“Here’s the problem, in short: The assertive, authoritative, dominant behaviors that people associate with leadership are frequently deemed less attractive in women.”
(Harvard Business Review, September 2010)
The above article is about mentoring in the business world and the difference between sponsorship (advancing your protégé’s career) with mentorship (growing your mentee into a better employee or leader). Women tend to be “mentored” and men are more often “sponsored.” It’s a problem—for certain, as is the persisting belief that assertiveness is good for male leaders but not female leaders.
But what about for Christians? We don’t really need a sponsor since our “advocate” is Jesus Christ (“If God is for us, who can be against us!” Paul exudes in Romans). Mentors, however, should be integral to the Christian walk: someone to call us out when we plateau, someone to pray for us (someone to pray for), someone who has climbed mountains before you and if not advice, at the very least has comfort.
I suspect, however, that many people let this get away from them. For one reason, it’s awkward. Graduate students like to call asking a professor to be their adviser “proposing” (as in a wedding proposal), except unlike in a real proposal you barely know said person, it’s a professional “relationship, and there’s a serious lack of equality in the relationship. The process of gaining a mentor is similar: how can you ask someone to become your [best] friend without the benefits (equality of experience, mutual interests)?
Awkward from the mentor’s side, too: at what age is someone qualified—with all due humility—to be a mentor? How would one go about proclaiming himself to be mentor material without (in so doing) disqualifying himself?
Outside of the awkwardness, there are plenty of logistical issues, from both the mentor and the mentee’s side. From the mentor: how will I have time to mentor someone? How will I know what to say? Who would want to learn from me? From the mentee: Who I can find who can mentor me given my personal background? Given my career aspirations? Given my location?
“[C]onversations with Christian leaders reveal that the number one reason they don't take on a disciple or facilitate a mentoring program is that they simply have no time.” (Christianity Today, 2006)
The entire New Testament is arguably a treatise on why Christians should be seeking and, after, becoming mentors. The gospels tell of Jesus’ mentoring the disciples. The epistles reek of Paul’s mentoring and Peter calls for everyone to “Be examples to the flock.” Perhaps that realization—along with relevant experience—is what qualifies someone to be a mentor: if he or she recognizes the importance of mentoring and is willing to suffer the awkwardness and sacrifice the time. Perhaps someone bold enough to ask deserves a mentor. Perhaps the logistics are not nearly as important as the relationship.