There is a temptation... to sit in a perch on the hunt for success in our perspective ministries (big or small) when we should be on the ground walking with others. Discarding our proverbial leadership guns in exchange for generosity and grace. Those we walk beside participate. Watching, learning, and eventually partnering with us as they take their places in their own parts of the forest.
I have had the blessing to be mentored by a few people who've believed in me and who have helped me spread my wings in the shelter of their friendship and leadership.
Mary Rearick Paul
Each of these friends, whether they knew it or not, impacted and continue to impact my life deeply in some form of mentorship. They join dozens of others who have encouraged me with words of truth, healthy and constructive criticism, hugs of love, high fives of affirmation, the medicine of laughter, distraction from discouragement...and the list goes on.
Most of these friends were or are at the top of their organizations, the decision makers, educators, or visionary leaders. All of them sacrificed something to mentor me. Some of them changed the course of my life with one conversation. They may not even realize what they have done to change my course--or clear a path for me. Others have guided me over the years. Some are still to this day very active in mentoring me in positions of leadership--edifying and building me up from a place of powerlessness to a position of identity restoration and liberating freedom in Christ. Some of them will never now how they have helped me.
I always end up on my knees when I think about it. How on earth? Why me? Why can't every girl who steps into ministry be surrounded by such a great advocacy and mentorship?
Sadly, I know the answer.
There aren't enough people doing it.
It's a sin to hoard ministry that was meant to be shared.
Jesus modeled it.
He included men, women, different cultures, different races, different occupations and levels of socio-economic status.
How can we ignore it?
It's far too easy for us to become insular.
The gift we give when we mentor and share our lives can't be measured.
God knew it and called for it.
Immanuel, God with us--for us to embrace and to follow. We can be with others in this way--as we have the Presence of God living with us. We should look different as a result. Be different. Give different.
And grace shows up and takes the traditional and sometimes misinformed leadership super highways and paves onramps for us all, including me. Oftentimes, the conduits of grace are the pavers themselves, the people I mentioned above. I'm sure you have a few in your own life.
There have been many who didn't sit on their hands saying "yeah, that girl has potential" in their minds--leaving it in their inner dialog but never saying with their words or with their actions. There were many who took a chance on me and gave me their time and are still pouring into this life of mine.
I really want to join them. To find those who glisten with a tenacious call on their hearts. Men and women who have the Kingdom potential.
I think the first step is realizing that you have something to give. For a long time I felt like I couldn't mentor someone until I became good enough. What a hard measure to attain! We'll never be good enough. Christ is enough and because enough is enough, we don't need to worry about adding whatever good we can muster up to the equation. We have a rich dad. A God who has made us co-heirs in our adoption. A Creator who satisfies our souls. We have enough. We are enough in Christ.
It's more than an ideal, it's a choice to begin.
Will we wait for the clarion call of our children, who are oppressed and unable to serve or lead because we've hoarded so much that no visible path of succesion or partnership can be forged?
We take time.
We enter their world.
We give them access to ours.
We make ourselves available.
We offer advice.
We check-in on.
We make suggestions.
We share our best secrets.
We walk beside.
We become generous.
We pray for.
We speak positively about.
We speak on behalf of.
We send out.
We let go.
I remember when Denae walked into my office. Small in stature, her bubbly personality made her seem like she was seven feet tall. She was a senior in high school. She had made an appointment to talk to me about what she was feeling.
"I feel like I want to explore youth ministry."
I've heard this before. So I did what any great youth minister would do. I handed her a textbook. It was called "This Way To Youth Ministry".
"Read this. Then let me know what you're thinking and feeling."
One week later she came back. She had put sticky notes on nearly every page in the book.
Eyes wider than before, face beaming with curiosity, she said "I want more."
And Denae and I started a journey together. Four years of college and now as she is in grad school getting her masters degree. We have walked through education, she has volunteered in my ministry, she's been a leader at Centerfuge for years, we waded through relationship conversations, she's emailed her frustrations sometimes using all caps, we've Skyped, talked on the phone, texted, talked about how she's the only female M. Div student in her school, I remember the day she told me she had a passion for junior high--no one else seemed to want to do it--but it was bringing her to life. She is thriving. When I can't speak at an event, she is one of three people I recommend.
Watching her grow is changing me.
The greatest sin I could have committed would have been ignoring her call and her desire to learn.
All of us have done this at some point.
I realize that can't take every person who comes to us under our wing.
But we can connect every person who wants to learn and serve with someone who can help them.
If we can't mentor--then we must be connectors.
Shifting priorities could mean multiplying the message of Jesus Christ.
The major lessons we should teach?
And how to communicate.
As those we mentor become more able to communicate they become more influential, persuasive, connective, and able to share Christ and Kingdom purposes in creative and relevant ways. As they learn to serve they too become more selfless, missional, and able to partner with others in symbiotic relationships.
I realize that there are still many challenges that young people (and specifically women) face. There are restrictions of traditional age, culture, and gender roles that still thrive in the church. While, I'm not facing as many restrictions as I have in the past, I still feel the weight of them and want to be a part of changing the tide.
Denae recently spoke and exercised her leadership at a large youth missions event in South Florida.
I couldn't be more excited for her. She has mentored me just as much as I have mentored her.
Being with Denae...setting her free to be sent out into Kingdom possibility, is one of the joys of my life.
May mentoring be one of the joys of your life as you serve God and communicate the love and hope of Jesus to others.