Many years ago I read an article about mentoring called, “Coaching Without a Paddle.” The author used the analogy of floating in a canoe without a paddle to describe the mentoring process of not being able to control the outcome.
As a new convert, the Apostle Paul was mentored by a more experienced believer, Barnabas, in Acts. They preached and taught together, celebrating successes but also enduring persecution. Barnabas helped shape Paul into a leader by ministering with him. Just as Barnabas could not dictate how people would respond to Paul, when we mentor or coach writers we cannot govern the results.
A good mentor gives up control and helps students develop by giving them the paddle. The mentor’s role is to share his experience in canoeing, teach students how to read the water’s surface and flow, and how to anticipate waterfalls and other dangers. The students, however, are the ones paddling the canoe.
In training writers or publishing colleagues, your role as a mentor is similar. You can teach how to string words into a narrative, like learning to paddle a canoe. But to coach writers is more than equipping them to paddle in a straight line. It is a matter of spending time on the river together, sharing experiences, and coaching them through rough waters.
Keep Barnabas’s example before you when coaching writers or employees. Look for opportunities to canoe together. Don’t let them stop in mid-stream—help them finish the journey. A good mentor not only helps others learn skills, but also enables them to develop latent gifts, apply skills and become leaders. You will be raising up leaders for His Kingdom.
Richard Crespo is professor of community and global health at Marshall University in West Virginia. He is a board member of MAI and trains publishing leaders around the world in how to mentor writers and colleagues.
Photo above courtesy Jeffrey M. Dean, Wikipedia