Mentoring: Breaking to Bring Out the Best

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Working with college students does have a major drawback in that they are transient.  I can’t even count up the number of “generations” we’ve seen come through here, arriving then departing every couple years.  Last night, we sent out two of our leaders who are taking youth pastors position in Missouri.  When our leaders leave, we allow the other students and young adults to encourage them and speak into their lives.  I always try to come up with some type of symbolic gift which typifies their lives and callings.

They have a heart for mentoring teens, helping develop them and leading them through the process of following Christ; not always comfortable or pleasant but absolutely necessary.  “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).

I likened their callings as disciplers to a mortar and pestle.  Checking out the conditions on line, I found the following insights on mentoring:

  • The mortar and pestle must strong hard enough to crush and not be worn away in the process. The purpose is to crush the outer layers and bring out it’s best properties.  But it also takes special care, because in some cases, if you grind ingredients too much, they will turn into a paste and be useless.We all must go through transformational, breaking experiences…the breaking of our flesh so that God’s Spirit can be active and sovereign in us.  The Psalmist asking for a “broken and contrite spirit” which comes from the Hebrew word dakah meaning “to be crushed to pieces” or “pulverized.  Not fun but necessary.  As leaders, we keep ourselves open to how God wants to use us to develop those whom He entrusts to us:  encouragement, rebuke, exhortation, correction, etc.  But, if we’re too heavy-handed, it can end up breaking someone’s heart and confidence, not their flesh.  It takes great care to help folks deal with their issues and see their best brought out.
  • The material for the mortar and pestle must also be durable enough, not brittle, or it will fall apart.  Likewise, as leaders, we must be ready for the challenges ahead through a life of prayer, a devotion to God’s Word, and a regular practice of spiritual disciplines, constantly being touched, changed, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The stresses and burdens of ministry can be too much to bear if a person isn’t prepared properly.
  • The material for the mortar and pestle should also be cohesive, or work in sync and well together.  One can’t be made of wood and the other of steel because one would chip or destroy the other.  They have to be similar in nature to work.  This could be any combination of both spouses in leadership, a pastor and a parent, or pastor and another leader.  They work in tandem to help a person develop and mature.  The two should also be like-minded and in similar stages spiritually; otherwise there will be a conflict in ideas and solutions.
  • The mortar and pestle must be smooth and non-porous.  A smooth surface will provide for consistency during the breaking process.  It is important that they not absorb what they’re crushing otherwise it will be mixed with anything broken down later (odors, flavors, properties).  This is especially dangerous in a pharmacist’s hands because it could combine with medications that are dangerous when mixed.The discipler must remain consistent and “unaffected” by the mentees reactions.  If we’re unstable, we could actually develop ministry codependency, basing decisions on someone’s moods, behaviors, and decisions.  In the case of offenses, we can’t keep them in our systems, otherwise it could be poisonous to other people we work with.  It’s a delicate balance of being thick-skinned and tender-hearted.
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