Road to the Ministry, Part 15: And mentoring is harder

Don’t be the loud singer

My vocal range is still pretty limited. Like high school, I’ve lip-synced my way through a few worship services.

That’s why I like loud music in church. I love to worship freely… without worrying about throwing others off-track.

And I don’t want to be the “loud singer” in a quiet room. You know the one. Killin’ it to their own harmonies. Doing their own thing. Instead of singing along with others, distracting by their improv.

Whether they’re good or not-so-good is immaterial. They’re distracting from the point.

I always thought of mentoring and the call that way.

  • Don’t put yourself out there.
  • Don’t be the loud singer.
  • Don’t grab for something you’re not given.

One tech company formerly had the slogan “Quietly brilliant.” I liked that.

I really hoped that was enough. (Turns out that tech company had to change its slogan… because it didn’t work).

 

But I liked it… Surely if I had a call others would pick up on it… right?

But life doesn’t work like that.  I had to learn to sing a little louder… and to ask for mentorship. Without overpowering others.

That’s not easy for a “bulldozer” like me. We tend to have two speeds. Go or no.

 

Who sees it?

When I was at Tyndale, I attempted to keep to the “quietly brilliant” idea.

I didn’t aim for leading anything while I was there. I didn’t aim to take on any roles.

Just showed up. Went to church and hit the gym and did my work and prayed for people.

And some folks saw potential in me.

  • Encouraged who I was.
  • Asked me to take on leadership roles and be a resident advisor.
  • Teach and be part of leading seminars.
  • A local youth pastor took me on as an intern too. I applied for that, but they had an ad out, so I figured that was alright. 

Those conversations were encouraging. The comments were surprising. That I had a drive, an ability, perspective that was appreciated. That they saw leadership capacity and wisdom and reliability and character.

And I learned so much from them.

As a resident advisor, we had a course attached to that. Donald Miller came and spoke at our school,  and did a session just for us.

We read books like Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus. My ideas of community and leadership were challenged and reshaped.

We were asked about our abilities. Natural talents. Learned skills. Spiritual gifts. Got a fuller picture of who we were. And what we brought to the table.

The youth pastor I worked with is still a great friend. The advantage of the long commute times in Toronto? You get a million chances for conversation. You build great relationship. I’m so thankful for that. And the group of friends that we both knew is a connection we still have today.

There’s a level of trust that comes with time and character.

  • When you know someone has your good at heart.
  • When you understand the goals in mind.
  • And of course there were times I needed to hear correction.
    • And because of that time and intention…. I could hear it from them.

 

Not forever

There were other experiences, though.

I had transferred schools and I was supposed to start some mentoring! Hooray! We were supposed to get a mentor from an outside source. Since we didn’t know anyone, the school pre-picked us all some reliable people! So I met with one person… (along with a few of my classmates). I was excited to get their perspective! All right!

Well, I heard from a staff person a few days later: Oh yeah. That person met you and doesn’t want to mentor you. They’re not interested. We’ll work on finding someone else.

 

(That person was, however, fine with mentoring my roommate. Hmm.. awkward…)  

It stung and surprised me a little.

Didn’t I transfer here for a reason? Why would someone just say “nope, not gonna bother” right off the top? After meeting me once?

Thankfully the pastor from another church, who I’d been working with for some time? He continued to mentor me… even though it was above and beyond his job description. And eventually the school found someone else (who was a great mentor too — and who I would not have gotten to know otherwise!).

But in that moment I was frustrated.

  • Is my lot going to be “I have a call, and others can’t see it”? 
  • Am I that abrasive? It just takes 5 minutes to say “nope”?
  • Who’s gonna show me the ropes here?
  • I know God ultimately puts us in places.. but if this is partially about who I know… how am I gonna get to know people? If I can’t even get my foot in the door?

 

Not the first time.

Many years before, the trend had already been to preach on and teach on and promote mentorship.

At youth rallies. At inter-church services. Mentorship was THE THING.  I heard so much teaching as a teenager about being intentional, asking leaders in your life to connect you with mentors.

“Get mentored. Find a mentor. Mentor others. Spend time with older, wiser people. Develop relationships of trust. Ask them tons of questions. As a mentor, intentionally pass on what you know.”

 

Okay, I got it! I will ask! I will find a mentor!” said teenage Mer in response.

But when I asked someone… who I thought could connect me?  The response wasn’t so great.  They weren’t sure about why.  They didn’t have any people to connect me with. They asked who I wanted as a mentor, and I didn’t know.When I came up with the only name I could think of…. They said I should go ask them myself.

I don’t fault those folks at all.

They may not have experienced much mentorship. Or only seen it in other contexts. There wasn’t a culture of mentoring there.

They were probably also trying to teach me a lesson… about being a go-getter and approaching others myself — which in itself was a form of mentoring. (Right?) But at that point I didn’t want to force it.

I was afraid I was off-base. Seeking something that wasn’t my time to find. So I left it. No loud singing…

No matter, I thought!  I figured I’d get that intentional sort of mentoring at Bible college. And I did… even if it didn’t turn out the way I thought.

I’m so thankful for those who did see things in me.

  • Who took the time.
  • Who encouraged me.
  • Who called me out when I needed it.
  • Who are still good mentors and friends today

Mentors of history

In the meantime, I continued to develop the habit of reading tons of books.

I bought, borrowed and made good use of the libraries at school. I wanted to learn as much as I could from whoever I could. And I took as many recommendations as possible.

I still try and get book/podcast/song/course recommendations whenever possible! It’s a great way to keep learning.

 

Many internships

One great thing about being in Toronto? Lots of (unpaid) internship opportunities. Exactly what I wanted. Hands-on learning. Some for years. Others just for months.

Lots of learning. Lots of great stories. Lots of leaders I got to learn from.

And there was also the one that forgot about me on the second day.

(I can tell this story now I think, since very few people know all my internships. AND this pastor has long ago retired from ministry.)

So one internship experience, I showed up for the first day. A Tuesday, I think. Great, no worries.

They show you around the office. You meet all the staff. You get a building key. (Not an office key, obviously, because you’re an intern).

Perfect.

I was excited for this one. I was dedicated to it. Full-time hours! I’d left my other jobs for this. Plus I’d lived in that city for years and worked in the area before. I had some idea of context already!

Working alongside pastors and learning what I hadn’t before? I was psyched to learn more about preaching and pastoral visits and planning and prayer.  (And anything else that started with P! Because preachers are great at alliteration).

The next day I showed up to the office bright and early at 8 a.m.. And the lights were off. The place was emptyNO one was there.

No worries, I thought, I might just be early! Maybe we start at 9! I’m here for 8! Simple miscommunication, possibly? I don’t want to leave in case they arrive soon though.

So I sat down in the entryway and waited for an hour. And another hourAnd then another.

I was already at the church — which was the telephone number I had for them. Nothing to do but wait.  Eventually I fell asleep… For the rest of the DAY. Finally, I woke up EIGHT HOURS later, as a staff member finally came through the door for an evening event.

(This would foreshadow things to come).

To be fair, they didn’t ask for an intern, as they let me know. Someone had asked if they could stretch to taking on an intern and mentoring them. And they definitely did their best! They didn’t have the time, plan, or resources that it typically required to take on an intern. And they still made a great effort and used their limited energy to include me in their settings and show me their world. I’m really grateful for that.

…once we figured out schedules, that was.

I even got a nice big resource book (a copy of Erickson’s Christian Theology) there when they reorganized some resources. I still use it to this day.

 

Idea vs. reality

So that sure tore down some idols I had about mentorship. It made me see I was expecting some unrealistic things from a mentor. That I had to fit into their schedule and not assume I could take time.

And that when I got to mentorship of others… I had to be very careful and not make assumptions about what they needed. I had to get to know them and tailor that accordingly.

It also made me appreciate all the others who were mentors in my life.

  • Pastors I already worked with.
  • Parents.
  • Professors at these schools,
  • People in church.

(I told ya, pastors LOVE alliteration).

  • The leaders in my small group at church were mentors to me as well.

I’d spent the last couple years with that group. They were just a few years older than me.. and they were also navigating Toronto and faith and God.  Seeing others live out their faith, employment, relationships in the city? Taught me a lot.

We had been gathering for food, Bible study and communion every week. That stability, in an ever-changing city, was important. It gave direction and rhythm to our weeks. It gave friendship and strength.

Eventually they handed off leadership to Jarod and I… and I had seen a great transfer of leadership on a small-group level. It means so much to actually walk through that and start mentoring others.

Some people from that group still have visited us way up in Northern Ontario, when work or circumstances bring them our way. We hosted several over in the next city even after we moved away. The relationships that come out of small group ministry have been so important in my own life. It’s something incredible to live that out.

Different days

I see more of that mentorship culture now. All over the place.

  • And it’s backed up by structure.
  • Good bones that relationship can grow on.
  • Intentionality and care.

I grew up for several years in the countryside. I have family who farms. But  I sort of wince every time I hear a city person talk about “organic” growth. Organic gardening can be good. But I gotta tell you.. it takes a ton of work.

  • You’re scouting the area more thoroughly. What grows here? What will the conditions foster?
  • Then you prep things. Tilling soil and planting and pulling weeds. (Often adding a lot of well-rotted manure too).
  • You’re enriching and building and working up front… so that you don’t get problems down the road.
  • You’re deciding which plants to put next to each other… to foster growth, and keep pests away.
  • You’re hiring extra people, because organic growth requires a lot of work by hand instead of extra chemicals.
  • And you’re seeking outside eyes and evaluation, because to label something “organic” means it has to meet a set of standards.

Organic growth – in any setting – isn’t just allowing whatever happens to happen. Any relationship takes time and intention. Shared common ground.

Mentoring takes preparation of individuals and circumstances

  • Seeing who you have and the conditions in the area
  • Figuring out who and what goes well together.
  • Investing up front for down the road growth
  • Seeking outside eyes and perspective.
  • And adjusting because you never get it 100% right.

I love seeing that being implemented. I love seeing the mentoring culture that’s sprung up. A whole lot can grow on those bones.

 

Move you to more

I’m sad to say I still struggle with attempting not to be a “loud singer.” To just be “quietly brilliant” and keep my speed to 0. 

I don’t tend to get too competitive (unless it’s Trivia Night or Jeopardy, then all bets are off) But I LOVE to share stuff I’m excited about! This workout! This book! this chicken recipe!

So I try to balance that with a lot of self-deprecating humour. I’ll share my kitchen disasters and weeks without working out just as readily.

  • But it still scares people.
  • It can so easily be loud singing.
  • And so most of the time, I admit I just quiet down instead.

I’m still gonna work out and make freakin’ awesome chicken and read another great book… and if it’s at least a 7/10 I’ll be happy enough about it! But I get afraid of sharing that.

Sometimes the comments take hold. Or turn a little snarkier.

“Huh… I bet you bake too *eyeroll*”

(I do…)

“Yeah…. my wife doesn’t want to hang out with you and your husband because you’re know-it-alls.”

(Ouch. How does a friendship come back from that one? It doesn’t).

 

But the bigger problem is, I’ve carried fear of being that bulldozer into mentoring situations.

  • Times I do need to be instructive.
  • Times I do need to help people find tools to use, network them with mentors, ask questions, find books they can read.
  • Ways to figure out their gifts. 
  • Experience in learning a new skill and growing them to the point they can do it alone.

But when your confidence is punched in the gut? Its hard to remember how to offer what you do have well.

Every time I’m in a new situation, I realize how much more I need to be clear. To set things upfront. To get these bones that things can grow on.

I’ve been privileged to work alongside lots of young adults that don’t need much mentoring. Whose capacities exceed mine. That help me out a ton in ministry even as I help them in ministry. But I’ve also failed them by not being the mentor I can be for them… because of my own confidence issues.

I forget where I came from.

I forget how others mentored me.

How frustrated I was when others weren’t proactive and intentional and very clear with me. And I’ve made others frustrated by doing the exact same thing I hated.

I’ve forgotten sometimes… That even when it’s hard work to create culture and be intentional? To start something or catalyze a slow start? It’s so worth it for the fruit it produces. What can grow on these bones!

Even if some people around you don’t get it.

But I’m learning.

 

Game changer

The last time we had an intern at a church I worked at? I wasn’t officially her mentor. That job was being done – and done very well! –  by other members of staff.

That staff had already mentored me. Given me new opportunities and trust. Helped me develop my preaching gifts and given a ton of space to do that. They’d taken their valuable time to help along the way, shoehorning me into an exceptionally busy schedule.

So it was cool to see someone as an intern getting mentored.

  • There were good bones to the plan.
  • There was outside help.
  • There was strategy.
  • This mentoring was a great thing to see
  • And there was some amazing fruit it bore. She led well and preached well.

I wanted to take some time and hear about it. I took her out to lunch on my time and my dime.

And asked as many questions as I could.

  • Because whenever I can hear someone’s story? I want to.
  • If I get to ask these questions? I want to take the opportunity.
  • If I can see what works from others who mentor? I’d love to.
  • If there’s a chance I can answer a question or resource someone? Let’s do that.

And for our students – interns – anyone in our churches, really.

I want to see them develop more into who they’re called to be… And I want to be someone who helps with that process.

And I’ll be there on the second day when you walk through the door.

 

 

ce

2. Unlikely sympathy

3. The mix: Road to a call

4. Holy work.

5. But you’re a jerk

6. No other road

7. Hi, Call of God. Meet the parents.

8. Thank you, Tyndale

9. Here’s the stakes

10. The path of wisdom

11. Redeemed and resurrected

12.  Three big lies

13. Courage to change

14. Adulting is hard…

15. And mentoring is harder

16. Picking up the mic – 1 Timothy Part 1

17. Picking up the mic – 1 Timothy Part 2

18. Females and finances

19. Two hundred bad sermons

20. Evangelical, Pentecostal, Female, and Not Alone

21. Strong arms or feeble hands?

22. Strength to strength

Leave a Reply