Mentoring is usually concerned about mentoring younger leaders. Mentees are seeking for guidance and coaching from senior leaders as they face new challenges and struggle to balance their life and leadership, ministry and family. But who will mentor the mentors? Or do they need mentors if they are already mentoring others?
In my recent struggle due to personal family matters, I have managed to live as usual. Although it is known that I am in a difficult time, no one of the council leaders I work with in my local church came alongside to check on me. Then, one of my mentees, as young as my eldest son, approached me and asked how I am in my difficult challenge in life. He did not ask for details. He was simply checking on me and making me feel his presence. It gave me the courage to open up my heart and feel free to express my loneliness, fears and losing my inner drive in life. He simply listened. I felt mentored by my mentee.
Mentors are normal people like all the mentees. Mentors try to appear strong and confident in their projection of looking at problems and pains. But deep within, they are as weak and vulnerable as others. There are three areas where I think mentors need mentoring.
Consider Paul during his later years. He is a seasoned servant of the Lord. We admire him as a veteran in the area of suffering. Yet he longed for his friends and mentees to be with him in his aloneness. He wrote to Timothy. “Come to me quickly” and “Get Mark and bring him with you” (2 Tim 4:9, 11). He stood at the court alone. Although he felt that “the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength,” yet the pain of being abandoned was so deep: “no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.” (v.16)
The most important gift our friends can offer is their presence, to make us feel that we are not alone. Among friends, mentors learn to be themselves and act without being afraid or pretending. They can laugh and cry with their friends, share their dreams and desperation in life.
I find friendship with my peers with the MentorLink team and the Executive Team of Trainers of Pastors International Coalition – TOPIC Philippines. I have found deep acceptance and assurance that they are with me in my difficult time I described above. Their prayers were very comforting!
Most mentors are very busy doing many things for the Lord. It is difficult for them to stay focused on what really matters in life. Saying “No” is quite difficult, especially when the opportunity advances the cause of the Kingdom. They need mentors who can keep them on track with the one thing necessary – to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary and to accept that what is most important is our names being written in heaven (Lk. 10:20,42).
John Stott shared in an interview that to help him stay centered in Christ and in his calling, he submitted to mentors whom he called: AGE – his Accountability Group of Elders. They guide him on his priorities, protect him from many invitations and process his many invitations to speak so he can focus on his primary calling. In our ministry for the Lord, we mentors become too passionate without knowing whether it is the work of the Lord for us at the present moment or simply doing work for the Lord. Instead of being focused for the glory of the Lord we may unwittingly become self-focused.
All leaders have their blind spots. Mentors who are doing good become unmindful of the accompanying danger of doing good work for the Lord. One mentor confessed, “My greatest strength is my own threat.” One of the dangers of doing well, especially when mentors reach their success, is pride. And since they are doing it for the Kingdom, everyone praises them. Only true mentors, usually ordinary people who are their friends, see that there is something wrong in their heart.
Mentors need mentors who can speak honestly and frankly to help them become accountable and to look carefully in their hearts. Asking the hard question is not easy to do with mentors. But it is important that they have a few trusted spiritual leaders who will have the courage to speak the truth in love and take the risk of losing friends. Like David, we mentors need a mentor like the Prophet Nathan who will know how to bring to our attention the sins that we hide.
Mentoring the mentors happens in a safe relationship of trust. Mentors need fellow mentors to mentor one another. I promote peer-mentoring among mentors. Among fellow mentors, they can be their true selves ‒ opening up their anxiety and fear, struggles and suffering. They can receive feedback as they share their ministry. This will help them remain faithful and finish well.