3. Christian mentors are not career coaches.
They are hosts, creating space for others to come and see what life with Jesus looks like, inviting others into a shared space of welcome and intimate fellowship. Mentees, conversely, are not trainees but guests, entering the lives of their mentors with gratitude and anticipation—and hopefully bringing a dish to share.
I am grateful that academic coercion introduced me to my friend, Cindy. I love hearing that churches, districts, and regions are implementing mentoring programs and pairing up new Christians with seasoned Christians, connecting young clergy with more experienced clergy. These programs are fantastic! They might just coerce a relationship that saves a life or a ministry.
But if we don’t cultivate lively communities filled with ruckus table talk and more than enough chairs to invite one more to join the fun, even the best mentor models will become stale. You might even just become the couple sitting across the table from one another blowing on their soup with nothing to say.
I used to feel a tremendous amount of guilt that I couldn’t mentor all the wonderful students I get to serve. I was sure I couldn’t be all they wanted me to be. The more anxious mentoring made me, the worse at mentoring I got, and the more people I turned away (or just avoided altogether).
But I’ve learned that the best that mentoring has to give must be shared both ways and passed all around the table. I am learning to see my students as future friends and colleagues in ministry, people who I may grab coffee with in Indianapolis someday as I lean in and listen to what God is doing in their lives. When I think of it that way—even if I may not have room on my calendar for a weekly meeting—I can always find one more chair at my table.
Rev. Shawna Songer Gaines is university chaplain at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN. This article was adapted from her blog with permission. All rights reserved.