General Mentoring Helps

Mentor Madness-How Deep is Your Bench?

Basketball Was Not Invented by an American

Did you know basketball was invented by a Canadian? James Naismith. Born in Almonte, Ontario in 1861. (Almonte is about a 90-minute drive to our family cottage in Ontario.) He was a physical educator, physician, Christian chaplain, coach and innovator. He invented basketball at the age of 30, (a warrior himself!), wrote the original basketball rule book and founded the University of Kansas basketball program. Naismith saw the birth of the NIT (National Invitational Tournament in 1938 and the NCAA in 1939; the year he died. There is an entire sports industry that can be attributed to James Naismith.

If you play, spectate or otherwise enjoy basketball, you have a Canadian to thank!

Having a Good Bench

One essential about basketball is although there must be five players on the court per team at any given time, to maintain that, you need a deep bench. That is, a good number of good players who can substitute in at the quickest decision of the coach. Without a deep bench, your team will be stretched thin. Winning will be difficult at best. A good coach will work to build a good bench. Often, the team’s starters will play a majority of the game, but that does not negate the need for good back-up players, who are just as much a part of the team.

Pay Attention to What is Happening

There is an interesting phenomena going on with mentoring these days. Using the analogy of older men being the more experienced team players, and the bench being more like the rookies, it seems that older team players are not engaging with the bench.

The more I mentor young men, the more I see the desparate need for us older men to invest in the next generation. Census records show that as of 2017, there were over 22 million men ages 18-30 (warriors) in the USA. The metro area I live in has an overall population of 650,000. Demographically, there are over 50,000 warrior-aged men. From research, it appears there are at best 2-4% of that age bracket who have a mentor. In my metro area, that translates to nearly 48,000 warrior-aged men who do NOT have a mentor; whether that be a formal mentoring relationship or an organic one. When we look at the way our culture is moving and the fact many of the young men are taking longer to mature, it feeds into why developing mentors is crucial to the health of our society.  Beyond what Jesus teaches about making disciples (mentoring), this sociological perspective only adds to the reasons for mentoring.

Mentoring is an Ageless Calling

The Bible has countless verses on mentoring, on coming alongside others. Proverbs, especially, is filled with such wisdom. “But, no one ever mentored me.” you explain, as if that is a valid reason to not mentor someone else. “I’ve made too many mistakes in my life. What do I have to offer?”  That was my mantra for a long time. My own mentorless warrior years, my stupid mistakes were a constant excuse to not come alongside others.

I’ve observed a certain phenomena that caught my attention. In public, at restaurants and coffee shops, in various places around, I’d see warrior men with other warrior men. Some were studying the Bible. Others were helping each other repair their cars or fix a computer. Their discussions were also revealing. “How do I treat a woman with respect?” ‘What should I do about my budget?” “Where should I go to find help with some relationship issues at work?” Why do I keep repeating stupid choices?”  Honestly, of the 22 million young men in the USA, more than half are so into themselves that they could care less about having a mentor. The other half see a need but figure there is such a barren wasteland of anyone who would even have the time or interest in helping them figure out life, they just fumble through. They don’t even know where to start in finding a mentor. At best, they talk to their peers.

Bench Supporters

There is NOTHING wrong with asking your peers for help. NOTHING.Like in basketball, the bench plays a key role in the game. In fact, Proverbs says there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Warriors who see the need and decide to do something about it are picking up the mentoring baton and investing in others their same age. There is no harm, no foul in that. However, the lack of older men investing in younger men is obvious. There is a war-chest of wisdom to be had from older men. The challenge is in connecting older men with younger.

3 Ways to Build a Strong Bench

1. If you are an older man, realize you have wisdom to offer younger men. Don’t pontificate, but be willing to spend time getting to know some younger men. Let the relationships build and see how that can be an avenue to mentor.

2. In their Killing Lions videos John Eldredge talks about the benefit of warrior men have older men in their life. Be humble enough to ask for help.” That calls young men to reach out. It also calls for older men to take notice and make the radical decision to get out of their comfort zones and engage with younger men.

Watch this short episode from Killing Lions

3. Learn from James Naismith. His ingenuity with basketball has left us all a major legacy to learn from. When older, well-versed players invest in the bench, the entire team benefits. Follow this link to a great article on James and his faith in action.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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