This post is part of the 4 People Every Leader Needs series. We’re looking at the support team that helped make Moses one of the strongest leaders in the Bible. If Moses needed help, so do we!
We all need someone a few steps ahead of us who will share their experiences and wisdom. Sure, we can read books and research various topics, but there is nothing quite like someone willing to personally invest in you and your ministry.
Moses had his father-in-law, Jethro. In Exodus 18, Jethro displayed the characteristics you should look for in a good mentor.
A close personal relationship
Moses married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah, when he was in exile and lived with their family. Moses had great respect for Jethro, as he showed when he asked permission to take Zipporah back to Egypt with him (Exodus 4:18)
A good mentor should be willing to get personal with you. And you should be willing to get personal with your mentor. That means sharing the good and bad, not sugar-coating the rough patches and trusting enough to be vulnerable.
Wise and stable
Jethro was a Midian priest, with an established household and large flocks.
While everyone will go through difficult times, a strong mentor is stable and has a steady reputation. If they are struggling with discouragement and major obstacles in their own life and ministry, it will be hard for them to serve as a guide to you.
When Jethro visited Moses and his family, he announced his visit ahead of time. He didn’t barge into the middle of what Moses had going on and try to take over. (Exodus 18:6)
A good mentor understands where you are in your life and your business. Their advice and guidance are tempered with consideration of your skills and development levels. They may challenge and push you out of your comfort zone, but never push you beyond a reasonable expectation.
Moses shared how God had given the Israelites a great victory. Jethro rejoiced and declared a faith in God as a result of what he saw God do for Moses and his people. (Exodus 18:9-12)
Your mentor should celebrate with you … not just the big milestones, but the small things that go right along the way. These happy times will strengthen your bond and your mentor can use them to keep the dark days in perspective.
Shows care and concern
When Jethro saw how Moses was caring for the people, he was concerned that Moses would wear himself out. (Exodus 18:17-18)
Often, a trusted mentor can spot when we are headed for physical or mental burn out, long before we recognize it ourselves.
Provides practical advice
Jethro gave Moses an actionable plan to involve others in meeting the needs of the people. (Exodus 18:19-24)
A mentor is not just a shoulder to cry on. She should be able to help you solve problems, either based on her own experience or by helping you research solutions. She’ll also connect you to people in her network who can help fill your gaps.
Steps back and lets you lead
Jethro didn’t hang around and inject himself into a place he wasn’t needed. After supporting Moses, he left and went back home. (Exodus 18:27)
This is always a temptation for both you and your mentor. Your mentor knows exactly what to do, and it may seem easier for you to just let her do it. It starts out as a sincere offer to help, and ends up with both of you frustrated by an awkward arrangement. A good mentor knows how to give you some hands-on help but then step back before taking over.
How to find a mentor
We can’t all be as blessed as Moses to marry into the perfect mentor (although don’t write off your in-laws as good mentor candidates!). It’s a matter of prayerful consideration as God brings people across your path. Start by developing relationships with people who have been where you are and a mentoring relationship may naturally grow out of one of those relationships.
Keep in mind that your mentor does not need to be way more advanced than you. Someone who is just one or two steps ahead will be able to relate to what you are going through.
Have you been working with a mentor? Share you story of how you connected and how the relationship benefits both of you!