Reid, Alvin J. and George Robinson. With: A Practical Guide to Informal Mentoring and Intentional Disciple Making. Rainer Publishing, 2016.
Jesus used his farewell statement to commission his church to go into the entire world and make disciples. He did not describe the form disciple making should take. He did not regulate that commission with any five-step process. He did not give his disciples step-by-step instructions for making disciples. That lack of instruction, however, does not mean that Jesus left his disciples clueless about the process of disciple making. For approximately three years, Jesus lived, worked, ate, and ministered with his twelve disciples. For three years, Jesus poured himself into these men so that, upon his departure, these men would know what he meant when he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” These twelve men knew how to make disciples because Jesus displayed discipleship while with them. These men knew that disciple making carried a heavy emphasis on being with someone. This togetherness is the premise that Alvin Reid and George Robinson put forth in With: A Practical Guide to Informal Mentoring and Intentional Disciple Making.
Reid and Robinson take their thesis from Jesus’ example. They write, “Informal mentoring assumes the best learning comes not from simply listening to a leader, but by being with one” (156). In other words, Reid and Robinson argue that discipleship and mentoring is most effective when the mentor is willing to invite the mentee into his or her life.
They seek to build upon their thesis with eight short chapters divided into three sections. In the first section, Reid and Robinson highlight why they believe mentoring matters. In the second section, they draw from New Testament examples that augment their thesis. The third section consists of practical applications for their vision of informal mentorship.
This short book is a helpful reminder that mentoring and disciple making requires willingness on both the part of the mentor and the mentee. True mentoring requires certain commitments by both involved. That is why the way that Reid and Robinson describe a mentor is so helpful. They rightly point out that simply having a position of influence—such as pastor, teacher, or parent—does not mean one is a mentor. They make clear, “Mentoring is not an institution to manage—it is a lifestyle to emulate” (237). Therefore, mentors should be committed to opening their lives to the men and women whom they mentor. This commitment means that informal mentorship happens in day-to-day activities. Simply, mentors should be open to having mentees with them on a regular basis. Reid and Robinson rightly note that this togetherness should have a goal. They state, “The goal of mentoring is to help the mentee become more like Jesus than like you; the more you are like Jesus, the more success you will likely have. ‘With-ness’ simply requires inviting a few mentees into your life and modeling for them a life that honors Christ and works for His kingdom. That will likely require that you invite them to share in some of your routine activities.” (348-351). Effective mentoring happens when mentor and mentee live life together.
While Reid and Robinson highlight the informal nature of effective mentorship, they make clear that informal is not synonymous with unintentional. Robinson argues that Jesus used a process with his disciples. Jesus’ process included things like him modeling right action and giving of himself, as well as requiring certain commitments to obedience for his followers and expecting them to reproduce the results. Jesus, according to Robinson, was both teaching and modeling a life lived for the kingdom of God.
Neither of the authors rejects the need for formal mentoring and teaching times; however, they note, “No amount of talented pedagogy or revelatory content will ever replace the need for a relational foundation for transformational learning” (464-465). They offer any number of personal examples that illustrate this point. They share numerous examples of how they have been mentored in this fashion as well as how they have conducted informal mentorship. This personal touch helps the reader know that the process is possible, as long as he or she is willing to make the commitment.
Thinking about mentorship at this level of commitment may raise a number of concerns for the reader. However, Reid and Robinson attempt to respond to those concerns. In the final chapter, Robinson attempts to answer proactively a number of the questions that a reader may raise. The highlight of this exercise is his discussion on expectations for both mentor and mentee. This section offers helpful practical insights into the goals and outcomes of informal mentoring.
The book was lacking in at least one area, however. What is the mentor to do when the mentoring relationship begins to go bad? Reid and Robinson discuss seeking mentees that are F.A.T. (Faithful-Available-Teachable), but what if the mentee begins with these qualities then begins to display opposite characteristics? It may be helpful to know how the authors responded in situations when mentor/mentee relationship became strained. However, they can hardly be faulted for this lack since they acknowledge that this book is not intended to articulate fully the idea of informal mentoring. Rather, the book is intended only as an introduction of the concept.
In the end, the authors accomplish their stated goal, which is to introduce the idea of informal mentoring. I believe the book will be helpful to those longing to be more effective in shaping the lives of others for the kingdom of God. It is a simple idea, not necessarily easy. As mentioned, it takes commitment.
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