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.