Lydia Eckhoff | Non-profit management and development
When I think of ideal advisors, Missional Impact’s mentors come to mind. Retired senior vice presidents of Fortune 100 companies. Leaders with 30-year track records of integrating faith and work. Tutors who ask hard-hitting coaching questions and know exactly what to advise when someone brings up a workplace dilemma.
That’s not me.
I’m 33. I entered the workforce after graduate school, 10 years ago. Sure, I’ve learned some things in that time and I’ve grown in my faith. But most days, I don’t sense I have the answers. A lot of areas in my life feel messy and broken.
When my pastors mentioned that some young professional women in our church wanted to connect with a mentor, I wondered how helpful I would be. They paired me with Carlie, a 25-year-old woman in her first job out of graduate school. We’ve been meeting regularly to talk about faith-work challenges and how Scripture speaks into those issues. I started mentoring with some trepidation, but our connection turned out to be one of the biggest blessings I’ve had over the past year.
Maybe you wonder what you could offer someone who wants to live a fully integrated life. Before you dismiss yourself as unqualified, here are some reasons you might consider being a mentor.
Seeing God’s Power in Weakness
One of Missional’s Impact’s leaders shared something powerful with me. He said, “I look back on myself 30 years ago, and think about how much I didn’t understand about God. There are so many areas where I wish I could tell my younger self what I know now. And yet, God used me 30 years ago. And the ways in which he used me 30 years ago are just as powerful as the ways he is using me today. Because, ultimately, it’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about God.”
Mentoring Carlie helped me see the truth of what that leader shared. When I started meeting with her, I was in the middle of some difficult personal issues and felt distant from God in many ways. Although I tried to be proactive about spiritual disciplines, I went into that first mentoring meeting thinking, “I’ve got nothing.”
I went into that first mentoring meeting thinking, “I’ve got nothing.”
Surprisingly, that rawness and frustration helped me connect with Carlie. My plans are ones where I have it together and things feel calm and controlled. I never guessed how much power there is in admitting I feel challenged, that I struggle. Look at what God says in his Word. I know he is faithful. He can come through for both of us in what we are facing.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, the apostle Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Later, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, he boasts about his weaknesses, since God’s grace is sufficient and Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness.
[God] can come through for both of us in what we are facing.
I am a simple jar of clay. But I also see the counterpart to that truth — the fact that God is at work in this mentoring. When Carlie mentions a challenge and asks for advice, if my first thought is, “Oh, no — I don’t know what to say,” then I need to pause and pray. “God, what is your heart and mind for this situation right now?” As a mentor, I realize my continual need for him.
Processing Your Own Journey
When someone asks you for advice or shares a challenge, it is an opportunity to reflect on how God has worked in your own life. It gives you a new perspective on your own situation.
As I recommend a Scripture passage or ask Carlie a question, I am encouraged to take hold of what I know to be true about God and let that truth shape how I communicate. Theologian C.S. Lewis said we need to be reminded more than we need to be taught. Being a mentor is a way to remind myself of what matters most.
Also, mentoring is a way to affirm God’s faithfulness in my life. I see a younger version of myself in Carlie. For much of my twenties, I felt overwhelmed by work. I ignored my limits, enslaved by perfectionism. God graciously taught me about Sabbath, resting in my identity in him; about grace vs. performance. I learned some of these lessons the hard way, but God in his mercy continues to teach and grow me.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Before, I hadn’t thought about those verses in the context of mentoring. Mentoring helps me recognize God as the Father of compassion and comfort in my life, and I can pass that compassion and comfort on to Carlie.
Investing in the Next Generation
One of the task force members who helped plan the launch of Missional Impact’s mentor network — a certified coach with his own consulting practice — notes there is nothing more rewarding than setting someone up for success and seeing them win.
That’s so true. It is fun seeing Carlie have a breakthrough. When those moments happen, I find myself saying, “Wow, that was totally God because I definitely did not do that.” Yet another reminder of God’s power resting on my weakness!
After mentoring Carlie for about eight months, she told me:
When we first started meeting, I listened to what you said about starting my day with time with God, about praying over my calendar and pausing throughout the day to refocus on God and recalibrate my state of mind. And it felt like just one more thing to do in an already stressful schedule. However, as I’ve practiced this over the past year, I’m realizing that seeking God actually builds capacity for everything else. My work has not gotten any easier. If anything, it’s more demanding now than when we started meeting. But because of seeking God and being in his Word as we meet to talk about the Bible, I am able to cope with what’s happening. If I had been facing these current challenges a year ago, there is no way I would have come through successfully.
God is amazing. He changes people. If you want to have a front-row seat to God’s work in someone’s life, become a mentor! •
Lydia Eckhoff grew up in Haiti. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining Missional Impact in 2013, she served as executive director of a medical clinic for the uninsured and indigent in Houston, Texas. She lives in Kansas City, Mo.
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.