Empty Seats at the Coffee Shop


Thoughts on group mentoring and its relation to one-on-one mentoring.

I got started mentoring one-on-one. One day, I was telling my faith story to one of my mentees in a coffee shop. I was pouring it all out – tears, snot, the whole enchilada. I looked around to see who was watching this aging Bozo weep, only to see two empty seats in our booth.

“Wow,” I thought. “I just left it all on the field for this one guy. I could have had two other guys sitting here and tripled the Kingdom impact.”

We mentors often find ourselves in that situation – where we’re doing something all by ourselves when we realize that one of our younger mentees could be gaining something from being there with us.

Coupled with Tim Elmore’s quote, “More time with fewer people, equals greater Kingdom impact,” those empty chairs sparked me to discover this marvelous thing called small group mentoring.

Now, you may be asking, “Fewer people could mean one guy, right?”

Answer: yes.

A big part of the life change my mentees’ experience comes from one-on-one conversations. Small group mentoring isn’t a replacement for that, it’s an accelerator for it. Before a man is going to be vulnerable - i.e. willing to look at himself and allow God to change him - he’s got to be transparent. That happens when he trusts, when he’s become convinced that the environment and the people he’s with are safe.

If you’re mentoring someone one-on-one, you’ve got to reach that same point. They have to trust you enough to open up to you. Before they’re likely to do that, you’re going to open up to the. tell them your story, earn their trust. Once you’re there, you’ll make suggestions to them, offer them books to read, assignments… e.g. things to try and report back to you on. Over time, as they responds to your guidance and suggestions, you’ll see God begin to change them, and that’s cool. But what I’ve discovered is that these steps happen so much quicker in a group setting.

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