Following II (and Leading)

One of my favorite activities at camp is the Challenge Course, where we facilitate the groups of campers going through different challenges... point being, that they have to stretch themselves and work together. Afterwards we have a "debrief" where we discuss what went well, what could have gone better, what they should take on to the next challenge. Some of the challenges are on the ground, some are thirty feet in the air, and there is a progression in height (and physical trust!) thoughout the day. Hopefully. When things go well.

Sometimes things do not go well and they argue and they are silent and they don't seem to learn anything and counselors go back to main campus at the end of the time and lay on the porch and moan. And we sympathize a bit with each other... and try it again the next week.

One of my favorite elements is called The Wall. It's pretty simple. It's a wooden wall that is about ten or eleven feet high and the point is also simple, to get the entire team over it. There is a platform on the back side where a few people, once they've been gotten up, can stand and help others get up.

Debriefing for The Wall one morning led to a discussion on mentoring.

The challenge was so much easier to overcome when you were not doing it on your own. It was so much easier when there were people at the top to pull you up and over and it wasn't your own strength. (I'm a girl. I can attest to the truth of that fact!)

However, you couldn't just get to the top and abandon those who were after you. Everyone in the group had a responsibility to take their turn at the top of the wall, helping yank, tug, jerk the others behind them up over the edge of the wall. And some of them ended up with good bruises to show for it, sore muscles.

But they did it. All of them got over, and all of them were safe, and no one was left out, and no one was left behind.

So we talked about how life is like that, how there are huge challenges. And sometimes, sometimes, someone is extremely strong and athletic and can haul themselves over it. But everyone can really use people around them to help them get a firm place to stand on and people who have already gone through something similar to wait for them a bit and pull them up.

And how, once you've gotten over, or through, or past whatever the challenge is, the point is not always to run as far away from it as you can and go on your own merry way.

Sometimes it means waiting patiently for someone else who is coming the same way and giving them everything you've got so that they can keep going, too.

Another way we talked about mentoring a lot, a picture that was used in training both staff and campers, was that of Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy. That we need to, like Paul, have a Barnabas -- someone who is on our same level, going through the same things, who we can relate to and share with. We need a Timothy, someone younger than us (and that may be in age, it may be in maturity, whatever) who we are faithfully training up and showing them how they ought to live. And we need a Paul, someone who is challenging us, who we play Timothy to, someone who is teaching us the next step. (If you want to read more on this metaphor and how it should play out, here is an article.)

Mentoring ought to happen naturally in families. It has for me. I learn from my parents, I get to teach my siblings. As I've grown older, I have also gotten the opportunity to see it happening more places. It happened short term all over the place at camp; duh, I was a counselor. But for the most part, those were not long-lasting relationships. We lived together for a week and then said goodbye and that was that. The ones that I really consider mentoring are the ones which have been built over the course of years. Some of those have been in real life, and some of them have been online.

Real life is preferable.

Online can be beneficial. I'm not denying that deep relationships can be built that way. But it is so, so much easier to hide. If you don't want to talk to someone, you just don't log on. They can't see your face and hear the tone of your voice.

That being said, God can still use them for incredible things, especially with time and honesty. There are times when there are not a lot of people around to run to and someone can be found online and you can say, Hey, I need you to pray for me. Hey, can you talk for a while?

And I know that you have just read a decent-length post, but really, if you've stuck with it so far -- read this too. It's worth your time.

That is what I want to be to those who I mentor, and that is what I want when I find good mentors -- to follow them around, literally, and learn what makes them tick, and how they react under pressure, and what makes them laugh, and what they get angry about. One of my college profs is like that. (We'll joke that we are getting a major in Biblical _______ and a minor in Dr. _______.) Imagine the opportunity when he gave a "Last Lecture" this spring, of the things he'd want to tell us if it was his last lecture...

I've had friends like that. They probably get tired of me following them and reading the back entries of their blogs and listening to them when they are half-coherent. But I want to know: How do they act when they are exhausted? How about when people tell off-color jokes? Or when they see people who they were friends with years ago? How about with their families?

This summer one of the counselors was very good at loving discipline of campers. And I wanted to record how she responded to tough campers, and copy her techniques.

So how about you? Thoughts? What questions do you ask when deciding to follow someone? How do you feel about mentoring?

Final thought: Is mentoring a duty for Christians? about if we call it discipling?


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