Who Are You Unintentionally Mentoring?

In my work as a writer and editor, I don’t always think about the people I’m serving; I sometimes get lost in the details—deadlines, choosing my words carefully, and matters of grammar and punctuation. But when I lift my thoughts and consider the people who read what I produce, I enjoy thinking about the impact this diverse group is making and can make on the world, serving in a variety of ways and simply being the people God has made them to be. I don’t always appreciate what our hyper-connected world makes possible, but I do love the idea that it can bring together people in widely divergent circumstances, from many denominations and traditions, from different places on our planet.

I believe people are called to use our spiritual gifts, not for our own benefit, but for the sake of nurturing the body of Christ. People with leadership gifts, as with all gifts from the Holy Spirit, are obligated to use those gifts in the ways and the places God has called us to. This is an awesome responsibility to steward what God has given us in ministry to others.

When I served as the editor of GiftedforLeadership.com, now known as WomenLeaders.com, one of our goals was to serve as a mentoring voice for women doing church ministry. We didn’t initially set out to mentor women, but we stumbled across this idea as women told us we were playing a mentoring role in their lives—and they wanted this from us. So we began to take it seriously, giving specific thought to how our publication could be a worthy mentor. This was not because we ourselves were the best mentors—but because we were in a position to amplify voices of women many could learn from.

When I was in that role, Julie Pierce, a leadership consultant, coach, and communicator, shared her story with me over a cup of iced coffee one scorching afternoon in Dallas. Julie lives with the conviction that she has found her calling: “I’m created to empower leaders to change the world.” It’s no accident that Julie found this sense of purpose largely because other women served as her mentors, walking alongside her and helping her see the gifts God had given her.

Yet I wonder how many of those women in Julie’s life would have called themselves mentors. Her high school English teacher? Her basketball coach? I suspect these women felt they were simply doing their jobs—yet by doing so, they invested in a young woman who would later turn around and do the same for many others.

In this increasingly fractured and niched society, you may not realize how many people you’re mentoring. While initiating official mentoring relationships can feel awkward, and committing to them can be intimidating, our most significant mentoring experiences probably happen when we’re not paying attention—when we’re simply doing our jobs or taking care of the responsibilities God has given us, and someone is quietly watching what we do. Our idle comments serve as life-giving encouragement; our hurried steps become paths for others to follow.

Those of us God has gifted and called to leadership have an incredible responsibility to the people who have us in their view. Like writers and editors focused on deadlines and punctuation, we need to lift our heads now and then to remember the people we’re serving. And when we want to know whether our ministries are bearing fruit, it may help to look beyond the obvious. Our unintentional ministries may be our most powerful ones.

This post is adapted from one originally published by Today’s Christian Woman.

© 2017 Amy Simpson.