When I worked in the financial services industry I had a wonderful mentor who invested hugely in my life and career. I’ve also had two great mentors in the my ministry. As I reflect on these relationships now, I have to confess that the benefit was largely one-way. They invested in me, but I gave little in return. I was especially convicted of this when I read this article on providing value for your mentor – or giving them a return on their investment. Here’s a summary of the main points, with my own “adaptations” for Christian ministry in square brackets.

1. Send “TOUs” or thinking of yous. Share articles of interest or relevant news stories. Keep your mentor’s projects and areas of influence on your radar so that you can weigh in periodically on thought-provoking topics.

[Is your mentor preaching a series of sermons on the Psalms? Is he writing a book on justification? Does he have an interest in counseling? Why not do some of his research for him? Set up a Diigo account and bookmark relevant articles for him.]

2. Provide insight into the rank and file of your organization. By definition, you are more junior (in terms of age or experience) than your mentor. Senior leaders often feel out of touch with the cubicle culture and lack meaningful interaction with the front lines of their organization. You may be able to share reactions of your peers to a new corporate policy or change in organizational structure. Giving your mentor feedback or insight into employee morale is a great way to give back.

[Most pastors don't have huge organizations to run. So how does this principle work out in ministry? Well, if you are being mentored by an older pastor, he will greatly value information and insights into the culture and trends of your own generation. Share with him how your peers think. What are their hopes, fears, etc? What do they want from a sermon?]

3. Help with extra-curricular activities. Perhaps your mentor does a lot of college recruiting for the firm or runs a leadership development program for women. Why not offer to accompany her on a recruiting trip, sift through resumes in advance or bring her ideas of guest speakers for the leadership program?

[Every mentor has a number of tasks that he/she would love to delegate to someone else - tedious time-consuming admin work usually. Why not ask if you can do some of this for them? Or if they have to drive to speak or preach a few hours away, why not offer to drive - and promise not to speak for the whole journey!]

4. Buy ‘em lunch. At the very least, if you really struggle to find ways to add value, take your mentor to lunch or dinner. Even if your mentor tries to foot the bill, be firm and generous in your offer. Let your mentor know that you appreciate his help and it’s your pleasure to be able to return the favor in some small way. A nice glass of wine or good steak goes a long way toward building good will.

[This needs no explanation. I'm waiting.....]