Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week across the land. I know there are many various appreciation weeks, but that one is special because our daughter is a teacher. However, there also needs to be a Mentor Appreciation time. It doesn’t have to be a particular day or week of any particular month. It can be any day!
• Mentors often do not realize their contributions. A mentor is someone who becomes either intentionally or unintentionally a trusted advisor or instructor who shares his or her experience with someone less experienced. I believe, in many circumstances, that person does not seek to be a mentor, but because of trust by another, he or she is sought out for advice. What may begin as a one-time question may very well end up being a lifelong relationship.
• Mentors help shape the lives and journeys of others. I was blessed to have three particular mentors in my life. The first was my dad, Jesse Mitchell. I learned so much from him about how to treat other people, not be prejudiced and work hard at whatever I undertake. The things he taught me about construction are still with me today.
The second was my pastor during my teen years, Paul L. Bearfield. Under his ministry, I answered the call to preach the gospel. He never tried to make me be like him, but showed me the importance of being myself as a minister of the gospel. As he did that, I found myself being more like him than ever expected. He taught me how to love people, care about their needs and preach the Word unashamedly and boldly.
The third was my coach, Dick Hays. From him, I learned to work with others to accomplish a common goal. Being undersized, I learned from him to have confidence in my abilities, even if they were limited. I learned much about coaching, which I was able to do for many years as a part of my community ministry. Coach taught me so much about sports, but also so much about life.
Today all three of these mentors are in Heaven. While each had a different influence on me, they each taught me spiritual truths — often while not realizing they were doing so. I am forever grateful to each of them. But here’s the issue — I never took time to thank them for the impacts they made on my life.
• Mentors are found in every walk of life. Almost everyone who reads this had mentors who made tremendous impacts that helped pave the paths that have been taken. However, we often do not consider the spiritual mentors that have been in our lives. Just think of the pastors who have guided you through the Word of God. Recall the Sunday School teachers who were before you week by week. And although the time may have been brief, recall the VBS teachers who made learning fun. Youth pastors and music ministers have affected the spiritual lives of those who follow Christ. Then there are parents — those who have cared about their children’s spiritual futures more than anyone else.
While discipleship in the Bible rarely was one-on-one, mentorship usually is. Spiritual mentors are spiritual disiciplers. They are often impacting lives either intentionally or unintentionally, and they follow a biblical instruction from one who was constantly mentoring — the apostle Paul. He simply laid out this formula: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” (I Cor. 11:1). That is how mentorship works!
• Mentors deserve to be thanked. It is one thing to know you’ve had a good mentor; it is quite another to let that person know that you are grateful. Years ago, I began thinking about how a certain person had affected my ministry. So I got out
paper and pen and sent a short note, expressing my gratitude for that impact. A few days later, I received a thank you note that read: “Thank you for your kind words. On a day when I was feeling very low, your words of gratitude picked me up,” It was signed, “C.O. Strong.” I learned much through that exchange, and it is because of it that I am writing this today. Mentors deserve to be thanked, and I believe they will appreciate it. But this one urging — do so before it is too late.
Paul said: “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teaching, just as I passed them on to you” (I Cor. 11:2). Thanking our mentors is truly a gracious act that benefits both parties.