Thoughts on Mentoring
"See how I hold the bat straight up? Do you know why I do that?" the coach asked. "Because the bat is lighter when held straight up. Less surface for gravity to pull on."
"Hold your bat back like I am. As the pitcher throws the ball, respond with your body the way mine does. Pivot your front foot, twist your hips and shoulders, bring your arms around. If you decide you like the pitch, bring the bat around with you. If not, hold up. Understand?"
We didn’t. We were a bunch of eight year olds being drilled in the art of batting. And the coach, my dad, was tasked with making sure we had some idea of what we were doing.
But, would that be enough? Is it ever enough to just tell someone, "Clean your room. Don’t do drugs, alcohol or sex. Make sure you do well in school. Treat a girl right. Drive carefully. Make sure the boys respect you."
We might think that just verbalizing these instructions is enough, but do any of us catch on to abstract concepts or even concrete behaviors that easily? Don’t we need someone to go beyond the verbal instructions to show us what the ideas look like or how the behaviors are performed?
My dad taught us in his batting clinic. But, he did more. He showed us. "Hold the bat like this." John Maxwell identifies four biblical steps to training someone. The steps are:
I do it. Before anyone can teach they must first be proficient themselves. Proficiency is developed by faithful and careful performance over time.
I do it - and you watch. The teacher or coach instructs and performs the deed as the students watch, hoping they catch as many of the details as possible. An experienced teacher or coach knows that not much is going to be caught or understood by the students, so they move to the next step.
You do it - and I watch. The teacher and student now exchange roles, with the student performing the desired action. It may not go very well at first. That is why the instructor is still present, correcting, teaching, guiding and demonstrating again how to perform the task. There is still one more step.
You do it. As the student gains proficiency, he is now ready to be entrusted with the job. He has been trained and mentored to perform at a higher level, all under the caring and watchful eyes of the mentor. (John Maxwell, Mentoring 101, p.17)
After steps one and two in the batting clinic, dad moved to step three, You do - and I watch. He gave each of us a bat to perform the various exercises he demonstrated - holding it upright and straight out to experience the difference in weight; holding it behind us in a readied stance; swinging. After spending most of one practice session on these basic drills, dad moved us to step four, You do it. We batted. The rest of the season we continued to receive mentoring.
Maxwell says, "In all the years I’ve been equipping and developing others, I’ve never found a better way to do it than this." (P.18) The Bible says, "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2). That is mentoring.
"Am I doing this right?" (Ashley Sisk Photography)
These four steps apply not only to a batting clinic or to Paul preparing Timothy to minister. They apply to the issues and concerns in our home, family and spiritual life. To a child keeping his room clean. To a teenager keeping his body free from addictive chemicals. To a boy or girl dating carefully. To a student doing well in school. You set the example. Then teach and show them what the idea looks like. Then entrust them with restricted levels of freedom to perform how you expect, while providing oversight. If they abuse the freedom, reel them back in for more instruction, with correction and discipline. Then, they move out to perform on their own.
This year, is there someone in our lives - a child, friend, co-worker, or neighbor - that we can mentor in the ways of spiritual living and godly perspective?