The Mentor and Protégé – a Relationship Builder and Blessing
We all have mentors in our lives, whether we realize it or not. Most of us could name a parent, a friend, a teacher, or a best friend. Many of these can be classified as natural mentor relationships. Another category could be considered as one appointed. In the context of our Christian schools, there is an opportune time to begin a formal mentoring process. Naturally, this would be for all new employees, regardless of how many years they have invested in their ministry careers. Within an onboarding process, the new employee will receive her keys, an official tour, a meet-and-greet, a copy of handbooks, welcome gifts, and more – typically following a checklist for this process. Receiving a mentor during this time encourages an opportunity to build a spiritual, professional, and a friend relationship. In our Lutheran schools, this becomes a Scriptural principle. Such faithfulness within the mentoring process can be passed on to others, as Paul shares in his desire to build up Timothy for service in the church:
…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2 ESV
Jesus mentored His twelve disciples by continually teaching and modeling, even challenging – to prepare and equip them for the Great Commission more fully.
Within the guiding leadership of the Office of School Ministry, many day school leaders have been named as mentors. Mentees are placed with mentors (through an application process that includes the District Executives). This then becomes a year-long intensive process of professional development, spiritual encouragement, and practical application assignments and experiences. My own experience in SLED One as a mentee and aspiring leader made me realize its significance and importance. I have been privileged to be a mentor several times as well – each time coming away realizing it had been an unforgettable experience. I admit, I learned maybe even more than my protégé counterparts, as they supported me in word and deed, just as I did them. One really fun part of the program is the celebratory graduation. Perhaps some do not know there is a traditional time of gift-giving to the mentor at the end of their time together. My most memorable gift was when I received a “hot seat,” a pad of sorts so the hunter can sit on the forest floor, a log, or a stump in comfort. This mentee knew that I loved to hunt. This amazing leader, Bill, said to me as he looked straight into my eyes: “No, Tom. This is your kneeling pad for daily prayer, as I know this is your practice.” Perspective. Pause. Gratitude. Opportunity. Wow. Since that gift followed me to Texas from that touching moment – it has found a place on a hook on my office door, removed each day to humbly kneel at the foot of the cross. It has become a lifetime Lenten journey. It is my small but most meaningful blessing within the mentor/protégé relationship.
Other practical applications of mentoring relationships can include church workers moving to a new district and be appointed a mentor by the District Executive. This has been the case for many years in the Texas District where I serve. Also, outside of our Lutheran circles utilizing a “big tent” philosophy, groups such as the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) have created a certified mentor program that provides intensive training and best practices. Then, through the avenue of public education, one is given the opportunity to support and witness to others beyond the church. Such opportunities are indeed framed in mission.
God gives to each of us the greatest examples of relational love. He gave us His best, His Son! Within this superlative example of love, I urge those with such gifts to both bless and be blessed in the mentor/protégé relationship. The experience embraces biblical principles, and…it changes lives.