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8 steps to finding a communications mentor

SUMMARY: Does you church communications program suffer from “knowledge gap”?  A mentor might be the bridge you need.

A mentor—someone with know-how and experience—can be one of the most invaluable tools you’ll ever encounter.  As knowledge is shared, both teachers and learners gain confidence, and lasting relationships often develop. Take a lesson from Ben Franklin.

Ben Franklin observed that the two ways to acquire wisdom are to buy it or borrow it.  If you buy it, you usually pay full “retail.”  When you borrow it, you get the wisdom of others who already have paid the price of experience.  By consciously pursuing mentors, you and your church can avoid the “school of hard knocks,” saving time and money and steering clear of dead ends that often kill enthusiasm and initiative. 

Why is mentoring a good idea for your church communications program?  It’s a wonderful way to learn from someone who probably knows more than you do or has experience you need.  Webster defines “mentor” as “a trusted counselor or guide” or “a tutor or coach,” and that’s exactly what it is. If your church is open to being influenced by others, mentoring can be a valuable approach to closing the knowledge gap.

So, how do you determine what kind of mentor you should seek?  Here are some simple steps to consider: 

  1. Set clear goals as to what your church is trying to achieve.  By setting goals, you can determine the strengths and weaknesses that affect your plans.  If you want to upgrade your efforts with youth, you ultimately will look at churches that have dynamic youth programs and identify the individuals who make the programs work.  If you want to launch an effective welcoming program, get involved with growing churches with established programs.  Igniting Ministry, through its Welcoming Certification program, probably can help you identify potential mentors in your area.
  2. Identify the areas of knowledge and experience you require to become successful. Your needs could relate to organization, technology, design or strategy.  By doing homework, you can narrow your focus.
  3. Read and study as much about those areas as possible.  Future mentors will want to work with people who are serious about learning and who will value their time.  Study also will identify the right questions to ask.
  4. Look at other churches for successful programs in the areas you identified.  If you don’t know who is successful, contact your annual conference communicator for suggestions.  Some conferences have ongoing mentoring programs that might meet your need. After finding churches with successful programs, learn who leads those programs and develop a list of potential candidates.
  5. Ask potential mentors for 10 minutes of their time.  Contact could be face to face or by phone.  Most will not see 10 minutes as a burden.   It is likely, however, that your candidate is busy and may not be enthusiastic about someone wanting to “pick their brain.”  Be persistent but not badgering.  Look for someone who will be committed to helping your church to become successful.  They need to be willing to spend time to share their knowledge.
  6. When you meet with a potential mentor, relate your eagerness to develop a successful program and seek guidance.  Prepare specific questions or ask for a referral to a book, a seminar or other information sources they used.
  7. Send a thank you note after the meeting to express appreciation and to mention that you wish to call for advice in the future.
  8. Arrange opportunities to meet or contact your mentor on a regular basis for additional advice or guidance.  Share how your church is progressing and how you used the advice.  Continue to make your mentor believe his or her help is valuable.

You are seeking a “mentoring relationship”. You may not want to use the term “mentor” or to ask a person formally to be your mentor.  Successful people often are quite willing to meet informally with people who sincerely want to learn.  Using the term “mentor” may lead some candidates to decline, fearing an excessive time commitment.

Regardless, a mentoring relationship can be one of the most invaluable tools in your development.  Good relationships often endure for years, turning into strong and lasting friendships.