Updated: Jun 21, 2018
Can you think of a person who had a positive influence on your young life? Many successful adults report that, in addition to their parents and friends, one or more individuals had an impact on their lives, and without the encouragement of that person, they would not have been as strong or successful as they are. For some, it was a coach who guided them, for others it was a youth pastor or teacher. Whatever role those caring adults originally played, they took the extra step to make a personal connection by mentoring the young person, and that made all the difference.
Although mentoring has been adopted by educational institutions, churches, community organizations, and even businesses, it is not a modern concept. In fact, the origin of the word comes from Mentor, a character in Greek Mythology who served as Odysseus’ trusted counselor. Mentoring is a practice in traditional as well as in modern cultures, at times generating a societal structure that ensures its people understand and embrace the values and virtues of the culture. Other mentoring systems take the form of a contextual learning situation, in which a protégé learns skills from a mentor, as well as an identity or role in a village or community. Modern mentoring has come to mean a wise and trusted counselor or teacher to a younger person.
The Helmsmen Institute recognizes the impact a Christian mentor can have on a young person’s life, and has established mentoring as a principle and approach in the design of their camps. Helmsmen Institute mentors are not a replacement for parents, nor are they therapists; they are, instead, individuals who have the unique ability to come alongside a student to reinforce the Christian principles taught at home, while encouraging their protégés to reach their full potential.
As Christians, the first question that must be asked before endorsing any relationship is whether it is consistent with Christian principles. In other words, is it Biblical? Though the word “mentor” is not used in the Bible, the idea of a wise and trusted individual guiding a younger person is frequently found in both the Old and New Testaments. Moses was mentored by his father-in-law, Jethro (Exodus 18), and then served as a mentor to Joshua. And it is probably no surprise that later, Joshua mentored the other leaders of his army. Through the mentoring relationship between Eli and Samuel, Eli prepared Samuel to be Israel’s last judge and first prophet (1 Samuel 1–4). Jesus mentored His disciples (Luke 9), and Paul mentored Timothy (Acts 16; 1 & 2 Timothy). Through this simple survey of the Bible, the answer to the question is, yes, a Christian mentoring relationship is consistent with Christian principles. With this assurance, the Helmsmen Institute has embraced the rich lessons in these Biblical examples of mentoring, using them to provide guidance and integrating them into the training the Helmsmen Institute provides to its camp staff.
Although a mentoring relationship is typically designed to benefit the protégé, experience shows that it is mutually beneficial, and even passed along to the next generation of youth. Retired Pastor and Ministry Coach, Ken Horton, offers this statement about these benefits: "Mentoring is a mutually encouraging relationship distinguished by the power of example (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1), the wisdom of humility (James 3:13; 1 Peter 5:5-7), and an attitude of enthusiasm (Romans 12:1; 3 John 4). These are experienced by both parties as God works His transforming purpose in them." The Helmsmen Institute, founded and run by Stoa alumni, is an example of youth who have recognized the value of a mentoring relationship and are now passing along those blessings to the next group of Stoa competitors. Even Paul, in his relationship to Timothy, recognizes the multi-generational benefits of mentoring, as seen in 2 Timothy 2:2, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” In the development of the Helmsmen Institute programs and services, Christian mentoring has been, and will continue to be, a guiding principle.