The Many Faces of Mentoring

  • Don Payne
  • Mar 27, 2000

In the world of theatre, some actors will resist taking a role that does not fit their perception of their skills. The best actors, however, find ways to inject fresh energy into unnatural or even "dead-end" roles. This creative flexibility can tease new beauty from the most familiar plays. 

Doran McCarty, a long-time supervisor of seminary field education, suggests that there are many roles for ministry mentors. Each role makes a unique contribution to the training of effective, faithful Christian servants. Mentors sometimes discover the need for creative flexibility when natural roles are not the necessary roles. Here are some roles that McCarty has identified.

  • A supervisor who oversees production
  • A maestro who coordinates efforts
  • A boss who apportions work
  • A professor who assigns homework
  • An officer who gives commands
  • A physician who reviews cases
  • An artisan who guides apprentices
  • A married couple who practice mutual accountability
  • A warden who guards prisoners
  • A parent who nurtures and disciplines 

Perhaps you can describe other mentoring roles, too. Which role fits you best? Which role is most needed in your mentoring relationship? Are you able to adopt new roles when necessary, bringing unexpected growth out of the relationship? Can you envision your role changing during the course of a mentoring relationship? How about within a particular session?

Mentors must not only be able to maximize their strengths and natural styles, but also to occasionally "change faces." The results can be as surprising and delightful as the creativity we enjoy in the theatre.