There are many mentoring examples found in the Scriptures but one of the most prevalent would be Paul and Timothy. The two originally met in Lystra and immediately Paul took an interest in his new protégé, investing not just the Gospel but his life over the next several years.
“That is the very reason I am sending Timothy — to help you do this. For he is my beloved and trustworthy child in the Lord. He will remind you of what I teach about Christ Jesus in all the churches wherever I go” (1 Timothy 4:17).
That’s a great deal of confidence placed in Timothy because he was representing Paul and his reputation, and ultimately Christ. It was a clear endorsement upon his ministry. But we must constantly remember that Timothy did not come out of the box that way but by Paul’s sacrifice, faith, and gut wrenching perseverance. Here’s some practical things to consider when God specifically brings a younger believer our way and awards us the privilege of pouring into their lives.
Give them something they don’t have
The very reason God orchestrates this meeting is because He believes we have something unique to offer: life experiences and lessons, and godly advice on specific situations we’ve already conquered. It could be emotional issues: surrogate parenthood, love, acceptance, encouragement, even correction and parameters. They could even be practical needs met: money, a guitar, clothes, a place to live, etc.
Develop what they already have
I would say that all people are talented and gifted in some way. With some, it’s just more apparent while others, it needs to be pulled out of them. We’ve seen people with minimal or no musical training become amazing and anointed worship leaders. Then there’s the sharp but shy leaders who build the largest small groups. Everyone has something to offer, it must simply be harnessed.
See something in them they don’t see
As we grow in our relationship with the mentee, praying for them, developing a burden for them, God may start revealing His wonderful plans for them because we’ll be responsible for helping to prepare them. We’ve seen the unassuming students who just have a pure heart for sharing their faith become dynamic evangelists. Me? I almost failed speech class in high school and college. I’m absolutely terrified of being in public to this day…people never believe me when I say that. But because my first mentor and my current pastor kept making me face my fears, speaking faith into my heart, and offering (forcing, haha) opportunities, preaching and teaching has become my way of life.
See what no one else sees
I seem to really have a heart for the underdogs. Many people I’ve had the opportunity to mentor over the years have been people that others gave up on. In other words, I end up with those who no one else wants. I don’t know if it’s because they pose a greater challenge? But by spending time with them, God starts to show us not who they are but who they can become. Extra patience and care, yes, but absolutely trust in God and believe for what seems impossible.
One of my favorite examples of this is the story of Charlie Paddock, once toted as the fastest man alive. Representing the U.S. at the 1924 Olympics, won 2 silver medals and 2 gold medals in track. It was his regular practice to give motivational speeches in low income areas to kids. In one of his Cleveland assemblies, a young boy came up to him and said, “Mr. Paddock, I sure want to be like you someday.” Charlie looked skeptically at the scrawny African-American boy who was clumsy and uncoordinated. But he was determined to encourage him in some way.
“Son, just so long as you really want to, you can be anything you really want to be. If you want to be like me, then just remember your goal, and, no matter what, stick with it and someday you’ll get there.” The scrawny African-American boy was so excited, he ran home to tell his mom what Charlie had said. They boy’s mom smirked and said, “Son, you need to be realistic. You’re not athletic. Besides, nothing good has come out of the Owens family.
A decade later, this same young man went on to set 6 world records while attending the Ohio State University. He then represented the U.S. at the 1936 Berlin Olympics winning 4 gold medals, in affect sticking it in the face of Adolph Hitler and his racist Nazi government. His name was Jesse Owens, one of the greatest athletes of all time. Well, Jesse returned for his moment of fame and also began to host school assemblies for kids. As fate would have it, a young African-American boy approached Jesse, also skinny and clumsy. The boy uttered similar words and Jesse gave the exact same encouragement. “Son, just so long as you really want to…stick with it and someday you’ll get there.”
And get there he did, tying Jesse’s record for the 100yd dash and winning 4 gold medals at the London (1948) and Helsinki (1952) Olympic games. A few words spoken by a champion athlete to a young, unimpressive, and impressionable lad had set off a reaction that brought some of the finest moments in the history of sports.
But one simple reminder: Daring means possessing the courage to proceed; willingness to challenge or defy reason; to take a risk. Believing in someone is a risk, and sometimes it’s a risk that doesn’t yield the desired results. Investments can be one of the greatest sources of joy…or grief. People’s inability to grow, change, and live for God can be the cause for a great deal of pain. But just remember:
- There’s NEVER a wasted investment.
- People will do what they want to do. We have no control over that.
- Obeying God and fulfilling our calling is the priority.
- It’s always worth it!
My life verse once again: “But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus — the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love” (Acts 20:24).
With that being said, I want to give a big shout out to those who dared to believe in me: my sisters Eileen and Natasha, Cal Thompson, Fred Franks, Dale Crall, Dave Short, Dean Niforatos, and my spiritual father, Gary Grogan.