Last week, Cliff Barbarick made a comment on this blog that spoke about the true nature of mentoring. What he said ought to be heard by all of us who are both mentors and who have a mentor(s). I love what he says about mentoring as an act of humility.
Cliff Barbarick is a part-time Family Minister at the Robinson Church of Christ and graduate student working on a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies at Baylor University. Cliff, his wife, and his two girls (with one boy on the way!) currently live in Waco, Texas, but they will be moving to Malibu, California, in May for Cliff to accept a visiting faculty position at Pepperdine University.
The following are Cliff’s words. Enjoy!
I’ve been blessed in my life with women and men who have invested in me. God has repeatedly placed mentors in my life to whom I am forever indebted and from whom I have learned the following important lesson. They’ve modeled for me mentoring that bears that unique, cross-shaped stamp.
As a mentor, you should long for your student to surpass you one day. Mentoring should not be an "ego trip" that inflates your sense of self-importance. You cannot feel threatened by the success of your student and be a good mentor. Mentoring is an act of humility in which you recognize gifts in another that you want to help develop in order that he may surpass what you have accomplished.
Barnabas is an excellent example. At the beginning of he and Saul’s ministry together, the pair is always called "Barnabas and Saul," clearly placing Barnabas in the position of importance. He leads the team. A transition takes place in Acts 13:9, however, and it corresponds with the alteration of Saul’s name. Saul, filled with the Holy Spirit, boldly confronts a Roman official and blinds him. The proconsul is convicted by the powerful demonstration, and the ministry team is never the same. What was once always "Barnabas and Saul" becomes in 13:13, "Paul and his companions." Barnabas isn’t even named! Thereafter, with only a couple of explainable exceptions (14:14; 15:12, 25), the ministry team is always called "Paul and Barnabas." Paul has gone from being the student to the "chief speaker" (14:12), but their ministry continues to flourish.
Barnabas must have been an exceptional man. How many preachers do you know who would stick around after being supplanted by a young up-and-comer? Probably only those that embrace the green preacher as a mentor and hope and pray that "he must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30).
This is a powerful statement about mentoring. Now I would enjoy hearing your response. Have you seen examples of this kind of mentoring relationship? Why might it be difficult for a mentor to see a student surpass him/her in some way?