Everyone wants one, some desire to be one, few have it all figured out… A mentor! I hear a lot of discussion and read a lot of articles about mentorship. My first statement in this post describes me. I would think every leader has had a thought and even a conversation about this topic. As I am navigating through the pastorate here in my mid-forties, I find myself considering this subject often. I have been influenced to think that mentors are older, more successful, and more seasoned than you are, that these are the leaders that you need in your life if you desire to be successful in your calling and occupation. I agree, older mentors are valuable, but as I sit here in my mid-forties, I have a thought I would like to share with you on the subject of mentors.
Mentors can be younger than you.
Recently, I heard a pastor in his sixties say he was at a Bible conference and a pastor in his thirties preached on faithfulness. He admitted that as this young pastor began to preach on this subject, his thought was “What do you know about faithfulness? You’re only thirty. What have you been through in your ‘life’?” I cringed when I heard that. I was saddened that this older man viewed younger leaders that way. Although some leaders lack in life experience and “time,” it doesn’t mean they ought to be dismissed. Younger leaders bring great perspective to situations. They allow us to understand how a different generation thinks. They can help us communicate our message so others can understand what we are saying. They bring hope, enthusiasm, zeal, and passions that only youthfulness can provide. I believe in my own experience I have learned so much and have been helped so greatly by younger men in the ministry. The wise, seasoned, and older Apostle Paul encouraged a younger Timothy not to be discouraged by those that would look down upon Timothy’s age in leadership. He commanded Timothy to be an example, yes, even at his age, in his conversation, his testimony, how he dealt with others, in his Christian walk, and his morals. The elder Apostle Paul challenged younger Timothy to be a mentor or example for others to follow.
1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
Mentors can be your age.
Mentors are encouragers, ones that help you along your path of life. They keep you balanced. Leaders ought to act their age. It’s OK. I’ve seen young men model older men; they walk like them, talk like them, and behave 30 years older than they are. They may assume that doing this will bring influence, respect, and honor. It really only makes others look at you and wonder why you’re acting like an old man. I think in the previous Bible text I used, Paul was telling Timothy it is OK to be yourself. I’ve seen it in reverse as well. Leaders trying to act younger thinking this will help them relate better. Just be you and be comfortable with your age. In the Old Testament, David and Jonathan were contemporaries. David was helped by Jonathan, someone his own age. I have many friends that are my age that I look up to. I want to learn from their life. I respect them and feel challenged by them to live for the Lord and to grow in my walk with Christ.
Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
Mentors can be older.
Never dismiss a person because they are older. Some may feel there are too many years between them. Older doesn’t mean out of touch, or irrelevant. I have an older pastor that is one of my most influential mentors. There are some generational differences. We don’t see eye to eye on every ministry/church philosophy. This relationship has helped me to be who I am today though. He has been down the road. He knows the pitfalls; he understands life, people, and principles that never change. I learn from him. I take all of the good and I don’t concentrate on the generational differences. I respect him and cherish my time with him. He has helped me in my marriage and has pointed things out to me in my parenting. The elder Apostle John said of Gaius in 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
Mentors in your life can come from all age groups. This is healthy for you and can keep you balanced as you lead.
I would enjoy reading your comments about mentors.
Jeremy Rands is the pastor at Monclova Road Baptist Church near Toledo, Ohio. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.