Christ? Do they live out a genuine faith? Are they learning and growing spiritually? Don’t look for perfect people to mentor you; look for progressing people.
Get involved in your church.
It is critical that we find investment in our lives through the local church. It’s easy to circumvent the entire body of Christ by spending time with parachurch extremities. I click with people in college ministry, but I need investment from the entire body. God has given us a community of believers for our edification and equipping. Our lives are a model of how to do life, so we must model church involvement to those we are investing in. Allow God to use the community He has placed you in to play the role in your life He intends.
Find mentoring from people, not a person.
You will probably never find one perfect person to mentor you for the rest of your life. But you can find people with different strengths and life experiences to help you walk through life. Sometimes God brings people into your life for a season to challenge, encourage, and teach.
Maybe it’s a fifteen-minute conversation with a wise leader at a conference or a series of meetings during a summer project. Right now I have three older guys in my life who tend to help me grow in different areas. I’ve noticed that one encourages me in loving my family, one strengthens my theology and knowledge, and one helps me grow in leadership. Of course they all help to a degree in all those areas, but God has gifted different people to help develop specific values or a “particular set of skills” in your life (side note: I’d be open to having Liam Neeson’s Taken character mentor me).
Slowly invite yourself into their life.
Idle people are not the best mentors. The men and women you will want to learn from will most likely have little free time. But they would love to invest in the next generation of leaders. Ask people to spend time with you, but don’t expect them to make you their Padawan learner after one cup of coffee together. Offer to pay for coffee or a meal during a time that works for them at a place that is convenient for them over a topic that is close to their hearts.
Start the conversation.
There are few things I enjoy less than someone asking me to meet with him or her and then staring at me blankly for thirty minutes over coffee. But I could spend all day with a young man who is a hungry learner who has lists of thoughtful questions. Come prepared to learn, and interact with the ideas and answers they give. Don’t just machine gun questions. Ask them to help you work through an area in your life, and listen to what they say.
Define the relationship.
Yep, DTR, just like dating. This one should be less awkward though. You want to clarify your expectations and help them understand what they will be agreeing to if they decide to intentionally invest in you. Putting parameters of time, topic, frequency, and duration helps protect you both from the awkward mentoring break-up talk. You could ask, “Could we meet over coffee for thirty minutes once a week for the next four weeks so I can ask you about delegating leadership and balancing my work with my personal life?” But don’t do this until after the first meeting. You wouldn’t propose on a first date; in the same way, don’t expect someone who barely knows you to commit to never-ending weekly mentoring meetings.
What characteristics should you look for in a mentor?
How could a misconception of finding the “perfect” mentor hinder you from finding investment from others?
Who should you call/text this week to find mentoring?