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Tag Archives: Mentoring

A couple months ago, I interviewed a man named Doug Stewart for another Building Church Leaders article. The article is part of an Orientation Guide for mentors. (It’s the same type of article I did a few months ago when I interviewed Michael Aukofer.)

(Note: I did not have a picture of Doug, so he is neither of the men pictured on the left.)

This interview with Doug is not visible on BCL unless you purchase the download, but I’m pasting it in its entirety below. I don’t do this for all my articles, but even before I was done talking to Doug, I knew I would want to include this article on my site. Why, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked. Put simply, Doug is an inspirational guy.

I hope that’s evident in the article. But if it’s not, then take my word for it.

In college, I not only had a mentor, but I also served as a mentor to at least one guy (officially), and a couple others (unofficially). During that time, I learned that there are few things that are more rewarding than helping others process things in their lives, challenging them to live out their faith, to grow ever closer to God. And man, I miss those mentoring relationships. But I had sort of forgotten how valuable those mentoring sessions were, and how valuable those relationships were. Until I talked to Doug.

I hope you find his words just as inspirational as I did. Here’s the article in its entirety:

Advice from an Experienced Leader
One mentor shares his thoughts on establishing effective mentoring relationships.

Doug Stewart has worked for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship for 50 years. He and his wife, Marilyn (who has been with Intervarsity for more than 45 years), are both Specialists in Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation—although Doug prefers referring to his position as a Ministry of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation. Doug currently mentors ten men on a consistent basis and he looks for other opportunities wherever he goes. Tyler Charles spoke with him about his experiences and his approach to mentoring.

Tell me a little bit about your experiences as a mentor.
When I was first invited to speak on mentoring to a local group, I thought, “I’m not a mentor.” I thought of a mentor as an expert in a certain field. But then I thought about it and realized, “I’ve been a mentor all my life.” Mentoring has been an essential approach to ministry that I’ve followed. So I realized that mentoring has been what I’ve done at every stage.

What does a typical mentoring relationship look like for you?
I don’t try to become a friend, a buddy, or a peer—neither do I try to hide behind some expertise. But I do realize, in this particular relationship, they’re seeking something from me, and it’s not about me wanting something from them. It’s not a reciprocal thing. I’m not saying I don’t benefit from the relationship, but I have to realize I’m there for them.

What is the goal of mentoring?
The goal is the empowerment, the encouragement, and the strengthening of another person to take steps forward from where they are. Whether it’s in ministry, in their personal life, with God, or in their family, it’s about getting from wherever they are to whatever is set before them.

Often people seek out mentors when they want to move on in someway, but they don’t know how to do it, or they don’t feel capable of doing it.

Does mentoring come naturally for you, or is it a conscious effort?
As I look over my life, and the ways God has used me, I probably have a gift of mentoring. And it’s one I think I should develop. So that means taking initiative—not to push myself on somebody, but to at least offer an opportunity.

It’s a skill—a posture—that I’ve cultivated, and it now comes naturally to me. This is what I do best. I come alongside of people and try to empower them in whatever way they need to take the next step in life.

How do you approach the initial meeting?
I want to put the person at ease first. They’re always a little apprehensive and nervous; they’re wondering how I’m going to respond. Am I safe? Can they trust me? So I ask them general information—questions that will help them feel I’ve gotten to know them a little bit.

Then I’ll ask them what they are wanting from me. How do they feel I’ll be able to help them? Since I usually meet with a person as a spiritual director, I usually ask them what their journey with God has been like thus far.

I try to laugh, joke a little bit. I want to put them at ease. Then get them to tell me what they’re looking for. I don’t try to cover much more the first time than establishing a confidence and sense of security.

How long does it take for the relationship to go deep?
In some cases, I’ve seen a depth immediately. One man started sobbing the first time we met. I was shocked at such vulnerability. I usually meet for an hour—and I would say it’s usually at least two meetings.

After a couple of meetings, I feel a connection to the person, and I think they feel more relaxed with me.

Is it important for men to mentor men and women to mentor women?
Generally men mentor men and women mentor women, but by no means would I say exclusively. My wife meets with several men; she’s their spiritual director/mentor, and I know they get quite a bit from her. Given the fact that there will be an age difference—and we’re not talking about peer relationships or friendships—I think men can mentor women and women can mentor men. It may not be quite as common, but I think it can work very well.

Is mentoring a rewarding experience for you?

Apart from loving my wife, my kids, and grandchildren, it’s the most rewarding thing I do. It’s extremely rewarding to connect with people’s lives, to encourage them, to open new perspectives; it’s wonderfully rewarding. I hope to do it as long as I can.

It’s something very appropriate for people in my stage of life. A man was telling me how wonderful it was to have a “grandfather” in his life to affirm and bless him, and I said, “You don’t know how wonderful it is to have a young person take and learn something from my experiences.” It’s redeeming. We learn a lot more from pain than successes, and I think [mentoring] is great for people as they get older.

What advice would you offer to new mentors?
A mentor needs to take initiative to ask some questions. I don’t find that others can always explain or want to explain what they’re facing, so their needs may not be apparent at first.

Also, I try to communicate worth, appreciation, and value.

What else should other mentors know?
To me, it’s equally important that I have someone that I go to. It changes the way I do mentoring, because it keeps me humble and helps me realize how to be helpful to another person. I think that we all ought to seek somebody with whom we can have a little more intentionality and talk about what’s on our heart.

It’s very hard for men to do this; it’s hard for them to take that first step. Probably that’s why I take more initiative than might be normal. I like to build a bridge there in case the other man wants to cross it.

If you could give just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Believe that God has given you something that you can pass on and share with another, and be willing to do so when the opportunity arises.

—TYLER CHARLES; © 2009 Christianity Today International/BuildingChurchLeaders.com

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