Helping Students "Think Small"

  • Don Payne
  • Feb 3, 2000

Our culture idolizes pacesetters who are driven by sweeping vision: those who "think big." Our commitment to follow Jesus Christ and participate in his redemptive mission also invites the challenge to "think big": to trust God for what is beyond our resources. Certain types of "thinking big" can get in the way, though! Mentoring relationships misfire quickly with the wrong type of expectations. 

A mentoree can easily expect a mentor to be everything he or she needs. Likewise, mentors can easily feel that pressure. In this sense, mentors and mentorees must learn to "think small." Drs. Robert and Richard Clinton write, "If you are looking for an ideal mentor who can do it all, you probably won't find one. That's thinking big .... If you can identify a specific mentor function, then you can probably identify someone who can do that function. That's thinking small." (The Mentor Handbook, Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1991, p. 15-1)

One of the most powerful functions of a good mentor is helping mentorees envision their goals, identify what they will need, then locate the best resources for each need. In the "thinking small" mentoring paradigm, a mentor neither expects nor attempts to provide all that a mentoree needs. Rather, a mentor offers a mentoree encouragement and assistance in finding what is needed. This type of "small" thinking can actually expand a mentoree's horizons and resources far beyond what "big" thinking could deliver!