Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Ancient Craft: Mentoring

  One of the great, epic stories from ancient Greece tells the story of Odysseus, trying to return home from battle but on the way faced near-impossible challenges of morals, strength, emotion, and wits.  Before  left behind a wife, Penelope, and a son, Telemachus.  But before he left, he asked a friend to take the lead in helping his son grow and mature.  That friends name was Mentor.  Around the same time our own scriptures tell how Moses, in the wilderness, receives wise counsel from Jethro in a role we would all agree today was that of mentor to learner (Exodus 18).
  Fast-forward over 2500 years to 1699, when a French novelist, François Fénelon, writes a story with the intent it could be used to help raise princes and sons.  The lead character in the novel is called Mentor.  The book was very popular for over 150 years, and it is from here that the character of Mentor is transformed into the act and concept of mentoring.  
  One of the great blessings I have is serving as a mentor to six United Methodist Ministers in our South Georgia Conference.  Along with one other mentor, I help to encourage, correct, inspire, and travel along with some of the finest ministers our Conference has.  It is a process we call the Residents in Ministry (RIM).  After three years of meeting one day a month, these men and women will go before the Board of Ordained Ministry in March to be examined for ordination with our Church.  In addition, I now oversee all of the RIM groups in the conference, which means I'm the one to recruit new mentors.  One day a month, for three years, may sound like a significant commitment to serve outside of the churches we are appointed to; but don't we know the most significant things in life call for the deepest commitments?  Isn't it true, that the best things take time?  Haven't we found that the strongest relationships, and with them the greatest influence, don't happen over night?
  I think this concept of mentoring is at the core of Paul's understanding of the Gospel.  He writes about how this looks in ministry, when he instructs Timothy and others in the church:
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses 
entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. - 2 Timothy 2:2
  The concept of mentoring has been around forever, and finds its way into our literature and our lives.  In what ways is God calling you to teach and lead others?  May we be the place where this ancient practice is found alive and well.

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