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A Model for Mentors

June 29, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NRSV)

So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Focus

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul and his colleagues describe the close relationship they had with the Christians in Thessalonica. The nature of their relationship has relevance to many different kinds of relationships today, including mentoring relationships. 1 Thessalonians encourages mentors to care deeply for their mentees and to share their “soul” with their mentees when it is appropriate. We’re reminded that mentoring isn’t just a sharing of ideas. It’s a sharing of life.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.

Devotion

As you may recall, I began this series of devotions based on 1 Thessalonians after a conversation about mentoring with my De Pree Center colleague Meryl. She has been heading up a fascinating research project focused on mentoring. The results of this research will help us create resources to serve both mentors and mentees so that they might have a fruitful mentoring relationship. In my conversation with Meryl, she expressed a desire for some devotions related to mentoring. I immediately thought of 1 Thessalonians, a New Testament document I had studied intensely for years while writing my doctoral dissertation. Though Paul and his co-writers didn’t write 1 Thessalonians specifically for mentors, there are many passages in this letter that are relevant to mentoring relationships.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 is such a passage. In this verse, Paul and his colleagues describe their relationship with their Thessalonian converts: “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” It’s not hard to see how this verse might speak to mentors and mentees.

First of all, Paul and Co. mention how deeply they care for the Thessalonians. The Greek verb translated here as “deeply do we care for you” is unusual, appearing only here in the New Testament. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament offers this interpretation: “The meaning of this rare word is not wholly clear, but it obviously expresses the intensity of feeling. Paul uses it in 1 Th. 2:8 to show that he does not serve the church merely in obedience to his commission but out of heartfelt love for it.”

My grandfather was in many ways the most important mentor of my life. This picture was taken on my 30th birthday.

Intuitively, we understand that a mentor should care for their mentee. I can’t imagine a thriving mentoring experience in which the mentor lacked such care. Of course, when a mentoring relationship begins, the mentor may care for the mentee in the way any kind person cares for another. But, in time, if the relationship flourishes, then the mentor will have stronger feelings of care and compassion for the mentee. To borrow the language of Paul and his colleagues, the mentee “will have become very dear,” or more literally from the Greek, the mentee will have become “beloved” (agapetoi: 2:8). (The photo is of my grandfather and me on my 30th birthday. He was in many ways the most important mentor of my life. I always knew that I was beloved by him.)

If you’re mentoring someone and find that you are not growing in care for that person, you may want to consider why this is happening. Perhaps the chemistry between you is not very strong. Perhaps there are things in the mentor’s life that bother you. Maybe your mentee seems resistant to you in some ways. Or maybe you’re feeling that the relationship is stuck. In any case, you will want to take time to reflect on what’s happening with you and your mentee. You may find it helpful to talk this through with a spiritual director, a wise friend, or even your own mentor.

Something else in verse 8 speaks powerfully to mentors. It’s the claim of Paul and his colleagues that they shared with the Thessalonians “not only the gospel of God but also [their] own selves” (2:8). As I noted in yesterday’s devotion, the Greek word translated here as “selves” is psychē, which meant “soul” or “center of inner life.” To share your soul would have been an intimate, vulnerable act of welcoming someone into your inner life.

In fruitful mentoring relationships, mentors wisely share their lives with their mentees. Now, this is not to suggest that mentoring sessions are filled with mentors telling all sorts of personal stories or talking endlessly about themselves. The best mentors focus most of all on asking good questions and listening well. But the mentoring relationship is more than an exchange of ideas. It’s also a sharing of life. It is, indeed, a sharing of souls.

I have the privilege of mentoring several people these days. When it seems appropriate, I do indeed share my soul with my mentees, my inner life, my dreams and fears, my hopes and dreams, my successes and failures. I do this, in part, when it seems like my openness might encourage a mentee to pay attention to something in themselves or to think about their life in a different light. I’m not sharing to receive their empathy or affirmation. I don’t expect anything from them, as a matter of fact. The point of sharing my soul isn’t my edification, but theirs. Sometimes, I just want them to know that I understand what they’re going through and that I am human, just like them.

Practically speaking, I find that praying regularly for my mentees helps me when it comes both to caring deeply for them and sharing my soul with them. When I bring them and their needs before the Lord, I feel a deeper connection with them and a strong affection for them.

You may not be in a mentoring relationship today and that’s fine. But, who knows, there may be one in your future. If so, you’ll find the example of Paul and his colleagues in 1 Thessalonians to be both encouraging and instructive.

Reflect

Have you ever been in a mentoring relationship, as either a mentor or a mentee? If so, what was this like?

In that relationship, were there times when the mentor would share their “soul” with the mentee? If so, in what ways was that helpful?

Do you ever wish you were in a mentoring relationship though you aren’t right now? If so, what is holding you back?

Act

If you think you might be a good mentor but have hesitations, I’d recommend that you read an article by my colleague Meryl Herr: “Overcoming Our Fear of Mentoring.”

Pray

Gracious God, again I thank you for the example of Paul and his colleagues. Their relationship with the Thessalonians is instructive in so many ways.

Today, in particular, I’m thinking of how their example encourages us in mentoring relationships. Where I am a mentor to others, either officially or unofficially, help me to care deeply for those I am serving. Show me how to share my soul wisely, not to make the relationship all about me, but as a way of caring for and encouraging the person I’m mentoring.

Thank you, dear Lord, for all of the different ways you help us to grow in faith, life, and leadership. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. An article on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: What Are God’s Rules? Is There a Command for Every Occasion?


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