Almost everyone I talk to agrees that mentoring is a great idea. The number one question I am often asked is, “How do you get people to do it?”
My answer is quite simple: You must be captivated by your own vision.
Oftentimes people don’t take the next step to get involved with mentoring because of a lack of confidence or because no one has provided them with a successful mentoring model—either through a program or personal practice. If you don’t take the initiative to model the way for them, they won’t do it. It’s that simple.
It isn’t every day a former Marine officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate steps up to mentor women in the church. Natasha Sistrunk Robinson has done exactly that in her excellent book, Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship.
Lest anyone get the wrong idea, this book does not contain anything like the
grueling physical boot-camp ordeal or loudmouth sergeants abusing recruits one braces for in the military. But the purpose and content are every bit as dead serious and substantial as what Marines expect (and the country counts on them getting) from those who mentor and train them.
Mentoring as Mission
Having said that, Natasha’s military background beautifully informs and shapes both her passion for others and the sense of urgency she expresses as she unfolds the mentoring plan she’s developed and tested. Strong parallels exist between those who battle for their country and the training she’s proposing for those entrusted with the good news of Jesus Christ, but who face a formidably relentless enemy.
I love how she draws on her military experiences to argue that strong, intentional mentoring activity is urgently needed within the body of Christ—for both women and men. This is not only for our own good, but also because of the vital mission Jesus calls us to undertake. That alone distinguishes this mentoring plan from a simple personal-betterment or educational mentoring program.
First, like military training, so also true spiritual mentoring is never an end in itself. Both come within a larger pressing context. Soldiers don’t train simply for their own sakes, but because they’ve answered a call to something far bigger and more consequential than themselves. Believers too have answered a call to become part of something vast and monumental. Our smaller diverse stories are part of God’s bigger global story. We are participants in God’s mission for the world. The seriousness of this bigger context means we cannot take our own readiness lightly.
Lonely and displaced. That’s how I sometimes feel as an African American leader who is called to serve within the white evangelical culture. I know the feeling all too well when dialoging with seminarians, participating in Christian conferences, writing for Christian publications, or even attending predominately white and multicultural churches. Too often, this experience reveals the laments of my sisters and brothers of color who see the physical banners which read, “Come as you are…” and yet understand that the invisible subheading demands, “and be like us.” I want to come as I am, period. As minority leaders of faith, we don’t want to assimilate into the white culture. We simply want to be as God created us in His image with value, dignity, purpose, and not have our racial or ethnic differences viewed as a threat to the “normal way” of doing things.