From Single Mentorship to Communal Mentorship
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is known as the “Shema.” This is the most significant passage of the Old Testament for the Jewish faith. The Shema proclaims that the Lord is One and that the Israelites are called to love him with all their heart, soul, and might. The Shema was to be passed down, in both word and practice, as each generation of God’s people engaged in the communal mentorship of the next generation (Deut. 6:7-9). My first Christian mentor, Mike, truly understood the Shema, and he helped me to understand the Shema still applies to God’s people today.
Several years ago, I was a young church worker in my twenties, and I was still very green behind the ears. With a head full of knowledge and a heart ready to love, I was “all set,” but I also felt incredibly overwhelmed as I started my new job. I yearned to sit at the feet of someone who had more life experience. I wanted to be mentored. At the time, Mike was a church worker in his fifties with many years of experience in following Jesus, loving God, loving his family, and loving people. Mike reached out to me at a professional meeting. Surely the Holy Spirit nudged him because that connection was exactly what I needed.
For the next three years, Mike and I met monthly at each other’s church campuses. What started out as Mike’s mentorship of me turned into communal mentorship, as I gained relational access to his wife and his coworkers in ministry. Mike encouraged me. He took me under his wing as we co-led together. He shared knowledge with me. More importantly, he shared meaning with me. He showed me that mentoring involves a community journey that changes lives. He showed me that the Shema is central to life as a follower of Christ.
A lot has changed in the years since Mike mentored me. I left church work for a season to finish my dissertation. I went to work in a bicycle shop, and all of my previous thinking about the division between work and faith was challenged. Then, last year, Mike went home to be with Jesus. While I will no longer see Mike this side of heaven, each day I continue to see the Truth I experienced through our mentoring connection.
Mentoring often involves growing in a skill set for work, but mentoring also provides an opportunity to grow in wisdom and understanding. Ultimately, I have learned that mentoring is a sacred journey we take together. On that journey, we experience mission, purpose, relationships, growth, doubt, fears, and the joy of knowing we are not alone.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you live out the Shema in your daily life? Who is the most significant mentor in your life? What have you learned as a result of that relationship? How do your daily routines create opportunities for you to mentor your friends and family? Who is God calling you to mentor now or in the near future?
PRAYER: Lord, I praise you that you created us to be in community with one another. We were not meant to live our lives in isolation. Authentic community happens through mentoring relationships when we practice vulnerability, accountability, and forgiveness with one another. Thank you for showing your love through Christian community. Amen.
Dr. Vanessa Seifert is a DCE-Discipleship Catalyst at Calvary Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. In this capacity, she teaches, writes, and encourages God's people to see a discipleship culture in all parts of their life. Her work can be summed up by her mantra: "All of life is faith and all of faith is life." Feel free to connect with her via Twitter.
Show Me the Way
Seeking advice for the road ahead is a practice as old as people. How we do it may look different from one generation to the next, but all of us want what wisdom has to offer. Our series at The High Calling, Show Me the Way, addresses this topic from various angles. Our hope is that even the most professionally independent among us will remember the power of sage advice as we serve the Lord in our jobs.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Family Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.