Beyond Problems

Many of us get our inspiration to mentor others from a strong desire to help people. While a noble motivation, this can easily slide into a rut of helping people overcome their problems. I’ve noticed that if I get stuck there, it limits the effectiveness of my mentoring.

Of course, there is much value in helping people explore the hindering forces in their lives that produce problems, but that’s just one side of the equation. By adding an equal emphasis on a person’s assets, strengths, experience – all the helping forces – we can get a much better picture of the situation. Forward momentum and the emergence of hope often depend on a better appreciation of what a person has going for them.

Many helping interventions, mentoring included, have an interest in supporting others to come to terms with what’s wrong. It’s important to have a trauma-informed approach, and to assist a person’s self-awareness about patterns of poor decision-making, and to explore how to be resilient under stress, and to call into question false perspectives. Many of ACMN’s previous annual seminars have aspired to increase awareness and competence in these areas, and this year we are directing our focus to the assets side of the ledger as we tackle the topic of strengths-based mentoring.

It’s one thing to come to terms with the dark. It’s another thing altogether to turn on the light. Writing about appreciative enquiry, Rob Voyle says,

When children are afraid of the dark, we don’t turn off the dark. We just need to turn on the light! And in the words of Martin Buber, if we teach the child to see and carry the light that is within her or him, she or he need never be afraid of the darkness.[1]

For the Christian leaders I mentor, I love to remind them that the biggest thing they have going for them is the Light of the world himself. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The people we mentor will have many strengths – abilities, experience, resources that have all come as gifts from God. But the greatest strength of all is God himself, the one who has promised that he will never leave or forsake us. (Heb 13:5) So we can say with the psalmist, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” (Ps 28:7)

– Rick Lewis

[1] Rob Voyle in chapter 9 of Transitional Ministry Today, edited by Norman B. Bendroth, 2015, Alban Institute

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