Over the years, I've had some incredible mentors in my life—people who've spoken words of wisdom and guidance into my marriage, finances, personal life and ministry.
These people have left me wonderstruck by the richness they've added to my life. But to be honest, finding such people hasn't been easy. At times, I've reached out to people I hoped would become mentors who didn't respond, didn't have time or didn't particularly connect with the idea.
Other times, I've waited for people to reach out to me, even dropping hints along the way, but the relationship never developed. But developing healthy relationships with older, wiser believers as well as those who are younger than us is important to our spiritual journeys.
Here are 10 tips I've discovered to searching for and finding the perfect mentor:
1. Reconsider the meaning of "mentor."
One of the great challenges of mentoring is that the word "mentor" means something different to everyone. Some people think of a mentor as a sage who answers life's toughest questions. Others search for a mentor who's more like a best friend. Still others are looking for a business or life coach.
Rather than use the word mentor when approaching someone, consider simply asking someone to lunch to build a friendship. Often these efforts produce a more natural relationship and provide time for prayerfully considering if he or she is someone from whom you want to learn.
2. Consider what you want in a mentor.
Sometimes mentoring relationships don't develop beyond a quick coffee because mentees don't really know what they want.
Are you looking for someone to pray for you? A cheerleader? A life coach? A Bible study partner? An older friend?
Begin by asking yourself these questions: In what area of your life do you most want to grow? Then make a list: Who are some of the people who can offer the most information and experience in helping you get there? When you know what you want, you'll be better equipped to approach the right person.
3. Check the person's wingspan.
You may have discovered the perfect mentor. A few years ago, I found her in my church. She was a young 30-something with the togetherness of Martha Stewart; the cooking skills of Rachael Ray; the sensibilities of Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman; and a heart for the lost like Billy Graham.
I convinced myself I could learn at least a thousand things from her. And I could have! If she hadn't been mothering three children under age 5 with a fourth on the way. This incredible women had lots to give, but her kiddos required everything she had.
Even from a distance, I learned a lot from this amazing woman. Since then, I've discovered that even without young kids, sometimes there isn't room for an additional mentoring relationship. I've had people ask me to mentor them, and I've declined—not because I didn't adore them or see their giftedness, but because I knew adding one more would shortchange those to whom I'd already committed.
Before you go too far in convincing yourself you've found the perfect mentor, check the person's wingspan. Does he or she have room for one more? Or is this person already over-committed?
4. Make sure there's a personal connection.
Sometimes in our eagerness to find a mentor, we ask people we admire to become mentors before any real personal connection is made. We may like them, the idea of them or what they've accomplished. But when we sit down face-to-face with them, there may not be any genuine chemistry.
If you're thinking about reaching out to someone as a mentor, begin by getting to know the person and make sure some synergy exists between you. Some of the best mentoring relationships in my life have developed organically. Never confuse the idea of a natural relationship with being unintentional. Developing a healthy mentoring relationship will require you to pick up the phone, reach out and nurture the relationship.
5. Examine the person's life.
I watch people's lives from a distance and think, Wow! I want to be like so-and-so!
But often, as I've learned about people and their lives more intimately, I've thought: I don't want to turn out like that.
We can learn from anyone, even donkeys, but if you're going to invite someone to speak into your life, look at the fruit of that person's life. Make sure you're not aligning your life with someone who has self-destructive tendencies or behaviors.
6. Share common values.Some time ago my husband and I sat down to a meal with a couple we'd long looked up to in life and ministry. I'd planned to ask the wife if we could intentionally build a mentor-like relationship.
By the time the main course arrived, we realized the goals for our lives and what following Jesus in ministry looked like were wildly different. Endeavor to find a couple whose spiritual walk is similar to the path that you and your spouse are walking, or the mentor relationship won't be beneficial to either of you.
7. Savor candidness.
Odds are the person you really want to be mentored by is amazing in countless ways, but you're likely not the first person to discover that individual's giftedness. He or she probably has a ton of demands. Time will naturally be limited.
So the question isn't just if you can ask the right questions, but if that amazing person can give you direct, candid answers in response. Good mentors will surprise you with their straight-forwardness and honesty—trusting that if you asked the question, you'll want to hear the answer.
8. Develop thicker skin.
Some time ago, I was in a mentoring relationship with a gal who was dating a guy with self-destructive behaviors that he managed to hide from her for more than six months. I had the difficult conversation with her about the choices she was making by continuing to date him. Afterward, she told me she didn't want to meet anymore. For a while, I second-guessed what I'd said, but I knew I was the only person being honest with her.
As you develop a palate for honesty, you'll need to learn to stomach what your mentor might say. A friend will often tell you what you want to hear, but a mentor will tell you what you need to hear.
Though friends are supportive and stick with you through thick and thin, a friend may not speak a difficult truth for fear of affecting the friendship. A good mentor will say the things that are hard to hear—even if it affects the relationship.
9. Adjust your expectations.
All too often, we're looking for the mentor who can provide all the wisdom and insight we need in every area of life. If we're honest, we're not looking for a mentor as much as we're looking for a superhero whom we can access on speed dial at any time. One person can't possibly offer the guidance and wisdom you need in every area of your life.
Instead of seeking a single mentor, develop a multitude of mentors. Look for people who can challenge you professionally, with your finances, in your marriage and as you parent. Those aren't going to be the same people.
We do an injustice to our mentors when we expect one person to be the end-all-be-all wisdom-dispensing guru in every area of life.
10. Pray for eyes to see.
Ask God to bring people into your life who can be mentoring voices and people you can pour into. Chances are, God has already brought someone into your life who's ready to be a voice of wisdom and encouragement. Pray for eyes to see.
Prepare to be wonderstruck by what He has been orchestrating in your midst.
This article is courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.