A friend just related to me an unfortunate story about a former pastor telling him that he couldn't afford a mentor or that if they were a mentor worth having, that they wouldn't have time for him, and this really struck me. So heartbreaking to hear that such a thing would be said to anyone that they are not worth mentoring, and it is so absolutely untrue.
To those whom have had anything along those lines said to you: I'm so sorry that this person spoke such disastrous mistruth into you. I know how words like that can echo for many years in our heads, even after we've learned better and know truth about the matter.
Let me speak some encouragement and more importantly TRUTH into you regarding Biblical discipleship and mentoring:
First off the notion that you need to be able to "afford" a mentor is utter hogwash.
That's not a truth according to any Kingdom principle. There is no Biblical precedent for a mentor exacting a salary from the training and equipping of another in close relationship.
There is a right that ministers have to earn their living from teaching the gospel and from caring for the flock. Mentoring is not that, however. It is only one component of teaching - not one and the same, and the right of tuition is reserved for teachers, not mentors.
There is a fundamental difference between a mentor and a teacher. Teaching is both a job/career/calling that someone with a particular set of gifts is crafted to do, to train and equip others in specific ways - and at the same time, every believer is called to teach other believers in whatever area they are gifted. To pass along what was given to them. To disciple others in the area they are themselves farther along on the path. That second part is mentoring and discipleship. We are to make disciples. And I don't recall Matthew 28:19 including the phrase "and make sure they can afford you or that they are worthy of your time".
Look at the examples given us in the Bible of good mentor/disciple relationships. They are wrought through years or even lifetimes spent together. No mention of Timothy paying Paul for mentoring him. Indeed, Paul mentions that Timothy is to him "his own son". And what father charges a son for passing along wisdom to him? NONE. Or as the Word says, what father, when his son asks him for bread, gives him a stone or a snake? That’s right. None worth speaking of.
Now that’s not to say that one should not ever pay for expert advice. I’m happy to invest in resources for my personal development, or the development of those serving alongside me in ministry, whether it’s to pay for the time of an expert in the form of a DVD, a workshop, a seminar, a training session, a retreat, a camp, a conference, an evaluation, a recommendation, a book, a webinar, or even a conversation... all of those are worthy of spending time and money on, if they help bear fruit, develop skill, foster growth, and result in betterment of whatever the subject matter is. I often recommend to others that they make such investments.
Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that paying someone for their time to provide a specific resource is the same as mentoring. Some do call it that, but it’s not. True mentoring is a mutual, two way street of benefit of shared invested time that grows trust and develops friendship, camaraderie, safety and loyalty. My friendship isn’t for sale, and yours should not be either.
Secondly, you don’t need to be “worth the time” of a mentor.
As an adopted child of the King of Kings and a co-heir to his kingdom, you already have inestimable value – you are a prince or a princess, royalty in the most royal of families – and you are on equal footing with any person who would mentor you in terms of the worth of their time. Which, if we’re being honest, is not ours. We were purchased at a price; we are not our own. We are stewards of what we have been given, not owners. You are not below a mentor in value, not in terms of your time being as worthwhile, not in terms of importance, not in any measurable factor of priority. The only difference between you and a mentor is that this person has had the benefit of more years walking with the Lord and in His Word, more time spent gaining wisdom and experience, and has a fuller cup, so to speak - to be able to pour into you. That's it.
Any who would say you're not worth their time, or that you need to or can't "afford" them - that's a plain example of someone not receiving you. So do as the Word says: shake the dust off your feet and keep walking until you find the one who will live out Scripture in discipling you - freely and lovingly committed to building up another member of the Body of Christ.
The search may take time – but the effort is worth it
The reality is that there’s something to be said for chemistry. Not every two people will fit nicely together as complementary puzzle pieces. Not every relationship gels naturally. Some do. Some have to be worked at, because we’re committed by nature of relationship – be with as workmates, schoolmates, housemates, etc. But with the nature of a mentor relationship, it does really need that natural fit in order to gain the most benefit for both people involved.
It’s been related to me (by one of my mentors) many times that the way we were created is for community. We need to have someone ahead of us on the path, showing us the way. We need comrades in arms sharing similar struggles on the journey with us. We need to pass along what we’ve learned to others fresher on the path behind us. That’s the heart of mentoring. It’s fluid, dynamic, and active. We don’t just take in wisdom and knowledge for our own sakes, but for the sake of pouring into others.
In the manner of Paul and Timothy, I have been very blessed to have a few men adopt me as sons over the years, mentoring me for a time. Some ended up just being the stewards of my path at way stations along the journey, and some became lifelong mentors. I was able to learn from some for where I was at the time in my growth and development, and then the Lord moved us on in different directions – and some have become close friends who continue to pour into me. Most of these men were spiritual mentors, helpful in guiding me toward sound doctrine and philosophy of ministry as a shepherd pastor. These men took time out of their schedules to meet with me regularly - some as often as weekly, some more often, some less - to share with me, hear me, delve into questions with me, and most importantly, point me to the Bible in all things. One challenged me even to find yet another mentor in my primary discipline (worship leadership) and held me accountable to do just that, even as we continued our relationship and he spurred me on to deeper theological growth.
When I went on that quest to find a worship-leading mentor, it took me awhile. I shot for the stars – and asked many of those well known names whom I admired and respected; Tim Hughes, Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio, Matt Redman, Brenton Brown, and Matt Maher all got calls or letters from me... and through diligent pursuit of that end goal of a mentor relationship, I had the chance to connect with several and talk about what good mentoring looks like and explore whether we might be a good fit. It didn't turn out to be the case with these particular guys, because it would just not be pragmatic to meet regularly, due to distance more than anything, though I do still go travel to Atlanta to see Chris, Matt and Louie once a year so I can glean from them and their co-laborers in Christ serving at Passion City Church.
Through the process I discovered a man who was a worship leader of worship leaders, a man who had fathered and raised two men who both have grown up to be respected worship leaders themselves. And I discovered that he was actively searching for someone to mentor, and he lived just a few miles away from me. We connected, we gelled together nicely, and we agreed to meet monthly so that he could mentor me. We met at least that often, if not more, for six years - until I moved out of state this past year. We'd talk ministry, personal lives, the dynamics between both, the challenges and joys of worship leading and working with musicians, we sharpened each other... it was incredibly fruitful time for both of us. It met a need for both of us. And we're now dear friends - no doubt, we will be for the rest of our lives. Since I moved this past year, I miss him very much and look forward to when I can go visit... and he checks in with me to see how I’m doing as well.
That's the sort of mentor relationship I want to encourage you to find. Don't give up. God created us for relationship, for community, and gave us the commission to participate in discipleship. It may take longer than you'd like to find that fit, but it is absolutely worth it. And you are worth it.
Brendan Prout is a husband, dad, pastor and worship leader. He loves training and equipping others to do the work of ministry they are called to, all things geeky, good food, cars, and not driving off cliffs anymore. You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and places good coffee is served.