Most tentmakers fail for one of three reasons: loss of focus, loss of balance, or they burn themselves out. All three of these problems are readily solved by having a mentor in our lives. A mentor must be able, experienced, and tell it to us straight.
Mentoring comes from the Greek word meaning “enduring.” It is defined as a sustained relationship between a youth and an adult. Thus, a mentor is someone who is at least one step further down the path than you are. A mentor provides support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and constructive example. Mentors are good listeners, people who care, and who freely share their successes and failures. Mentors are leaders who want to help bring out the strengths that are already in you and strengthen your weaknesses. Mentors join you in seeking God’s best for you.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived wrote, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Mentoring is important because with each mentor we have, we multiply our thought input. There are opportunities that we may be blind to because we assume there is only one way of doing things. Good mentors are experienced in the areas we seek help in. Thus, at times we may have more than one mentor. During my last 8 years in Malaysia I had a business mentor and a church planting mentor. Both men held me and my wife accountable in our character, spiritual walk, and family life.
Most people are too afraid of failure. Mentors need to give us room to fail. Yet if we stop and think, the majority of us would agree that our most important learning experiences often are the result of failure. One of the reasons mature people stop growing and learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure. We forget that much of what we call experience or wisdom was learned from our failures. If you are going to grow as an entrepreneur and leader, a good mentor will help you learn to fail successfully, discerning with you God’s mind for the trials and tests you face. The best B4T teams are impelled forward by a mentoring structure which is relationally centered, decentralized, non-controlling, and encourages flexibility, creativity, and entrepreneurialism. In addition, any mentoring structure needs to include and nurture real accountability so as to maintain high standards of leadership, which then is reproduced and passed on to the leader’s teams and the churches they plant.
How do you find a mentor? I discussed this in an earlier blog in these series, on March 9th. But as a reminder, approach someone you respect who would be helpful to you in the areas you need strengthening in. Do not allow your perception that they are “too busy” to deter you from asking. Ask if he would consider being your mentor. Let him know why you selected him and what you hope to learn from him. Discuss your expectations and the amount of time you expect it will take. The problem will not be in finding someone interested in working with you. There are many people who want to mentor teachable zealots who are on the cutting edge of missions. The problem will be in finding people with the skills you need who can really sharpen you. Prayerfully determine in advance which skills you lack; talk openly and honestly about what you are looking for in a mentor and ask the potential mentor what he or she would be looking for in a mentee.
Do you have a mentor? If no, what’s holding you back from finding one? If yes, how’s s/he working out for you?
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.