by Abbie Smith
I co-wrote a book on why you should mentor a college-age person (The Slow Fade), so I’m definitely not “anti-mentoring.” But, I do think there are seasons it would be wiser not to. Don’t take my thoughts here as prescriptive, though. Read through and process them with someone who knows you well and can help discern whether or not mentoring is the wisest thing for you during this season.
1. Burnout and Lacking Balance
It doesn’t take much asking around to realize how few Christians are experiencing rested, abundant lives. Many are out of balance, let alone exhausted. Don’t let mentoring become just another obligation, or a box to check-off. Both lead to burnout. The following types of questions may be helpful as you discern your mentoring roles this season.
- Lord, what’s my motivation for mentoring?
- To what degree am I serving because I’m supposed to, or because I feel that You’ll love me more if I do?
- What would you have as my priorities this season and where should XP3 College fit into that?
- Is serving causing me to neglect other priorities (relationship with God, spouse, family, work, etc.).
2. Excessive Doubt
We all have doubts. And there’s something to say for healthy amounts of doubt in our faith journeys (there’s even an XP3 College Conversation Guide about this). If you find yourself wanting to commiserate with other doubters, however, or cajole others into your skepticism, then you’re not likely in a place to mentor.
3. Unrepentant Sin
In other words, stuff going on in you that you know isn’t right, but you don’t want do anything about. The Message translation of Titus 2 speaks on mentoring like this:
“Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around,” (Titus 2:1-8).
The challenge to this (among many) is that way back in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2), we see the repercussions of sin and how it makes us want to hide and cover. When you sense these tendencies (to hide and cover) coming between your ability to genuinely care for and tend to the heart of another, it might be time to step away for a season.
Abbie Smith is the co-author of The Slow Fade, and the author of Celibate Sex: Musings on Being Loved, Single, Twisted, and Holy.