Every now and then, someone asks why we have guys sign a covenant to be in a mentoring group. Such a religious word! And fraught with doctrinal conflict. Let me explain why the word is so important.
The word commitment is everywhere. Commitments a dime a dozen. We commit to meet for lunch, but if something comes up, it’s no big deal to cancel out. We commit to exercise and we don’t. We commit to eating better . . . and we don’t. We commit to all kinds of stuff that we don’t do. One of the frustrations I’ve had with small groups over the years is the lack of commitment. Not only will people not come when there’s any amount of resistance, they rarely do any outside prep to make the sessions more meaningful. And it hasn’t been just my groups . . . I hear it repeatedly from folks at my church and others.
The word contract carries a little more weight. It’s a business term that communicates the terms of an agreement including what happens when someone breaches or fails to live up to the terms of the deal. Binding contracts require an exchange of ‘consideration’ (e.g., money) and usually spell out consequences for failing to perform. It’s obvious why people would choose a commitment over a contract. Less engagement, lighter consequences and a lower level of obligation involved. And when a contract is either fulfilled or broken, it’s over and done.
That brings us to the word covenant . . . “a formal, solemn, and binding agreement.” Unlike present-day contracts, covenants carry no expiration date and obligation doesn’t go away even if there’s a breech. While a contract is enforced by the government; a covenant is regulated by God. Unlike a contract that involves the exchange of property or actions; a covenant binds two parties together personally. Now understand, the Radical Mentoring Covenant has nothing to do with theology, denomination or otherwise. When groups sign the RM Covenant, they’re making a commitment to each other. They’re signing up for equal sacrifice. Equal transparency. Equal inconvenience. Equal effort to do the assignments, share our hearts, and pursue the best version of themselves.
Here’s what’s in the Radical Mentoring Covenant . . .
We are hereby making a covenant commitment to the following:
- It is my desire to become an all-in Jesus-follower, husband, father, son, brother, friend, disciple-maker and Christian leader.
- I understand that I will take direct, unfiltered feedback. I will do everything in my power to receive it in love and to learn from it. I will avoid defensiveness, realizing that when I defend, I lose the opportunity to learn. I commit to being open in examining myself – my personality, my past, my habits, my anger, and my responses to people. I want to learn. I want to change, to be more like Jesus Christ in every fiber of my being.
- I commit to attending every meeting and retreat, to be there on time, and to have my work done. No exceptions, unless providentially hindered. I understand and agree that I will have to say “no” to important things in order to meet this commitment, and I am willing to do so. We will layout our schedule for the year at our first meeting. I will manage my other commitments around the dates selected for meetings and retreats.
- I will ‘finish the course.’ I understand that my mentor and the group will make a significant investment in me. Because it would be unfair and disrespectful to them to do otherwise, I commit to the entire season and will finish well.
- I understand that this mentoring process is based upon Jesus Christ, His message, and His plan for our lives. I will be totally vulnerable about my relationship with Christ, for the purpose of growing in my faith.
- I recognize that my mentor pledges to give the same level of commitment, dedication and energy to me. My mentor will visit with each of us in our workplace sometime during the year; and he will attempt to teach and lead from a humble, transparent and loving heart.
- I commit to total confidentiality. What is said in the group stays in the group.
- I further covenant that, at some point, when the Lord lets me know that I am ready, I will pick some guys and lead a group like this myself.
- I discussed this commitment with my wife and she fully supports my involvement. She willingly relinquishes the time it will take to attend the sessions and retreats and to do the reading and homework, with the goal of my becoming a godlier man.
We don’t talk much about “the fear of the Lord” these days, yet it’s found 300 times in the Bible. It reminds us that God is powerful and holy and worthy of respect. ‘Covenant’ carries that same kind of gravitas. As a result, the men who’ve signed the RM Covenant and participated in one of my 17 Radical Mentoring groups have attended over 99% of the sessions and been prepared virtually every time.
That kind of participation rate is unheard of in our culture today.
Why? Covenant. There’s power in that word.
Scripture: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. (2 Chronicles 15:12)
Mentor Tip: Make a big deal out of signing the covenant. While each man will bring his signed copy to your Kickoff Meeting, have a fresh copy with extra signature lines for each man and mentor/co-mentor. Review the promises being made, circulate it and have everyone watch as it’s signed, then sign it yourself. Bring copies for each man to your next session.