(Part 2 – Continued from What Is the Mentor’s Triangle?)
I have to admit, when I first encountered this triangle, the fact that the mentor and student were on the same level was a bit of a sticking point. After all, Proverbs 22:6 tells us to Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. This implies leadership, and so the question becomes: How should we express that leadership?
Well, the answer is found in Christ’s example. Jesus did not mentor by domineering those under His wing, by micromanaging their days, or by drilling them in everything they needed to know. Instead, He “trained up” His disciples by:
- inviting them to walk with Him
- leading by example and through acts of service
- presenting challenging questions and parables to be contemplated
- engaging them in discussion rather than lectures
More importantly, Jesus was always in contact with God and He followed through on whatever God prompted Him to do. If we are to follow His example, then we ought to do the same—we must listen for God’s calling daily AND respond to it. God mentors us through prayer and through His word in exactly the same way. He is exceedingly patient and gives us plenty of time and space to work things through. Are we doing the same for our students?
There is a passage in the Bible that explains the mentoring job clearly:
Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)
With this in mind, a biblical “job description” for a Christ-like mentor looks like this:
1. Set the example as a willing mentor: Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.(Titus 2:7-8). Quite simply, do what you expect your students to do with the attitude you want them to have.
2. Support God’s work in the student/child: If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26). Go to God daily, and answer to Him instead of the curriculum. Act on His prompts, and take care not to fill minds with the sound of your own voice.
3. Equip your students for whatever God has planned in life: That the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17). We can’t possibly know God’s plan so it’s important that we follow the lead of the one who does (plus He’s given us hints with our gifts and talents). Furthermore, this ‘equipping’ is not a reference to academics but to the knowledge that comes from scripture. That is what will prepare our children for every circumstance. Also, we can also equip them with practical skills that are universally important (healthy habits, household duties, personal finance, etc.)
4. Nurture independent thinking drawn from their own (or shared) experiences: Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:7). Have conversations rather than drills, avoid leading questions, and don’t rush to give answers. Let students go in search of understanding and have them share what they find, sparking even more discussion.
5. Be an encouragement: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29). Be positive and don’t always be quick to put your child’s inspirations on hold in favor of coursework. Let them try things even if you know the outcome won’t work.
6. Be one who participates alongside: “Woe to my worthless shepherd,who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!” (Zechariah 11:17). Introducing ideas and topics does not require lengthy lessons; it can be done in a few short sentences or even a picture. Let a student’s inspiration and inquiries play a major part in determining the course of their learning and join with them in support.
As it turns out, equal placement on the triangle is really the perfect illustration of a mentor coming alongside a student. In simple terms, our job is to turn their eyes upward toward God. Then, a relationship can form between them and He will open their eyes to the knowledge that comes from Him. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:6). Why would we ever want to interfere with this?
(Read about the Student/Child HERE)