Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Importance of Mentors in Marriage & Parenting

Recently Jackie and I finished a six day conference and family visit trip to the Midwest. We had a great time at a prayer workshop and then traveling a few hours to see our son, daughter-in-law and two precious grandsons.

However, the night we flew in to Indianapolis we had a rental car reserved. And like many rental agencies these days you get to pick your car out of those that are available in the class in which you made your reservation. So I went over to a nice white Nissan, put our luggage into the trunk and Jackie and I got into the car. "Ah yes," I thought, "cruise control, an input for my MP3 player, all the necessities."

And then I tried to start the car. I couldn't find the key (which I later discovered to be somewhere near my left foot and which you only need to have in the car with you!) Then I saw a glowing button that said "start" on it. Being a highly trained professional who can immediately make wise deductions based on the evidence before me I decided to push that button. But apparently start doesn't refer to the engine but rather to the state of one's blood pressure going up once he realizes he may be a moron.

Everything within me at that point wanted to make this a personal challenge and figure it out by myself. However, after years of realizing that is typically futile, at least with me, I decided to humble myself once again and ask the 20 year old female attendant, "Uh, I'm having a little trouble with one of the driving basics here . . . . yes, that would be actually getting the car to move."

Let's face it - while we'd rather not need anyone to help us with life's challenges, getting help is really the way to go, especially when it comes to more important things than rental cars such as marriage or being a parent. I haven't done a scientific study but I'm pretty confident that most of the couples in messed up marriages I deal with have not had practical, meaningful and helpful pre-marital counseling. No one told them how to start their marriage.

And sadly, our culture and even many churches don't even think about having marriage mentors, ongoing classes and other practical helps for couples. And who, when they walked out of the hospital with their first child, got a packet or book on How to Parent? And who provides the ongoing help for parents who struggle with the everyday challenges of babies, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary children and adolescents? Oprah? Dr. Phil? We have to have more.

Proverbs 1:5 says, "Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance." I'm convinced that as married couples and parents we need to seek out mentors. A few churches and organizations actually train and offer mentors but they are few and far between. Most of us will have to ask for help. Where do you find mentors?

Start by looking at couples and families you highly respect Chances are if their marriage is healthy and their kids are doing well they are doing something right. Yes, there are always those families that look great on the outside and are imploding on the inside. However, start with people you know fairly well and you'll probably be able to tell who can be most helpful to you.

In addition, you want a mentor who is real and authentic. If people are too perfect then you might want to question whether things are going as well as you thought. But start somewhere and ask a person or couple if they would mentor you. If you're a single parent find another single parent with a bit more experience who can help you make your parenting more effective. Ask a staff person at your church if they know someone who might fit the bill. In premarital counseling I ask couples to do an interview with a mature, Christian couple and often that couple becomes their mentor.

Jackie and I were hiking in Colorado a couple of summers ago on our way to a lake at a fairly high elevation. We were getting challenged by the trail, some pesky flies and the altitude so we started to wonder whether we should turn around. Finally, at one point I suggested that I would hike up the next half mile or so and see if it was worth going on. Within just a few hundred yards I realized we'd made it to the lake!

I went back, got Jackie and we finished our hike. You see, we all need a few people who've hiked the trail and can encourage us to keep going and help us find our way. Get a mentor. Or if you're well down the trail, be one. And by the way, when you start a car with a push button starter you need to have your foot on the break. Want some help?
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

No comments:

Post a Comment