It’s bad enough when you see a friend or family member make an unwise or sinful decision and then have to live with the consequences. But, it really drives me crazy when it’s a repeat offense – they’ve made that decision before, failed and are now, back at it again. It’s not like it’s a pop quiz! Can’t they see the outcomes are both predictable and preventable?
I’m guessing that God occasionally has the same feeling toward you and me.
Why? Because every habitual sin you and I commit is both predictable and preventable. And, if I were God, I’d be just as frustrated with me as I am with a friend who knows what they ought to do, but won’t.
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:17
When I ran my business and something went terribly wrong, I’d gather my management team. Together we’d analyze the problem, propose some solutions and decide how we could keep this mistake from ever happening again. And, occasionally it would happen again, so we’d tighten something else up to make a third time even less likely. The more pro-active we were, the better results we achieved.
So, why is it we don’t apply that same technique to personal holiness, particularly those sins we repeat over and over? (more…)
#8 Plan for the Future. Ending a Mentoring Relationship.
Every spiritual mentoring relationship will end, so plan for it! Most of my mentoring relationships generally wind-down in 3-5 years. And, I need them to wind-down to be able to take on other men. I’ve also found that in that time frame, I’ve helped a man about as much as I’m able. My July 25 blog, I gave you some ideas how to prepare for that day, gracefully and purposefully.
In preparation for “graduation”, I very much want to make sure they have other men in their life who will cheer them on, after me. So, what does that look like?
Accountability groups are small circles of Christian friends committed to encouraging one another to live out the will of God for their lives.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
I’ve been in a weekly accountability group for over 20 years. These five men have become my other spiritual mentors, cheering me on and speaking truth into my life.
Here’s the way we work.
1. Every year, each of us goes before God in prayer and asks the Holy Spirit to teach us what areas of our life need attention. We then write out 2-3 goals, things we feel God wants us to address in this coming year in these six areas; Spiritual, Our Spouse, Our Children, Vocationally, Friends and Extended family and Physical and Emotional Health.
2. Then each week, for the next six weeks, each of us present copies of our goals to the group. We also explain why we set these goals, and the obstacles we see to accomplishing them. We encourage advice from each person and ask them to pray for us. We do these four times each year.
3. In between these quarterly review meetings, we study scripture or a book to help us grow as godly men. But, the purpose of our group isn’t Bible study it’s accountability. We know that if there isn’t a flesh-and-blood person right in front of us, like a mentor would be, most of us would probably let ourselves slide. That’s just human nature. It’s also Satan’s goal that we would slide into spiritual mediocrity, what I’ve called in The 10-Second Rule – beige Christianity.
If you want to know more about how to find accountability partners and the practical steps to get started, you can download Accountability: Partners and Groups, from the STORE page of this website.
The bottom line is this; “The tyranny of the urgent” often robs us from developing the most important relationships of our lives. Help your protégé move seamlessly from a dependence on you, to other deeply spiritual relationships. They will be grateful forever for sending them off having encouraged them into this new adventure of personal and spiritual growth.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
I Thessalonians 5:11
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#7 Evaluate Your Progress Regularly.
At the beginning of every year, I go away for a half day and pray about all the men I mentor. I also try to honestly evaluate the progress, (or lack of progress) we’ve made over the last year. Some men love to grow and stretch themselves. Others just like to “hang out”, which isn’t bad – in fact it may be their best learning style.
However, as I think of each person more deeply, and the quality of our conversation and shared experiences over the year, I get a sense of satisfaction with some and less so with others. So, I start asking questions like;
1. Do I believe “my men” are better husbands, fathers and followers of Jesus than they were a year ago?
2. What’s missing? What isn’t working? What have they failed to learn or I’ve failed to teach them?
3. Would I want this man to mentor my son, or sons-in-laws, or marry one of my daughters?
4. Have I taught each man how to study the Bible?
5. Can each articulate a biblical worldview?
6. Are there specific teachings of scripture, or practical Christian living subjects I ought to cover this next year?
7. Would each of my guys be able to articulate the gospel to someone, accurately and winsomely? Have they done that?
8. Are my men engaged in ministry in their local church?
As you ask yourself these questions, give time for the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. Don’t be in a rush. Write down your answers and how you feel the Holy Spirit wants you to address each. Use these notes in future years to continue evaluating your protégé.
Addressing these issues with your protégé.
Devote one whole meeting with your protégé to these issues. However, before that meeting, ask them to also do an evaluation of this past year themselves. You might give them selected copies of these Spiritual Mentoring Tips to jog their memory for ideas you might explore together. Raise their own expectations for this relationship.
When you come together, ask them for their evaluation first and listen. They may be fully aware of some of their own failures to grow and you won’t have to bring it up. Better yet, if they do mention it, praise them for their self-awareness.
Consider asking them these follow-up questions;
1. What do you think you need from me this year?
2. What relationships or in what situations do you feel most uncomfortable as a follower of Jesus?
3. Are there any habits I have that are distracting, or are their things you’ve heard about me that detract either from my witness or my credibility with you?
4. Have you considered having your own protégé? (Only if you think they’re ready.)
As you can tell, I love the word intentional. It draws a clear distinction between purposeful growth (discipleship) and what I call “free range personal development”, which has rarely worked to produce truly godly men and women.
“Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both this present life and the life to come.” I Tim. 4:7b, 8
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#6 You Don’t Have to Solve Every Problem your Protégé Has.
When I talk to people about being a mentor, clearly one of their greatest fears is that they’re not knowledgeable enough to answer every question they imagine will come up. Relax – you don’t have to!
The Metamorphosis of a Mentor
I’ve observed there are stages in almost every mentor’s journey. Here’s what will likely happen in yours;
Stage #1: The Mentor/Friend. Soon after you begin meeting, it will become obvious that your protégé has some spiritual, financial, relational or marriage issues that are over your head. At first you’ll just listen because you’re not a Bible teacher, a CPA, or a marriage counselor. You’ll help them by being a sounding board, and by giving them some good biblical counsel, as well as common sense advice based on your own experience in these areas. And, if that’s all you ever do, you will still have had a profound impact on your protégé that will bear fruit for generations.
Stage #2: The Intentional Mentor. However, some of you will or already are, finding that God is calling you to deepen your mentoring ministry. You can see yourself mentoring several people in the future and perhaps even more after retirement. Perhaps you’ve begun thinking of mentoring your sons-in-law, or daughters-in-law if you’re a woman, or grandchildren. If you sense this could be a new and expanding ministry for you, then there are a few things you could do to prepare yourself for that role.
How many times have you had a conversation with someone and said, “A few years ago, I read something about that topic I found helpful. I wish I would have kept a copy!”
I have a file cabinet with hanging folders on over 200 different topics. Whenever I read helpful articles online or in magazines, they get filed away. If I outline sermons or talks I really benefited from, in there they go. When I write what I personally believe on a certain topic (see my blog on Writing Jesus Speeches, May 16, 2013) in the file it goes. CD’s or sermons or recorded talks also fill my files.
As your resource file grows, it will be an invaluable resource for you and the people you mentor. I actually show the men I mentor the files in my office and invite them to come back during office hours, go through them and copy anything they find valuable. I’m sure there’s a way to set up an electronic file, which would be far more accessible. I’m just useless with technology, so for now it’s paper.
Many times you’ll run into situations that are out of your area of expertise – then what? I’m a spiritual mentor. I’m not a marriage counselor, lawyer or financial expert. But, I know good people who are and I want to make it easy for the men I meet with to get in touch with them.
Years ago, I began a Professional Advisors list. On it I put the names and contact information of Christian attorneys, CPA’s, financial advisors, marriage, or family counselors who I trust. On my list I also have the names of para church ministries, books and websites I trust and have found helpful, by topic. I print off copies and keep them on-hand to pass out or email to anyone who has a question or need I don’t feel competent to handle. Having my Professional Advisors list takes a lot of pressure off me and connects them with good, godly counselors, right in our community.
Stage #3: Elder of the City. In time, if you’re intentional, you’ll become a more and more, mature follower of Jesus – a man or woman of wisdom. People will seek you out for advice and counsel. Less and less will you have to rely on your resource file. More and more the Holy Spirit will remind you of the truths of scripture, the practical application of these truths and you’ll grow more confident as a mentor, father, mother or grandparent, because you have more confidence in God. You will become what I call, an elder of the city.
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.” Proverbs 4:1-5
If you’d like to know more about what it means to be an elder of the city, you can read my blog on that subject by clicking on that title which is listed here on the left side of my website Home page.
Spiritual Mentoring Books I like:
Transforming to Together: Authentic Spiritual Mentoring, by Ele Parrott
Spiritual Mentoring, by Keith Anderson
As Iron Sharpens Iron, by Howard Hendricks (and his son)
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