Every now and then, someone asks why we have mentees 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 are a dime a dozen. We commit to meet for lunch, but if something comes up, it’s no big deal to cancel. We commit to exercise, but then we don’t follow through. We commit to eating better and then contine eating out. We commit to all kinds of stuff that we don’t do. One of my frustrations with small groups over the years is the lack of commitment. Not only do people skip group when they encounter any amount of resistance, when they do come, they rarely do any prep beforehand to make the sessions more meaningful. And it hasn’t been just my groups, I hear it repeatedly from people 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 breach. 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 the Radical Mentoring covenant has nothing to do with theology, denomination, or otherwise. When groups sign the Radical Mentoring covenant, they’re making a commitment to each other. They’re signing up for equal sacrifice, equal transparency, equal effort to do the assignments, share their 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:
- I desire to be an all-in Jesus-follower, spouse, parent, child, friend, disciple-maker, and leader. I want to grow in my relationship with Jesus and learn to be more like Him.
- I will take direct, unfiltered feedback and do everything in my power to receive it in love and learn from it. I will avoid defensiveness, realizing that when I defend, I lose the opportunity to learn. I commit to openly examine my personality, past, habits, and responses to people.
- I commit to attend every meeting and retreat, to be there on time, and to complete all my assigned homework. No exceptions, unless providentially I understand and agree that I will have to say “no” to important things to meet this commitment, and I am willing to do so. After we lay out our schedule for the year, I will manage my other commitments around the dates we’ve selected for meetings and retreats.
- I recognize that this mentoring process is based upon Jesus, His message, and His plan. I will be vulnerable about my relationship with Him, for the purpose of growing my faith.
- I commit to full confidentiality. What is said in the group stays in the group. This confidentiality does not supersede the law and must never cover up a current or future threat to the health or well-being of another person.
- I commit to pay it forward by investing in others for spiritual purposes. I will use this time to identify a plan for how I can serve and lead based on my gifts, season of life, and passions. I will be a disciple-maker in whatever way God leads, including potentially leading my own mentoring group.
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 holy and worthy of respect. “Covenant” carries that same kind of gravitas. As a result, the mentees who signed a Radical Mentoring covenant and participated in one of my seventeen 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 mentee will bring their signed copy to your Kickoff Meeting, have a fresh copy with extra signature lines for each mentee and mentor/co-mentor. Review the promises being made, circulate it, have everyone watch as it’s signed, and then sign it yourself. Afterward, make copies of the one everyone signed and then give one to each mentee at your next session. This time of symbolism helps reinforce the importance and sacredness of the covenant you’re making with each other.
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