“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” –Prov. 11:25
When Susan was hired as the executive director of her pregnancy center in 2006, she knew the calling was strong, and it was confirmed by the confidence that the board seemed to have in her abilities to lead an organization. But she had no experience in pregnancy center work, and as the job responsibilities and pressures began to unfold, she wondered to herself, “What have I gotten myself into?!”
Many Outcomes readers can probably relate to Susan’s trepidation in one way or another. The pregnancy center movement, like many other Christian ministries, is filled with devout people who know in their deepest heart that they have been called “for such a time as this,” but yet, on a daily basis feel unprepared and “in over their heads” with the complexities of the work before them.
Unfortunately, during my nine years as a leader at Care Net, I have watched more than one pregnancy center leader succumb to the pressures of leadership and step down citing emotional, physical and even spiritual burnout. While maintaining a close and vibrant relationship with the Lord is the most important defense against the many tensions that are common in any leadership role, additional strategies can strengthen a leader’s long-term effectiveness. In fact, today Susan attributes her longevity to a pivotal relationship she formed early on. Within months of starting her new position at the pregnancy center, she found someone who was willing to invest in her growth and success. Susan found a mentor.
What is a Mentor?
The word “mentor” originates from Greek mythology and the story of Odysseus and his son, Telemachus. When Odysseus went off to war, he entrusted the care and guidance of Telemachus to his faithful adviser, Mentor. According to this myth, under Mentor’s tutelage, Telemachus became a talented and effective ruler. The word mentor has since come to mean a wise and trusted guide — an individual who has already walked the same road and is now dedicated to helping another develop the qualities needed to succeed.
A mentor can be a person who acts as an adviser to a new leader, but mentorship can also be a tremendous blessing to a seasoned leader. And I am the perfect example.
Over the years, many friends have contributed to my leadership growth (a shout-out to Joane, Jacque, Mary Margaret and others), but none have done so in an official capacity. And while I have studied mentoring and encouraged many to consider mentoring, I have never formally had a mentor myself. That is, until earlier this year when I learned about the Outcomes Mentoring Network and jumped in with gusto. Now, not only do I have a mentor of my own, I am a mentor to another Christian leader. The blessings I have received from both of these relationships solidify my commitment to mentoring.
My mentor, Brady Pyle, is a great listener and asks probing questions to help me grow. A session with Brady never ends without me being challenged to consider new perspectives. This is one of my favorite parts of being mentored.
Mentors have a responsibility to guide and advise, but in order for the relationship to thrive, the person being mentored (known as the “mentee”) is also responsible. I see the qualities of a good mentee as being able to remain transparent and vulnerable so the mentor can encourage, exhort and even gently rebuke if needed. It makes no sense to me to invest in a mentoring relationship if I am not able to remain humble and willing to take constructive advice from my mentor. Thankfully, my Outcomes Mentoring Network mentee also has that perspective and, while I would not want to speak for her, the feedback she gives me indicates she receives input well and is learning and growing in her leadership journey.
As I serve in my leadership role at Care Net, I will continue to encourage pregnancy center directors who are feeling overwhelmed (like Susan) to consider mentoring. But now with first-person experience, my recommendations will include a personal testimony of the treasures available to any leader willing to allow another person a front row seat to their leadership journey, or is willing to invest in the life of another. Both scenarios will produce blessings, growth and success.
Cindy Hopkins serves as vice president at Care Net, an organization that provides resources to a network of life-affirming pregnancy centers.Cindy holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Weber State University and an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. This post is an excerpt from her article that appeared in the 2015 Summer edition of Outcomes Magazine.