In the last blog post, I talked about mentoring essentially being an act of love – responding to God’s love for the world, and loving others as we do that through mentoring.
But what does it actually mean to love our mentorees?
Jesus’ instruction to ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34-35) is foundational to Christian life and ministry. I often think about this, particularly in my own context of professional mentoring. To practice as a trained counsellor, therapist, supervisor or coach infers an appropriate level of professional detachment. In fact, most professional bodies have a Code of Ethics which outline clear boundaries for contracted, principled and professional relationships where trust is a key factor. Although mentoring differs from these practices, the ACMN also operates by a similar code (See Here), and ethical conduct as a mentor ought always be one of our highest priorities.
So how do we appropriately respond to the command to ‘love one another’ within a mentoring relationship – particularly if that relationship is a professional, contracted one?
I think the key lies in the covenantal nature of the mentoring relationship.
A covenant is essentially an agreement to work alongside another to accomplish certain goals. The nature of the covenant commitments in the Bible reveal God’s intent to keep his redemptive promises towards his people, ultimately revealed in Christ. Scripture bears witness to the various historical and cultural practices of covenant making (Gen 15:10 describes the particularly gruesome affair which involved slicing animals in half and walking between the pieces – thank goodness that practice is not a feature of contemporary mentoring agreements!)
What makes a covenant different from a contract is its relational nature – and practiced within the context of mentoring, it is love exercised within a promise.
When I make a covenant agreement with a mentoree, we define appropriate boundaries and outline the practical details of our meeting together, but more than that, we agree to a partnership where I as the mentor promise to use my skills, gifts, experience and character to intentionally walk alongside my mentoree, as I assist them in moving towards their goals for their whole-of-life growth. When I invest myself in such a relationship, I bring who I authentically am, and humbly participate in what God is already doing in the life of my mentoree. That is an act of love – but love exercised within a promise.
We may experience different levels of warmth towards our mentorees, and how we feel about working with the particular people we mentor is an important factor to consider before we make any agreement, but our commitment to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ is defined and structured by the relational nature of a mentoring covenant.
(Note: a generic covenant agreement for mentoring can be found in the resource section of the website).
– Sally Jones