Occasionally, I will get a mildly panicked phone call from a concerned church leader. Some of their groups aren’t working out as expected. After asking a few questions, I almost always uncover two primary symptoms, and both lead me to a similar diagnosis.
The symptoms: 1) I have an attendance problem. What am I doing wrong? And 2) My guys just won’t do the work, can’t read the books, etc. What can I do?
The diagnosis: bad-mentoritis.
These leaders followed the mentor selection process, identified potential mentors, invited them to a vision casting meeting, trained them . . . but somehow, they ended up at this unexpected and frustrating place. What happened and how can it be avoided?
Here’s what we look for in a “good mentor.” When you read the list, none of them should surprise you. In fact, you probably could have written it yourself . . .
- All-in follower of Jesus: Men who have learned that loving Jesus and following Him is the secret to life.
- Committed disciple-maker: Men who take Jesus’ instruction to “go make disciples” seriously.
- Committed to the next generation: Men who get excited about sharing what they have learned about living life with guys who are a few steps behind them.
- Facilitator vs. teacher: Men who are able to ask open-ended questions and encourage dialogue, not lecture.
- Transparent and vulnerable: Men who are transparent and vulnerable about their life experiences . . . the good, the bad and the ugly, with honest, gut-level self-disclosure.
- Willing to set and hold others to a higher standard: Men who are willing to set and keep the expectations high. Growth happens because of the consistency and commitment of the group.
For the purposes of this post, I want to zero in on two that seem to be the root of the initial panicky phone calls.
Facilitator vs Teacher: We need great teachers . . . people who are the source of information on a particular subject. Facilitators are different. They are great listeners who ask great open-ended questions. They get others engaged in conversation, even those who may prefer not to participate.
Here’s the common mistake . . . often they aren’t the same person. Teachers think, “I can’t wait to tell these men all I know about marriage in our next 3-hour session. Facilitators think, “I can’t to wait to learn from all these men when we talk about marriage in our next session.” Be honest, if you showed up at my house and I talked to you for three straight hours, would you come back?
Willing to set and hold others to a higher standard: As a mentor, you want something for your mentees. You want them to be better husbands and fathers, to follow Jesus with all their hearts, and to be committed disciple-makers. The hardest thing you may have to do is firmly remind them of the commitment they made in joining the mentoring group: to be at every meeting, on time, with the homework done.
If one guy shows up 10 minutes late and doesn’t receive direct feedback, you run the risk everyone showing up late next meeting. Hint: Men want to be held to a higher standard. If you set the mark high, they will exceed your expectations. In 2002, I was 5 minutes late to my first mentoring meeting . . . I can promise you I was never late again.
One final question to consider before you ask someone to mentor . . .
If your 30-year-old son came home and told you (fill in the blank) agreed to mentor them, how would you react?
If you would pump your fist with excitement, ask (fill in the blank) to be involved. If you would roll your eyes and try to talk him out of it, (fill in the blank) may not be the right choice.
So, avoid a case of bad-mentoritis . . . watch out for the signs and step in before you lose the opportunity to mentor the next generation.
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