What do we need to be careful of when mentoring someone? Being a leader has its challenges. When we are mentoring someone, there are areas of our leadership that the enemy would like to capitalize on to bring us – and the person we are mentoring – down.
In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells his younger charge: “Watch your life and doctrine closely.”
Paul understood the challenges of leadership, and wanted Timothy to be continually self-evaluating, and reviewing his life and habits. Why? Blind spots in our lives can sap strength from us along the journey of our lives.
There are branches that naturally grow on trees, but that need to be pruned back. This extra, natural growth needs to be pruned back because it is drawing strength from the fruit and other parts of the tree. A good gardener prunes back extra growth so the energies of the tree can be focused on the right parts. We want to always be examining our lives for habits that need pruned back in order for us to grow into wholeness.
Not only can we be distracted from what is important, but we can also be completely derailed by bad choices that war against our most important relationships and goals. In mentoring relationships, we can all benefit from good choices that help both us and those we are training to thrive.
4 Mentoring Pitfalls Every Leader Must Know
1ST HOT BUTTON – STEWARD YOUR INFLUENCE
If you are in a mentoring relationship with someone, whether you’re mentoring your children as a parent or mentoring a fellow worship leader, there is some level of influence going on. We need to steward that influence well.
We don’t want to “under-connect” or “over-connect” with someone. Christ is wanting to build something beautiful into the relationships between people. He’s not interested in us isolating in independence from one another. He’s also not interested in us tilting the scales into co-dependence, where somehow our identities are intertwined and we can’t tell where one person ends and the other begins.
This can be especially dangerous in a mentoring relationship. What we’re aiming for is interdependence, where we are deeply connected, yet there is a clear sense of identity retained by each person.
Both parties understand the parameters in the relationship, and maintain healthy boundaries. When developing this relationship, keep both ears open to what God is saying, and welcome friendship – without disengaging from your own emotional self-awareness.
2ND HOT BUTTON – AVOID PROJECTION
What is projection? Projection is saying: “I have a particular call, skill, or vocation in my life – something that God has called me to do – and I see the lives of others through the lens of my calling. People I train need to be like me.”
A great mentor will look into someone’s life and see their unique skill set or gifts. Then, they will recognize the area in their own life that can be used to nurture the other’s skill. Everyone has a unique call in God, and we want to tend to that. One worship leader said:
“I had a fellow pastor come to me at one point while I was developing a younger worship leader. He encouraged our relationship, but pointed out that this younger leader may not be called to the same things in which I was training him. He saw the leader being called to another area of the church. For me, it was a wake-up call. My own heart was wanting to mentor someone, to develop someone to take a role in worship leadership. We needed some worship leader roles filled in our church. My fellow pastor showed me that I needed to look at the person from another perspective.”
We want to steward and care for someone’s calling in a way that sets them free to be interdependent: dependent on God in their relationship, and interdependent with the body of Christ and other leaders around them.
3RD HOT BUTTON – DON’T OVERSTATE THE FUTURE
Because of our influence in a mentee’s life, we must be careful that we don’t speak too strongly about exactly what we believe is the calling on this person’s life.
Jesus called us to disciple people – teaching them to obey his commands, teaching them to love as he loved, teaching them to be the people of God. He may call a person to many different missions in one lifetime – and we don’t want to create a box for the person that God is not creating.
We can sometimes overstate the specific future we foresee for someone we’re mentoring. Anything can happen in a person’s life. God brings different winds to direct us, to move us, along a journey. Life is diverse, and we don’t know all that will occur to alter a person’s direction.
We can intuit, encourage, celebrate, and call people to their perceived destiny. But primarily we are calling them to be disciples of Jesus.
If we can mentor them on this path and then share with them other skills – worship leading skills, pastoral skills, spiritual self-feeding skills – we are equipping them to be disciples.
That will be important no matter where they find themselves in life or leadership. Skills come second.
4TH HOT BUTTON – GUARD YOUR OWN HEART
If mentoring a person of the opposite sex, we shouldn’t be sharing any intimate secrets within that relationship that wouldn’t be shared with our spouse.
We need to remain accountable in our mentoring relationships. A great mentor will recognize that the person being mentored needs other influences. Direct whomever you’re mentoring to someone of their same gender that has something to offer them. This will allow them to connect on a much deeper level with someone.
When mentoring a person of the opposite sex, be careful of the level of intimacy you develop when discussing details of the person’s life.
Point them to the person of the same gender if there are sensitive issues to be discussed.
Meet in groups with mentees of the opposite sex – it’s a great way to encourage comaraderie.
There is too much that can go wrong meeting privately with a mentee of the opposite gender.
Only meet in public places, and put plenty of helpful barriers between you and any compromising situation.
Try at least one idea for the next time you meet:
- Mentoring is a life to life exchange, and there is a quality of deep connectedness that comes along with that kind of relationship.
- We want to teach others how to live, love, and serve in community – inspiring a spirit of interdependence.
- Don’t project your own calling onto the other person, and create distance between you and any situation that would compromise how the relationship appears to others, or how it affects your most precious family relationships.
- Finally, don’t overstate the future. Encourage young leaders in their walk with God, and nurture friendship for the long haul.
This article originally appeared here.
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