Lessons on Mentoring

Jimmy Scroggins is one of my favorite people in the world. He serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, but I have known him many years before he became pastor of this great church. Indeed, I had a small role in mentoring Jimmy in his younger adult years. To be honest, my role in mentoring him was small compared to others. Kevin Ezell, Jimmy's former pastor and boss, invested a lot more time in Jimmy than I did.

But I take great joy that I had a small role in Jimmy's life. As a man in my mid-fifties, I have some of my greatest joys watching how God is using men in whom I have invested some of my own life.

But I could have done better.

Mistakes Made in Mentoring

The length of this commentary is not sufficient to highlight all the mistakes I have made in mentoring, but a few will suffice for now. I guess my most frequent mistake was just plain busyness. I let good activities replace great activities. I failed to see the long-term impact of investing in a life, and too often I succumbed to the tyranny of the urgent. Simply put, I did not mentor as often as I should.

On other occasions I failed to take advantage of opportunities ripe for mentoring. I remember Jimmy Scroggins asking to travel with me on one occasion. And I remember thinking that I should have taken more young men on my travels. I missed great opportunities for a lot of one-on-one time.

Key Lessons

I have learned through the years some key lessons about mentoring. I'm sure that my insights are neither original nor exhaustive. Perhaps, though, they might be of some value to you.

1. Mentoring can be formal or informal. On occasion, I would intentionally decide to work with a young man. In the case of Jimmy Scroggins, I never declared that I was mentoring him. But, through different events where we were together, a mentoring relationship did exist.

2. I did my best mentoring when I enjoyed the person whom I was mentoring. Okay, there's no abundance of wisdom with that comment. Still, I found myself a more effective mentor when the relationship was fun and enjoyable.

3. Mentoring is not a one-way effort. I have learned much from Jimmy Scroggins, probably more than he's ever learned from me.

4. Mentoring works best when it is built on the foundation of prayer. This past week, I called Jimmy because I wanted him to pray for someone. My relationship with those I mentored was strongest when it was built on a common trust and dependence on Christ.

5. When mentoring is effective, the one who is mentored becomes an effective mentor as well.

And the Gift Goes On . . .

I do have some regrets. I do wish I had taken more young men under my wing and offered them my time and what little wisdom I had to offer. But I also know that, God willing, I still have years left to mentor others.

And lest I fail to mention the obvious, my three sons have always been my most intense focus in mentoring. God gave me three of the greatest gifts in the world in Sam Rainer, Art Rainer, and Jess Rainer. The times I have invested in them have been some of the most precious times of my life.

One final word in this somewhat rambling blog. Jimmy Scroggins is now mentoring my son, Art, who serves on the staff of the church with Jimmy. And I am watching how he is doing so much better with Art than I ever did with Jimmy.

Of all the investments we can make, nothing is as valuable as investing in a life. I am grateful for the times I have. And I am grateful to see the legacy of mentoring continue.

The gift truly does go on.