Multiplying Ministries…Mattering and Mentoring

Jun 14th, 2010 | Category: Columns, Multiplying Ministries
By Rich Bimler

Everyone wants to feel that they matter in life. Mentoring is one significant way to help people feel “mattered.” T.S. Eliot (remember him?) claimed that being important to others and making a difference in others’ lives were two of the greatest purposes in life.

Who matters to you? And to whom do you matter?

Who is your mentor? And who are you mentoring?

These are powerful questions for all educators.

Since I am name dropping, Plato said a long, long time ago that “What is honored in a country will be cultivated there.” We can add that this is also true about church bodies, congregations, classrooms, and families. It is high time that we as God’s educators recapture the importance of honoring putting people back in “ministry range” with each other, rather than pitting people against each other. We can tear down barriers and learn from each other through mentoring opportunities that make people matter to each other.

Andrea Dixon (2007) in the Adult Span Journal, lists five components of interpersonal “mattering”:

  1. View me as important and significant.
  2. Show interest in me.
  3. Pay attention to me.
  4. Depend on me.
  5. Be concerned about my future welfare.

    A major thrust of our culture that is working against us is the concept called CPA, or “Continuous Partial Attention.” Through iPods and Smart phones and texting and e-mails we are pulled away from personally connecting with people, in the name of keeping constantly connected with people. A recent cartoon shows a teen in her bedroom texting her parents in the kitchen to ask them when dinner will be ready. Sound familiar? Again, it was our friend T.S. Eliot who wisely remarked, we are “distracted from distractions by distractions.”

    So what are we going to do about it? For starters, how about committing ourselves to developing the “art of mattering” to each other? How about going out of our way to intentionally make personal connections every day with at least a few people who matter to us, and those who also need to feel “mattered,” to encourage each other to listen – really listen – to the little kids around us, as well as to the “amazing grays” in our lives. Mattering is not an easy assignment, at least for me. Someone once said (perhaps it was T.S. Eliot since he evidently has said so many things) that “no one really listens to anyone else…and if you try it for a while, you’ll know why”

    Mentoring happens when we intentionally make eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart connections with someone else. We get to choose who mentors us, which is another great way to intentionally let people know they matter so much to us that we want to learn and grow with them. In a real sense, mentoring becomes a way to say, “you matter to me.”

    What matters most in all of these words written so far? Just this: Our relationships with others – as mentors and matter-ers – do not begin with us. Our connection with others has already begun through the life, death, and Resurrection of He who came to us to make things matter. Our Baptism connects each of us with Him as well as with everyone else, whether or not we listen or mentor…and that is a matter of fact.

    Yes, that fact of the matter, Christ’s love for us, does not get us off the hook to connect with others, but rather empowers us to be a mentor and matter-er to those around us. It is not that we “gotta” matter to others, it’s that we “get to” matter to others, because of Christ Jesus.

    Let us continue to go around, not just trying to make a living, but more importantly, trying to “matter” to other people, always inspired and motivated by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Our Lord says to us right now, today, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

    That’s really all that matters …and now we “get to” matter to others as well. LEJ

    Author Information

    Dr. Richard Bimler is past president of Wheat Ridge Ministries and Ambassador of Health, Hope and Aging for Lutheran Life Communities. He may be contacted at rich@wheatridge.org.

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