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How to Ask a Man to Mentor You

In light of #MeToo, some men are more reluctant than ever to mentor a woman.

Thankfully, the #MeToo movement is pointing out the longtime abuses that powerful men have held over women. As women, we rejoice in the fact that justice is being served and look forward to a kinder future in which our dignity and safety are respected and, hopefully, even valued.

One unintended effect this movement may be having, however, is to make even good men nervous, as the BBC’s article “Why Women Fear a Backlash Over #MeToo,” addresses. The fear of being falsely accused hovers in some men’s consciousness, making them more cautious in their relationships with women. The fear may largely be irrational, but there are some legitimate reasons—even if they are few and far between—that could make men a bit uneasy. This could make forming healthy ministry relationships with men even more difficult.

If you recognize in your church, denomination, or community a man who is good leader, or simply good at a certain skill, there are ways for you to approach him so that he will be more open to mentoring you. Making strides in professional relationships with men is a process of building trust—on both ends—and these tips will help you do just that. As a matter of fact, these principles are good if you want anyone to mentor you, male or female.

Determine why it is strategic for him to mentor you.

In other words, you need to clarify why he should mentor you rather than someone else. It’s always best to approach people that you already have some proximity to or relationship with. For instance, if you are on the worship team, you might approach the worship pastor for mentoring on a specific aspect of worship leading. Or, as the discipleship pastor, you may approach the discipleship pastor at another church in your denomination to learn from him about his discipleship strategies.

Consider your answer to these questions:

  • What kind of proximity or relationship do you have with this man already?
  • What specifically do you see in this man that makes you want to be mentored by him? What specific qualities, skills, or wisdom do you want to gain from him?
  • What unique training or insight can this man give you that you can’t get elsewhere? What can he offer you that another woman or man cannot? Be specific.

Clarify what you would like this mentoring relationship to look like.

One great way to experience mentoring is to do so through group training or mentoring already in place. This could also take place on a team he already leads. If he already has something like this in place, you could ask whether you can attend. Even if he doesn’t already have something set up, or if it doesn’t make sense for you to attend the events already set up, group mentoring can still be an option. Often a busy person will be more willing to give time to a whole group of people rather than just one person. If he doesn’t know you well, this may also feel like a safer venue. Ask if you could get together a group for him to teach.

If what you would like to learn from this man can’t be learned in a group or from an event, you will need to carefully think through the possibility of him mentoring you one-on-one. Honestly ask yourself the following questions based on what you hope to gain from this relationship, keeping in mind that you may need to adjust your expectations as you discuss with him:

  • What are you hoping to learn? Do you want some kind of formal training? Do you want to shadow him as he goes about some of his tasks? Are you looking for the ability to check in with him periodically through email about ministry issues you’re facing?
  • Ideally, how much time are you asking him for? Is it a weekly commitment? A quarterly check in? How long will the commitment last: A month? A year? Longer? Why is this timeline necessary for your goals in your mentoring relationship?
  • Can you learn what you hope to learn through group mentoring or training? If not, why not? Get specific.

Keep the tone professional at all times.

This could not be more important as we seek to build trust. It may even be useful to address his concerns up front. Here are some things you need to do to make sure motives and appearances will not be misunderstood:

  • Put parameters in place that will ensure it’s safe and professional for both of you (e.g., meet in a public place, stick to what you’ve agreed to meet about). Discuss these up front so you’re both clear about the expectations.
  • Do not attempt to become overly familiar with him, especially outside the mentoring time. If you want to address this directly, say something like, “I want to keep this completely professional, and I do not want to encroach on your personal time. To help do that, I’d like to suggest ...”
  • Decide upfront what mode of communication you will use. Is texting or calling too invasive? Should you communicate only through email? Through an administrator? Make sure both of you are comfortable with your decision.

My hope is that as a result of the #MeToo movement, men and women will be able to work together more productively than they ever have in the past. By thinking through practical outcomes and purposes, we can avoid any confusion of mixed messages and labor for God’s kingdom in tandem as we are meant to do. The result will certainly be worth the effort.

JoHannah Reardon, a former editor at Christianity Today, is the author of 14 books, including 2 family devotionals. Find them at her website johannahreardon.com.

January25, 2018 at 8:00 AM

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