For as long as I can remember, I have attended a church that believed in the importance of discipleship. I have often been a part of a discipleship group or a mentoring relationship, but I have seldom been a mentor for someone. It is in this area that I learned the most from As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character In a Mentoring Relationship. Howard and William Hendricks did a great job of encouraging me to get involved in a young man’s life as well as finding a mentor in my new community. I was challenged to find a Timothy and a Paul here in Laramie, I was interested by the power of prayer when looking for a mentor or protégé, and I was happy to see the practical tips offered by the authors.
I have lived most of my life with various Paul’s and Barnabas’s, but I have only had a few Timothy’s. This book challenged me to seek out a young man to mentor, or at least be willing to meet with if God leads us together. While reading the book, I spent a lot of time thinking about mentors that I have had and how much they have blessed me, and I realized that I was being selfish if I failed to bless a younger man in the same way. I was challenged when Hendricks ask the reader to consider what was preventing him from entering into a mentoring relationship. I could think of no good reason why I was not actively pursuing a protégé.
At this point in the mentoring cycle, Hendricks urges men to pray. Prayer does a lot for the mentor as well as the protégé. It is through prayer that both men will be prepared to enter into the mentoring relationship, and it is through prayer and patience that the Lord will lead a young man into an older man’s influence. These points were very convicting to me, because I had only gotten to a point of desiring a protégé; I had not made the effort to pray for one. Hendricks was very encouraging in this. He uses examples from his own life as well as from other sources to describe what it is like when two people meet for the first time and begin a mentoring relationship. It was a beautiful thing to see the way the younger man looked up to the older man, the way that I have always looked up to my mentors. I have certainly had mentors that I have not connected with, but I have had mentors that have worked out very well. The difference between the two types of mentors has seemed to be a matter of God’s involvement in placing us together. This is why I have started to understand the importance of prayer in beginning a mentoring relationship. It is God who will bring us together, and it is God who will grow the relationship.
On a practical note, I really appreciated the advice that Hendricks offers. He spends much time offering tips to mentors and to young men looking for mentors. Two tips struck me in particular. The first was for young men to not use the term mentor until the older man uses it. This seemed very odd to me at first, but in Part II I began to understand that most men are very fearful about being a mentor. I can be very straightforward in regard to my hopes, desires, or expectations, so this was a great piece of advice for me. And secondly, I appreciated Hendricks’ tips on parting ways. Prior to this book, I believed that mentoring relationships are supposed to last forever, but that was a huge fallacy; when they are goal oriented in the way that mentoring relationships should be, relationships have a beginning and an end. This is healthy, but they must end well. I appreciated this part of the chapter, because I was introduced to a healthy understanding of what a mentoring relationship is as well as how they should end. I have had many mentoring relationships, and about half of them ended poorly. This was due to my misunderstanding that it would never end, as well as the mentor’s failure to say goodbye in a healthy manner.
I appreciated this book tremendously. I began to understand that God has a desire for us all to be mentors, and that I am able to have a positive impact on someone. Since I’ve been hurt in the past, I benefited from learning what a healthy mentoring relationship should be like.
Howard Hendricks and William Hendricks, As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character in a Mentoring Relationship (Chicago: Moody, 1997).