Review: The Making of a Mentor, by Ted Engstrom & Ron Jenson

Subtitle: 9 Essential Characteristics of Influential Christian Leaders, 2005.

Engstrom

A decade ago I took a class on mentoring and had to read Howard Hendricks (As Iron Sharpens Iron) and Ted Engstrom (The Fine Art of Mentoring) among other books.  They convinced me of the critical importance of this subject.  From my experience in life and ministry, and my observation of both, I am increasingly convinced of the importance of mentoring.

This is not a preaching book, nor is it a book written for preachers.  However, if leadership is influence, and if preachers are leaders, then we must consider the issue of mentoring.  What a tragedy for so many preachers to pour their lives into preaching (for the sake of others), yet never to invest their lives directly into other individuals.  While I might be pushed to agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that preaching is the highest calling, I would suggest that mentoring is the heart of Biblical ministry.

Ted Engstrom and Ron Jenson teamed up to write The Making of a Mentor. While not setting out to write an endless list of “how-to’s,” they have included a lot of practical and helpful advice in this short book.  However, the focus is on the kind of person who will mentor effectively.  It is a book of personal testimony combined with a description of godly maturity that will lead to effective personal investment in the lives of others.

They begin with testimony of their own mentoring experience, demonstrating a chain of mentoring down through four “generations” of mentorees.  This includes two friend to friend relationships, and one father to son relationship.  I suspect some British readers may find the vulnerability and willingness to talk about themselves uncomfortable, but I feel this is a great start to the book.  It is a contemporary demonstration of Paul’s self-giving in 1Thess.2 – a passage to which they return repeatedly throughout the book.

The bulk of the book works through nine characteristics of influential mentors, each chapter combining testimony with biblical support and finishing with helpful responses from a variety of Christian leaders in various fields.  (I enjoyed noticing people I’ve known at seminary and elsewhere . . . perhaps you’ll know some of them too?)

To pique your interest, the nine characteristics considered are encouragement, self-discipline, gentleness, affection, communication, honesty (vulnerability), servanthood, godliness and confrontation.

I won’t share more detail here, but I would encourage you to get this book and prayerfully read through it.  The summary of main points in the appendix is very helpful, the tone is encouraging and the content is often inspiring.

I’d love to encourage more preachers to mentor other preachers, but also remember the greater number of people (non-preachers) ready to be mentored simply by you, a more mature believer.  I remember hearing Howard Hendricks describe how meeting with a group of five men every week over a period of time meant so much to him.  He said something like, “if I die today, I die satisfied because of those men!” What about you?  What about me?  Will we die satisfied because of life-on-life investment in key individuals?

4 thoughts on “Review: The Making of a Mentor, by Ted Engstrom & Ron Jenson

  1. Hi Peter,

    It is great to see you encourage preachers to take on the role as a mentor.

    Do you have any wise words for those who are in need of a mentor while they are waiting for one to turn up? You probably already know that there are quite of few us out here.

    In the mean time I will continue to mentor those whom the Lord leads across my path.

    Your recommendation will be another one on my to-read-list.

    Serving Him,

    Mikael

  2. Hi Mikael,

    Thanks for the comment. My thought on this is that most of us who want to be mentored tend to feel like there aren’t enough mentors around. The danger is that we hink we should wait and wait for the perfect one. My suggestion is to narrow the focus of what you want to lean. Pick something small and ask someone who can help in that area. You’ll generally find that you learn more than you ask for from people and you are actively pursuing growth, rather than waiting for opportunity to grow. Being a learner is important because over time, as we get older, we tend to think we have it all together and become less open to learning. It takes deliberate effort to remain a learner. Regularly pursuing someone as a mentor for something really helps in this.

    Then, of course, there are the categories of “distance mentoring” – distance of time and space. This is good, but I would worry about relying on this too much. It’s far more comfortable to be “mentored” by Jonathan Edwards’ writings than it is to have someone you allow to get close and rub shoulders with. Nonetheless, with the internet, email, phones, it is possible to be mentored from a distance. With the vast array of books and research, it is possible to learn from historical people.

    Just my “two cents worth” as they say in the States. Any other thoughts on Mikael’s good question?

    • Thank you Peter,

      I think that is a fair and wise comment. I agree with the danger of thinking that there aren’t enough mentors around and to wait for the perfect one to turn up before doing anything about it. Books and modern technology has its place in the life of a learner and is good, but what is missing is the element of Proverbs 27:17 ,”Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another;” the closeness and shoulder rubbing part.

      Another risk for the one waiting for a mentor is to become critical towards their own pastors for not stepping up to that role. If one reads a lot about the whole process of discipleship it is easy to have too high expectations of any potential mentors and to become disillusioned with the whole idea.

      What I think is most helpful in your comment is to encourage learners to actively pursue growth, not only in books and other media, but to make oneself vulnerable enough to seek out a mentor who would be lovingly frank and to actively admonish (noutheteo) us learners in our sanctification, no matter how long we have walked with the Lord.

      In light of what you have said I need to re-think my own requirements of a mentor and identify one small area at a time and pursue someone to mentor me in that particular area.

      This is something we all need to be deliberate about, mentors as well as mentees.

      Any further thoughts would be helpful.

      Mikael

  3. Peter,

    I have been wanting a mentor for some years now. My wife and I recently relocated and began to attend a local church. One of the first things I did was ask the pastor to be my mentor. He agreed, but since that time our relationship has not materialized like I had envisioned.

    I did exactly what you talked about by asking way too much from him and when he wasn’t perfect I stepped away. I will take your advise and try to rekindle that relationship by narrowing my focus, then let the relationship build from there.

    Thanks,

    Greg

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