Pass yourself on— your love, compassion, help, honesty, expertise, understanding, strength, camaraderie, support, motivation and vision.
I'm thankful Debbie passed herself on to me. Wet behind the ears, I was a young nursing student who showed up on Debbie's shift. She smiled, stretched out her hand and said, “Hello, my name is Debbie.” Feeling insecure and nervous, I found hope in meeting Debbie and thought, Maybe, her kindness will linger.
I worked night shifts on weekends at a small, local hospital. Fortunately, Debbie was there most weekends. I looked forward to work because of Debbie. Often she said, “Let me show you how.” After demonstrating, she would say, “You try. I'll help.” Her gentleness reassured me that she was with me, in my corner, wanting me to succeed. She grew to trust me and allowed me to do more on my own, spurring me on, saying, “You can do it. Go ahead.” Because of her belief in me, I went for it, knowing she was close by if I needed her.
I can still envision Debbie in her starched, white uniform, clean, white shoes, jet-black hair, radiant smile and eagerness to do her job with excellence. Debbie was one of the greatest nurses I'd ever met. I continue to cherish the afghan with a cross pattern knit in the middle that Debbie crocheted for me as a gift. Although I was not sure what Debbie believed about Christ, she exemplified him.
How did Debbie exemplify Jesus? Nursing school was hard, but I found refuge in Debbie. She helped it make sense. No question was considered stupid. I watched Debbie take charge with ease and interact with patients with the same caring smile and attitude she showed toward me. I watched her use shrewdness when needed. Perceptive, she knew whom to trust and whom not to trust. When we were alone, I asked her about situations and why she handled them the way she did. I watched, and I learned.
BECOMING A MENTOR
Debbie told me, “Don't tell anyone all that you know.” While I don't fully understand what she meant, I wonder if she was saying, “Be careful whom you invest in. Make your wisdom count.” I have taken her advice as I rely on the Spirit of God and discern my choice to invest in another's life.
What is mentoring? Mentoring, discipleship and spiritual direction describe similar modes of pouring into someone's life. Paul Stanley and Robert Clinton, in Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life, explain, “Mentoring is a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.”1 They describe mentoring as a continuum from intensive to passive. The intensive mentor is a discipler, spiritual guide and coach. The occasional mentor is a counselor, teacher and sponsor. Passive mentors are models, whether contemporary or historical, and can be likened to a hero.2
What does a Christian mentor look like? Such mentors lead by example. Their love relationship with God overflows into the lives of others so that they love well. Mentors exemplify Christian character by an active prayer life, Spirit-led walk, balanced living and trustworthiness. They exemplify a servant heart as an encourager and witness for Christ. They take initiative, moving vision to action.
THE NEXT STEP
If I desire to mentor or disciple another Christian, how do I know whom to mentor? Not everyone desires a mentoring relationship nor are they ready for one. However, staying alert to signs of readiness in the people God brings around you enhances the process. Signs such as hungering for God and his Word, desiring to grow in Christ-likeness, a teachable attitude and a desire for evangelism and discipleship give clues to readiness.
Oftentimes, someone desiring to be mentored will approach another who seems further along in Christ and can act as a guide. Christian maturity is the key. Mentors may be younger in age than the mentees but their Christian maturity is stronger. If you desire to mentor, ask God to lead you to the right person. Mentoring and discipleship are God's idea (Mt 28:19; Tit 2:2), and he is committed to making them happen. God is looking for people who are willing and committed to him, people who will pour their lives into the lives of others for the glory of God.
Friendship fosters mentoring relationships. Honesty and trustworthiness promote friendship. Jesus told the disciples, “You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning” (Jn 15:27). Jesus trained the disciples by being with them. Jesus' approach reminds me of my Aunt Florrie's saying: “I don't have much else to give, but I can give of myself.” Let your mentee see you in action, feeling and catching your vision and translating it to life.
Enhance your time together through Bible study, prayer and ministry opportunities. Be accountable to memorize Scripture together. Attending retreats, concerts and seminars are worthwhile activities. Learning a new skill or hobby, running errands, making meals and exercising together develop bonds of friendship. Regardless of the activity, being present with your mentee fosters growth in communication, trust and respect. Have fun enjoying God and each other. Then later, at the right time, encourage your mentee to mentor someone else. And, learn from your mentee—mentees have much to offer (Prov 27:17).
Writing about my mentor nineteen years later feels indescribable (this side of the school of hard knocks). Perhaps because of Debbie I have a passion for mentoring—caring for people who are eager to learn and filled with potential. Potential may never be released without someone coming alongside. I ask God to help me be a “Debbie” to nursing students or nurses. Show me how to pour into the lives of others with care, grace and gentleness. Let my knowledge base of nursing help to instill confidence in the young around me.
QUESTIONS FOR A CHRISTIAN MENTOR
An aspiring mentor conducts a personal assessment for mentoring potential, using questions like:
- How am I growing in my knowledge and love of God?
- Does my life show that I know who I am in Christ?
- How does my life indicate that I love God's Word?
- Do I genuinely love others?
- Do I pray regularly?
- Am I experiencing the fruit of God's Spirit in my life?
- Is my life balanced? Am I over-committed, under-committed?
- Do I encourage others, and do I allow others to encourage me?
- How effective are my communication skills? Do I listen well?
- What evidence in my life proves I am trustworthy?
- Do I have a servant attitude?
- Do I share my faith when I have the opportunity?
1 Paul Stanley and Robert Clinton, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life
(Colorado Springs, Col.: NavPress, 1992), p. 38.