By James Smith
1. Tells you the truth – even when it hurts.
One man who has been one of my mentors for almost 18 years especially stands out because of his honesty with me. Early in my ministry and marriage, he pulled me aside and explained to me that I was not very respectful to my wife in public. He explained that the ladies of the church would not honor me as a minister for this reason. At the time I was offended that he would tell me this as I thought I was very good to my wife. However, years later, I see where he was coming from. I’m grateful that he was bold enough and honest enough to talk to me about a sensitive subject. Honoring my wife and publicly showing her affection has not only given me respect among the other ladies of the church, but has also been a blessing to our marriage.
2. Shows a good example for you to follow.
The old cliché “Do as I say, not as I do.” Does not work in mentoring. A lifelong mentor should be someone who is a model of who you want to become. Everyone is a little bit like the people who have parented them. Part of a mentor’s role is to let the protégé watch them closely in the work that they do. One of my mentors would often times invite me to sit in on important meetings that I had no experience in. I would never say a word unless asked my input. I understood that I was there to observe and to learn. I watched my mentor closely to see how he handled fragile situations that I had no experience in. I would often ask myself how I would handle these often sensitive meetings, but would then watch my mentor expertly handle delicate subjects with Godly wisdom.
3. Sees you as family.
Mentoring someone is a life long commitment. Your best mentors are not people who are only a part of your life for a short amount of time. A mentor sees you as a son or daughter in the Gospel. Paul who mentored Timothy referred to him as his son. Anything less than a family level commitment may prove to be a surface only relationship between mentor and protégé. Often times, subjects discussed in a mentoring relationship are sensitive and personal. A protégé needs to know that he is going to someone who is a father figure who only has the protégé’s best interest in mind.
4. Shows himself/herself to be open and transparent with you.
A good mentor is someone who is not afraid to talk to those they mentor about their failures as well as their successes. My father would often say to me, “Don’t make the same mistakes that I have made.” This is a good reason for mentors to be open with their protégés. You may save that person a tremendous amount of pain and numerous mistakes by revealing to them the mistakes you yourself have made along the way.
Personally I find it hard to explain to people how I do the things that I do well. Some things come naturally to me, but I find it hard to explain or articulate to others how or why I do what I do. As a mentor, it’s important for me to slow down and explain the process to those I mentor. It’s often times harder to explain the process than do it, but the protégé needs to be able to learn from the mentor’s giftedness.
6. Sees and believes in your potential.
You cannot effectively mentor another unless you see something in them that they may not see in themselves. You have to be someone who is capable of causing them to become someone better than who they currently are. If you look at that person and only see their shortcomings, then you may not be the best person to mentor them. When you mentor someone, you are investing a portion of your life into them. You will not want to invest that level of commitment in someone you do not see tremendous potential in. When I look at a person, I try hard to not see them as they are, but to see them as they can become. Honestly, I am often very critical of people at first. This is a problem I have identified in my own personality. However, through prayer and looking through the eyes of Jesus at people, I can see tremendous potential that I never would have seen with the natural eye.
7. Is someone who can help you bring your vision into a reality.
Thru the years, I have had many dreams and visions of God’s will for my life and ministry. My mentors have helped me understand my various burdens and help me keep in check which visions were possible and which ones were not. One mentor recently chuckled and told me there is no possible way to do all that I currently want to do for the Lord. He helped me understand that I need to pace myself and that God will give me the helps along the way to accomplish all I have a vision for. However, for the mean time, do only what I can humanly do.
8. Is open to learn from you.
Someone once told a joke that God was referring to Solomon when He said, “Ya, I made him so smart, he started to teach Me.” It is entirely possible that a protégé may eventually have something to bring to the table. As a person matures and develops, they may even surpass the wisdom and knowledge of their mentor in a given area. This is to be expected and hoped for. This is the purpose of mentoring, so that the next generation of leaders will have learned from the experiences of those they glean from. A mentor offers his protégé a tremendous gift when he allows that person to teach them something. This shows the protégé that he has graduated in a certain area. It also shows him that he is honored among those he honors.