Every second you’re alive, you’re older than you were before. As you grow older in the church it can be tempting to enter Christian retirement. Your body limits your level of physical activity and so you move into the background, thinking you aren’t as useful as you once were.
Instead of retiring from Christian work, consider changing the type of work in which you are involved. Older members, you are filled with experience and wisdom that is begging to be shared with younger Christians. Older members, you have been blessed with longevity, and in your life you have studied and learned and gained much insight concerning life and how to live for God. Share your wisdom. Mentor younger Christians. Help us to see life more clearly through your hindsight.
Mentoring can be a daunting task, and you may be wondering about how to be a good mentor. Learn from the apostle Paul. He was a mentor especially to Timothy, and you can learn how to mentor effectively from watching that relationship. Here are three steps toward effective mentoring from the life of Paul and Timothy:
- Praise Publicly (Philippians 2:19-22)
When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he praised Timothy to them for his genuine concern for their welfare and that he sought the interests of Christ Jesus, not his own. Paul was singing Timothy’s praises to other Christians. An effective mentor sings the spiritual praises of his protégé to others openly and publicly.
- Correct Privately (2 Timothy 1:6-7ff)
Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, and in this second letter he reminds Timothy to “kindle afresh” or “fan into flame” the gift of God which he had received from the laying on of Paul’s hands. That implies Timothy had let his gift die down, and was neglecting his mission in Ephesus. Paul is correcting Timothy’s course as privately as he could, in this letter written to him personally. Effective mentors will keep correction honest and kind, and as private as possible.
- Trust Completely (1 Timothy 1:3)
Paul spent time training Timothy personally in his travels, but there came a time when Timothy needed to work on his own. Paul left him in Ephesus with a mission to complete, and trusted he could accomplish it. Paul didn’t stay in the dock to swoop in the moment trouble arose. He trusted in Timothy to do the work.
As Paul closed his final letter to Timothy, he charged him once again to remain faithful and complete the mission set before him (2 Timothy 4:1-5). And if Timothy wondered why so much was being placed on his shoulders, he only had to read a couple more verses. Paul explains that his own death is very near, and Timothy will be left to continue the work.
Older members, you have precious little time to share with younger members the wealth of wisdom you have gathered. Younger members, you have precious little time to gain that wisdom before you are left on your own to continue the work. Let’s work together to strengthen the church!