It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that part of my Vocation, part of my Call, is mentoring. That thread of passion has woven it’s way through many aspects of my life, from coaching to college organizations to my professional life in teaching and into my role as an Initiate and a Priest. Being a mentor can be a tough job, but it is immensely rewarding work for me. It is one of the things that drives me.
I want to be helpful to others, to aid them in their growth, and to give them the tools and skills they need to do the work they want to do. In a way, I want to put myself out of job, though I know that new people, new mentees, will continue to come along. But there is great joy and a sense of accomplishment, in seeing a mentee reach a point where you can step back because they no longer need you.
As mentors, we seek to help our mentees feel welcomed, valued, and part of their own learning process. We walk alongside them, providing support and insight, and encouraging reflection, risk-taking, and confidence in their growing skills. The mentorship relationship will grow and change with time, and that is a good thing. The way that relationship between mentor and mentee develops allows for learning to flow back and forth, and for a guided, yet organic, method of growth to occur.
When I mentor someone I talk with them. I prod them when they need it. I’m a sounding board. They are the team leader and I’m their point person, their support person. When they need something I can’t do, or I don’t know, I find them that resource, or that other person that does know something more, or even different than me, and I make that connection.
When you’re a mentor, you’re in it for the long game, and certainly not for any sense of immediate glory. You start with your mentee, where ever they may be along their path, and you walk with them. Within many organizations, there is this push as a mentor to get your mentee over the threshold of whatever it is that you’re mentoring them for. Whether you’re mentoring them as a prospective leader of your organization, as a student teacher, or as an aspiring priest. The push is to get them to that new position. To get them to and through that Rite of Passage.
But that isn’t enough. It isn’t good enough for the mentor to lead that person, their mentee, up to the threshold of this new position in their life, and then shove them over it. Especially when there may or may not be someone on the other side to catch them, and reintegrate them back into their organization, or society, or church as a person with this new role. When you go through a transition, a Rite of Passage, there is a state of liminality that occurs. And after the state of liminality there is a state of communitas, of being part of the community.
Part of the role of a mentor, and especially for me with how I view my role as an Initiate, is to walk with that person up to the threshold, through the liminal space and time with them, and be there for them on the other side as well, to help them adjust to their new role.
I’ve had some great mentors, especially as I’ve entered the ADF Priesthood. They’ve encouraged me and given me the opportunity to grow and learn and take chances. They’ve been there for me when I struggle, and cheered me one when I’ve succeeded. The best have also been the ones that walked with me at the beginning of my path, and have continued to walk with me at each successive step along the way. These mentors, they’ve helped me navigate these waters and come to grips with my Vocation, my Calling. They’ve become my peers.
So, what are some dispositions and qualities that good mentors have? What does being a good mentor look like? What does a good mentor do, especially internally? Here are some ideas: