I like this theme of agriculture as it applies to discipleship and mentoring. I was a grower for many years. One of my favorite plants to grow were poinsettias. There are so many parallel themes to mentoring.
1. Poinsettia cuttings are programmed for growth. My role as a grower was to provide the right environment for that growth to happen. This has to do with the level of humidity, a consistent diet of nutrients, the amount of heat at night, etc. God has programmed every person I mentor with the internal DNA for growth. My role as a mentor is to cultivate the best environment for growth.
2. In order to produce a high quality plant with nice thick stems that would support a large, beautiful bloom – we needed to use growth retardant. If we didn’t do this the natural growth would produce a tall, thin stalk that would break under the weight of the bloom. Often times, we need to slow down the natural ambitions of those we mentor in order for them to develop the character to sustain their giftedness. This can be the most frustrating side of mentoring.
3. A regular regime of pesticide application was needed in order to stop insects and disease before it becomes a wide spread epidemic. As mentors, our role is to ask tough questions and to develop an open atmosphere to share weakness without fear of judgement. The goal isn’t to nail someone, but to protect the person from greater harm. That means we don’t wait for a crisis before we address an issue, but we maintain and open dialogue of speaking about potential issues.
4. Different stages of growth require different types of nutrients. Depending on the growth stage of the Poinsettia, we would change the type of fertilizer that the plants would receive. The challenge for mentors is to identify these stages of growth and provide the right resources based on their life situation and character development. Sometimes these two areas are not in sync with each other. You may find someone who is in a life stage that requires a level of character development, but their emotional maturity can’t sustain it. Sometimes we find others who we pigeon hole in one stage of development and don’t allow ourselves to see their development. The key is to accurately identify and provide the right resources and opportunities for each person.
5. Finally… at least for this quick little series of thoughts… The process of blooming is really initiated by the amount of exposure to the light. In the case of poinsettias – they initiate blooming as the darkness increases and the daylight decreases. How true is it that the darkest times in our lives often become the defining moments in our lives that God later uses to produce a rich, beautiful bloom. In greenhouses we have elaborate systems that artificially control the amount of daylight the poinsettias experience. As mentors we are often called by God to be a vehicle for initiating crisis in the lives of those we disciple.
The bottom line is this…. all of us are programmed by God to grow. My prayer, as we participate with the work of the Spirit in the lives of those whom He brings into our lives, is that God would show us what He is doing and direct us on how to participate in that work to His glory.