John Mallison, in his book Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, says mentoring has been the focus of Christian community since the early church. “It is a dynamic relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximise the grace of God in their life and service. It has a sound biblical and theological basis with Jesus as the ultimate model, retaining all that is consistent with his life and teaching.”
Mallison’s mentoring webpage also highlights John Wesley’s General Rules for Methodist Fellowships, including, “Watch over one another in love.”
This, says Mallison, was the key to Wesley’s success in retaining those who were converted through that revival. In class meetings and one-to-one they cared for one another.”
“Watching over one another” is the essence of mentoring.
Nearly 270 years later Wesley Mission in Sydney has released a report, Give kids a chance: Seeing a better future with mentoring, which highlights the importance of a mentor figure in every young life.
The report says three in four young people who have been formally mentored have been able to set realistic goals and realise an expanded and positive view of the future.
Mentoring, says Mallison, has always been part of the fabric of society. Parents play a major role in mentoring their children, especially in their earlier years. The artisan/apprentice relationship or the coach of a sportsperson or team are common forms of mentoring.
“Increasingly, those who take their Christian discipleship and service seriously are seeing the value of having a friend and adviser with whom they can share openly and to whom they can be accountable.”
Jesus, interacting with his disciples, Mallison says, provides our prime mentoring model. “The New Testament is full of ‘one another’ and ‘together’ passages, pointing to Christianity as a relational lifestyle, about community, the power of togetherness.”
Those considering ministry, leadership and service in the Uniting Church hear God calling in many ways: through new experiences and fresh insights, prayer and reflection, gifts and passion … and through the encouragement of friends.
What will help our young leaders enjoy leadership and make a difference in the lives of others? How will they gain a firmer understanding of the scriptures, more confidence in teaching and leading, a clearer sense of what Christian faith is about, effective ways to care for people in need?
As they seek pathways to grow their passion and gifts for servant leadership, the Uniting Church offers a solid foundation in faith, confidence in leading and teaching, effective caring skills, and a growing spiritual life.
And that involves … mentors. People who listen, affirm and support; who ask questions that clarify issues and explore options.
John Mallison says mentoring is a very significant role every Christian disciple can fulfil, irrespective of age or experience — it is not restricted to “giants of the faith”.
“The basic requirement is a living relationship with God and an ability to listen and respond sensitively … and to encourage.
“If this is true of you, you can be God’s agent in enriching another person’s life.”