Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life Book Review

By Robert Clinton and Paul Stanley

Book Review by Jeff Abbott

The following is a summary of the book Connecting by Robert “Bobby” Clinton of Fuller University.  He was first introduced to Convene (then BBL) by Danny Wallen of Every Man Ministries as a student of “finishing well,” a popular topic of today among leaders of all kinds.  I read the book to learn about that subject and was pleased to learn that it is all about mentoring.  The book explains mentoring in ways most people have not considered and is an eye opener for people of all kinds wanting to improve their lives, leadership, businesses, and ministries.

Definition

Mentoring is a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.  They vary.  Mentoring is a positive dynamic that enables people to develop potential. Though there have been highly publicized failures of popular leaders in the past 20 years and western culture discourages a leader from receiving help to grow, leaders do want to finish well.  They would welcome mentoring if they saw that it enhanced their leadership.  Mentoring can improve the odds to reach your potential and reduce the odds of failing.

The Bigger They Are…….

We as humans tend to take pride in the fact that we caused the successes in our life by ourselves.  We don’t recognize that we have come the distance we have against all odds and despite our shortcomings.  How much more could we have achieved had we not been limited by our aloneness?  Without input, we grow slowly.  The higher we climb, the less we feel a need.  By this very fact, we expose ourselves to failure.  Having no wise counsel there is no way to get a second opinion.  Proverbs 18:1 says, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all sound wisdom.”  The higher one rises in leadership, the more real this danger becomes.

Plateauing

All leaders plateau.  There is only so much that can be gained by oneself.  There is a limit on what can be learned through reading.  One can only progress so far in the world learning the hard way.  Once mentoring begins as described in this book, much more progress can be made.  The limitations of self help are removed once the “mirrors” of wise counsel are in place.

Many fear the transparency of a mentor or peer relationship and feel their vulnerability could be used against them or is a sign of weakness.  In reality, mentoring by one of the mentoring modes suggested below can have a strong life changing effect on one’s leadership and ministry.

Types of Mentors

  1. 1.    Intensive
    1. a.    Discipler
    2. b.    Spiritual Guide
    3. c.    Coach
  2. 2.    Occasional
  3. a.    Counselor
  4. b.    Teacher
  5. c.    Sponsor
  6. 3.    Passive Model
  7. a.    Contemporary
  8. b.    Historical
  9. 4.    Peers and Co-Mentors

So there are many varieties of mentors, some more intensive, some less intensive; some are ongoing, some are short term.  Two things are certain:  all people need mentors, and one cannot mentor oneself.  A leader is his own limiting factor, a dynamic John Maxwell calls “The Law of the Lid”.  Americans tend to value personal independence but they desperately need interdependence.  Areas where this is especially true are in business, in ministry, and in the military.

Characteristics of the Mentor

  1. 1.    Ability to recognize potential in a person
  2. 2.    Tolerance with mistakes, brashness, abrasiveness, and such in order to see that potential developing
  3. 3.    Flexibility in responding to people
  4. 4.    Patience: knowing that time and experience are needed for development
  5. 5.    Perspective: having the ability to see long term and suggest steps to the goal
  6. 6.    Gifts and abilities to build up and encourage.

Behaviors of the Mentor

  1. 1.    Mentors give:
  2. a.    Timely advice
  3. b.    Letters, books, articles, etc. for perspectives
  4. c.    Finances in some cases
  5. d.    Freedom to emerge as a leader beyond even that of the mentor
    1. 2.    Risk their reputations to sponsor a mentoree
    2. 3.    Model various aspects of leadership so as to challenge mentorees to move toward them
    3. 4.    Direct mentorees to needed resources that will further direct them
    4. 5.    Mentors co-minister with mentorees in order to increase their confidence, status, and credibility

A Combination of Mentors

A combination of mentor types will be the most effective.  A Discipling mentor will be needed earlier on in the mentoree’s spiritual growth, a Teaching mentor for specific skills, a Spiritual Guide for growth, and a Coaching Mentor for business and ministry skills.  Also, occasional and long distance mentors can be called upon as the situation dictates.  No one person can fully fill all the needed roles of a mentor.

Dynamics of Choosing a Mentor or Mentoree

Since there is a shortage of ideal mentors, the mentoree needs to realize that one should seek out more than one mentor from the above types to cover their whole need.  There are the practical and logistical choices to be made such as time, proximity, needs, shared values, and goals.  But more importantly, there are also these vital dynamics:

  1. 1.    Attraction – The mentoree is drawn to the mentor’s perspectives, skills, experience, values, commitment, wisdom, position, character, knowledge, and influence.  The mentor must also be attracted to the mentoree’s attitude, potential, and opportunity for influence.  These qualities increase trust, confidence, and strength of the relationship.
  2. 2.    Responsiveness – Willingness, readiness to learn, attitude, receiving spirit will speed up empowerment.
  3. 3.    Accountability – Mutual responsibility, sharing expectations, periodic reviews, etc.  The mentor should take responsibility to make sure these take place.

Biblical Models

Mentoring is not just a recent fad.  For the Christian, it is rooted in Biblical principles:

Moses and Joshua

  • Samuel and Saul
  • David and Jonathan
  • Naomi and Ruth
  • Elijah and Elisha
  • Barnabas and Saul
  • Paul and Timothy
  • Paul and Various
  • Jesus and Disciples
  • Proverbs 12:15 – A wise man listens to counsel
  • Proverbs 15:22 – Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they      succeed
  • II Timothy 2:2 – Entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also

Definitions and specifics are given to expand on each mentoring type along with the duties and tips for mentor and mentoree.  These are very helpful not only to describe the type of mentor one is but also what kind of mentor a mentoree should seek.

Passive Mentors: Contemporary and Historical Mentors

An interesting and not-so-obvious mentoring style is that of the Passive Mentors.  These are both Contemporary and Historical and can play an important role in the life of the mentoree.  Many role models have fallen, so few people consider contemporary leaders appropriate to mentor them.  This can be due to the expectation that the mentor be a perfect model, which is not true.  It is only necessary that the mentor have experienced and succeeded in some area in life to a significantly greater degree than the mentoree.

The Historical Mentor is just as valuable.  There are Biblical examples (see above) or examples such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, JFK, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Bill Bright, Hudson Taylor, Watchman Nee, etc.  They continue to inspire, convict, and challenge as new situations arise in the mentoree’s life in which to apply the lessons they impart.  To find such models, ask some mature believers who have been their models and examples in life.  What are the top 5 biographies they have read and lessons they have learned?  Consider carefully the life of Jesus, His words, His example.

The Constellation of Mentors Concept

Here is the most interesting and novel concept the book offers:  Belong to a Constellation of Mentors.  It was the most enlightening and revealing concept for me, a BBL Group Chair.  It is not enough for a person to have a mentor.  There is a great amount of potential to the mentoring process in the constellation model.  This constellation is formed by a mentor above the mentoree, many trusted peers surrounding him, and those developing below him.  The BBL concept is a perfect incubator for this to occur and is indeed the power of BBL:  Godly wisdom from 360 degrees.  The group serves to co-mentor each member as appropriate.

While the mentor can impart experience, knowledge, and wisdom to the mentoree, the peer circle can provide encouragement to a fellow peer that carries unequaled credibility.  The peer can identify directly with the mentoree’s situation.  In any case, the combination of mentors is much more powerful than having just one mentor alone.  This revelation shows the necessity for a leader to belong to a group to whom he is committed for purposes of intentional mentoring and co-mentoring.  Any thing less than this circle of accountability exposes the leader to risk of leaving significant potential “on the table” as well as risk of failing.

“One Anothering”

The book suggests peers practice the “One Anothering” concepts in co-mentoring that are mentioned in scripture:

  1. 1.    Love one another – John 13:34, I John 3:11
  2. 2.    Restore one another – Galatians 6:12
  3. 3.    Bear with, forgive one another – Colossians 3:13
  4. 4.    Build up one another – I Thessalonians 5:11
  5. 5.    Encourage one another – Hebrews 3:12-14
  6. 6.    Stir up one another – Hebrews 10:24, 25
  7. 7.    Confess sin, pray for one another – James 5:16

Together Time

Two are better than one…..Ecclesiastes 4:9-11.  Peers need time one on one.  They need to discover compatibility with time together.  Going deeper in relationship is important in applying the one anothering concepts.  Out of this will grow a sense of responsibility for “one another”.

The Close Buddy

To have a close buddy in your relational network brings tremendous blessing and strength not found in any other relationship.  There is also a dynamic in such a relationship where a close buddy can correct the other person in love where it may not be allowed or appropriate in other settings.  Close buddies don’t see differences as a problem, but rather as complementing strengths in the relationship.

A Circle of Intercessors

One interesting suggestion was made as a sidelight:  Have a circle of intercessors praying for you and your business/ministry.  This could be a major factor in the success of the mentoree, especially knowing there is the love and support of friends and family in addition to God’s hand of favor in life’s situations.

Peer Coaching

Another interesting concept which applies to forum members was the Peer Coaching idea.  Two or three group members identified areas in their lives where they felt a need to grow.  They identified members with whom they could “buddy up” and learn from the other in a reciprocal way.  One would be weak in financials, for example, and the other in Sales and Marketing, and vice versa.  They met, shared in these areas, and helped the others refine their knowledge and skills.  Learning to use each other as resources was exciting and involved visiting each other’s workplaces.

Co-mentoring requires a fit, fun, and empowerment.  Members need to share an affinity for one another, experience the necessary enjoyment being together to inspire continuing, and the empowerment needed to make the experience profitable.

The Ten Commandments of Mentoring

The book suggests a list of Ten Commandments involved in mentoring relationships:

  1. 1.        Establish the mentoring relationship
  2. 2.        Agree upon a purpose
  3. 3.        Determine the meeting interval
  4. 4.        Determine the type of accountability
  5. 5.        Set up communication mechanics
  6. 6.        Clarify confidentiality
  7. 7.        Set a life-cycle of the relationship
  8. 8.        Evaluate relationship often
  9. 9.        Modify as needed
  10. 10.     Bring the relationship to a close

These ten commandments have detailed definitions and instructions that go along with them.

Face-to-Face Pastoral Group

Dr. Dan Reeves, expert consultant with the organization Church Growth Consultants, meets with a cluster of ten to fifteen pastors on a face-to-face basis one day per quarter.  In between these meetings, pastors do monthly assignments that involve lateral mentoring with each other and downward mentoring in their churches.  This has turned out to be a powerful tool for growth individual growth in these pastors’ lives.

Distance Mentoring

Distance mentoring takes place in one’s life where the mentor and mentoree live some distance apart.  It requires lots of mentoree maturity, since the mentor cannot be hands-on for accountability purposes.  It requires more of the “honor system”.  Still, by means of conferencing, mail and email assignments, and quarterly and monthly phone calls, this can be a very effective means of mentoring if there are good assignments and responsible mentorees.

Learning from the Authors’ Mistakes

Having done plenty of wrong things in life, the authors offer some pointers:

  1. 1.    Don’t be too dominant
  2. 2.    Let the mentoree set the pace
  3. 3.    Ensure the mentoree make at least bite size progress in frequent steps
  4. 4.    Assess progress often and carefully
  5. 5.    Be careful of the “weak closure”.  Be faithful to the mentoree during his experience and always      end well.

Finishing well

What causes people to finish well?  What prevents them?  Who does, who doesn’t?  The authors studied leaders and found some things to be consistent.  A large number of them, though intent on faithfulness and fruitfulness, do not finish well.  Something causes loss of zeal, resolve, and love of Christ.  It seemed they came to a fork in the road and took the wrong direction.  For others it was an accumulation of little choices that moved them closer or further from being a disciple.

The apostle Paul was obsessed with finishing well (see Scripture in I Corinthians 9 regarding running the race).  The same thing seemed to be at work in Paul that propelled Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Their eyes were fixed on God to the end.  It doesn’t mean perfection.  Rather it means to keep on growing and learning until the end.  The ones who failed seemed to have the same things missing in their lives as did those who finished well.  They go on to point out that once you see the beginnings of a breach of integrity in the visible life that there is a serious breach of integrity in the inner life.

The winning combination seems to include:

  1. 1.    Perspective of focus
  2. 2.    They experienced times of intentional renewal and intimacy with Christ
  3. 3.    They were disciplined in the important areas of their lives
  4. 4.    They all remained learners for life
  5. 5.    They maintained a network of meaningful relationships and multiple mentors in life

Discipline Needed

Webster defines Discipline as “The training that develops self control, character or orderliness and efficiency”.  To finish well, you must be disciplined.  Gifted child expert Nancy Moyer points out that “There is nothing more disappointing than to watch talented children squander their God-given assets.  Very few gifted children reach their potential for one simple reason: Discipline.”  The authors suggest this is just as true for adults.  And not discipline for discipline’s sake, rather for intimacy’s sake, for ministry’s sake, and for growth’s sake…….indeed for Christ’s sake. Discipline in the right areas for the right reasons.  Mentors can greatly facilitate this process by:

  1. 1.    Giving perspective
  2. 2.    Seeing the need for renewal
  3. 3.    Detecting the warning signs of negative patterns
  4. 4.    Providing direct accountability
  5. 5.    Encouraging the mentoree
  6. 6.    Modeling the values they are teaching
  7. 7.    Spotting the signs of plateauing and suggesting activities to stimulate and restore growth

Conclusion

Remember the point of all of this is not just to finish the race, but to “finish well”.  In order to do so, it is important to finish well daily, monthly, yearly.  Make finishing well an attitude, a habit.  There will come many times in the life of the leader where crossroads present themselves.  So much rests upon the decisions made at such crossroads.  It is incumbent upon the leader to make the right decisions, take the right direction, and invest in the right things.  The Constellation of Mentors suggested in this book (Discipler, Spiritual Guide, Coach, Passive Mentor, Distance Mentor, Peer Co-mentors), are key in the success of the leader, for now and for life.

Want to succeed? Jump into your discomfort zone!

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