Some of the most impactful voices in my life have come from people who are older, wiser and have taken the time to invest in me. At my small Christian college in rural area these relationships were abundant and easy to find. I was continually meeting for coffee on campus with people who were willing to chat with me or signing myself up for time to meet with a professor in their office to learn from them.
Post grad life comes with many transitions and one I wasn't prepared for was the lack of voices of authority and wisdom in my life. I assumed those voices could be found in the local church and went searching for them. But in big, busy churches like most in Nashville I found the people who I wanted to learn from were rushing out the door after church services to buckle kids into carseats and rush off to an afternoon soccer game.
If you're longing for a mentor in your faith as a Christian, how can you find one?
Forget about a traditional mentorship model
My expectations for mentorship came from what I think most evangelical Christians picture when they hear "mentor." I imagined that we would meet regularly for coffee, maybe dive into the content of a book together, and this person would simply generously give their time to me to invest in a younger generation.
Some people have the capacity and eagerness to do this, but it's not common. My husband spent time with a pastor off campus when we were in college and he encouraged my husband to pick up a different version of mentorship. Go where they go, do what they do. Sound familiar? It should because this is how Jesus led the disciples. They were called to follow Him and they did. They watched what He did and learned from Him as He went about His life and mission.
"They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled" (Mark 14:32).
For us, it looks a little different today. The first step to finding a good mentor is dropping the expectations of weekly formal coffee dates and being willing to go over to someone's house and help fold laundry, or show up to that kid's afternoon soccer game and cheer them on alongside their parents.
Ask God to focus your attention on one thing
Another part of mentorship that can be challenging for those of us looking for mentors (by the way, you don't have to be young to need a mentor, I want to be mentored for my entire life!) is that we might have the expectation to ask someone to be everything instead of one thing.
It's a lot harder to find someone to mentor you if you're looking for someone who is a leader in the same business, has a marriage that inspires you, has multiple kids like you, volunteers regularly at the same church that you go to, and lives in your local community.
It's a lot easier to focus on one thing that you admire in someone and that God wants to grow in you and to look for someone to learn that one thing from. Maybe, there's someone at your church whose prayer life inspires you. Other than that, maybe you have nothing else in common. But it could it be possible to enter into a season of mentorship just to learn that one thing?
Ask but don't make it weird
When looking for a mentor it's super easy to make it all about you. I talk/write about this so much in my industry because this is the biggest mistake aspiring authors make--they make it all about their story instead of about a readers story. In writing, this doesn't do anyone any favors and in life it doesn't make a lot of sense to always be thinking about yourself.
With mentorship, when we think about our needs and wants, it doesn't seem super enticing for a mentor to jump in and help. Most people aren't going to be wooed into mentorship. In the Bible, mentors went out and chose their people to follow them. I wish there were more people willing to do this in our society today but since it's a bit foreign and counter-cultural to us, I do encourage people to ask to be mentored.
However, if you make it weird you'll likely get a no. Since most mentors also hold the view mentioned in point one of traditional mentorship many of them will think they can't commit to a regular timeframe to meet up for coffee and that the commitment isn't for them. Also, if you consider your "audience" or your potential mentor they might be intimidated by that formal language. Who, me, a mentor? No way!
Instead, treat finding a mentor like making a new friend. Instead of asking for a weird formal commitment that makes everyone think about signing a contract, just ask to spend time with a mentor like you would invite a friend to hang out. If they mention something they're doing or love to do or a need, jump on that opportunity!
Be willing to go where they already are and soon you'll have sneakily secured yourself a mentor without any formal conversations needed.