How Does Mentoring Increase Capacity?

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“You seem to use the word ‘Mentoring’ very specifically.  Could you help me understand what you mean?”

“Excellent question!” I replied.  I held up one of those ubiquitous red cups. “This cup has a finite capacity to hold water.  If I were to add oil into the cup, I would reduce its capacity to hold water, right?”  The audience nodded.  “If one third of this cup was full of oil, then its capacity for water is limited to two thirds.  If I wanted to increase its capacity to hold water, what would I have to do?”

“Figure out a way to get rid of the oil!” someone piped up.

“Exactly!  This is a great metaphor for mentoring.  We all have a finite capacity.  All of us have only 24 hours to play and work each day.  Yes, we can develop skills to more efficiently use our time, but we still all have the same amount of time.  Now, there are things that can keep us from using the limited amount of time we are given in the most God-glorifiying ways.  Sin is one of them.  If you are caught in pornography, a certain portion of your creative energy and your ability to relate to God and others is limited because that portion of your brain is bound.  If you become free from pornography – drain some of the oil out of your life – then you free up your time, your creative energy, and ability to relate to people and can use that additional energy to glorify God.”

“Sometimes, the oil in our lives isn’t sinful.  We may not have ever been taught how to keep a schedule and show up on time.  We may have never seen someone model positive conflict resolution, so we lash out rather than look for solutions.  While not being directly sinful, bad habits like these can definitely reduce our capacity to glorify God.”

“Does that make sense?”

I saw nods all over the room.  After taking a drink, I continued. “Mentoring relationships are about helping people remove the things in their lives that keep them from being the person God created them to be and from doing the things God created them to do.”

“Mentoring is not about a top-down, one-way relationship, although it will start that way.  Mentoring is about raising someone up to be a peer.  It is about a two-way, mutually accountable relationship.  In fact, when we begin a more formal mentoring relationship, we encourage our mentees to ask us the same questions that we ask them.”

“Quickly, before our break, I want to go over the six areas we look into as we mentor people.  After the break, I will dive into each area more deeply.”

“First, we look at our relationship with God.  Second, we look at our relationship with our family.  Third, we look at our relationship with our community – both civic and spiritual.  Fourth, we look at our relationship with our call.  Fifth, we work on our relationship with our vocation.  Finally, sixth, we work on our relationship with our selves.”

“Alright, let’s take a break.”

During the break, a guy about my age approached, “I really appreciate that you didn’t dive into some monolog about managing our time or expanding our capacity.  Rather, you talked about helping us get rid of the negative spiritual stuff that keeps us from using the capacity we have.  Thanks!”

“You’re welcome!  The Holy Spirit is really the only one who increases our capacity and only as we obey God’s Word.  There isn’t much we can do to increase our own capacity if we aren’t obeying God’s Word because we understand that our obedience – as imperfect as it is – is the way we show God that we love Him.”

Photo by David Goehring