Who’s In Your Bullpen? (How & Why To Build Your Team Of Mentors)

It was the 9th inning of another painful Phillies game.  (For most of the 90s, nearly every Phillies game was painful).  The score was tied, the bases were loaded, and the opposing team’s best hitters were coming up.

After using up all of his other pitchers earlier in the game, the manager had a bullpen of one.  With only one option, he had bring in someone who wasn’t really suited to the situation.  I turned off the game as the carnage began.

40 More bullpen

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As we move through life, to be successful we need to cultivate mentoring relationships.  Like the manager of a championship baseball team, we need to build a team of people we can call on for help as different situations come up in our lives.

This is our mentoring bullpen.

If we think about it, the idea isn’t all that revolutionary.  Physicians use different instruments for different procedures.  Parents use various rewards and consequences depending on the particular child they’re dealing with.  Organizations call upon different consultants as they encounter unique projects.

Instinctively, we know that different challenges call for different approaches and people who can help us meet them.

I Know I Should Have Mentors, But…

I want to talk about the different kind of people we need in our mentoring bullpen, and, how to find them.  First though, it’s critical for us to see that you need them.  Not just in theory, but in reality.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul says that local groups of Christians are like our bodies.  There are ‘varieties of gifts… and to each [one of us] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’ (4, 7).  He goes on to say that, as our bodies need each and every part, we all need each other to function properly (see especially vv. 19-21).  The point is that God has designed us to need the gifts, talents and skills of others.

Does your life bear this truth out?  Do you have any mentors?  If you believe that you only have some of the gifts, then building your bullpen of mentors becomes a necessity, not an optional luxury.

The People In Your Pen

So, what kinds of people should we have on our mentoring team?  It will be as unique as you and your season of life, but here are some common examples.

  • professionals – these are people who can help us grow in our chosen profession.
  • people with other skills we need or want to acquire – these are like professionals, but, not related to our chosen profession.  For example, my father-in-law has patiently taught me a ton about home repairs.
  • visionaries – these people are always thinking ahead, of what could be, not merely what is.
  • strategic thinkers – whereas visionaries think about creating a new reality, these people can teach us how to get to that new reality once we’ve identified it.
  • older parents or married couples – knowing mature, godly married couples and/or parents can really help us in our own marriages and parenting.  My wife and I learned a lot about the hidden assumptions we were bringing into our marriage, for instance, from an older couple at our church.
  • older men or women – just like married couples and parents need mentors, so do individual men and women, regardless of whether we have a spouse or kids.  We need great examples of what it means to be a godly man or woman.
  • people with great character – these people overlap with the other categories above, but really stand out in some area of their character.  For example, Pastor Ed has incarnated what it means to really love and care about the people around me.

No doubt you can think of other types of people to add to your mentoring team.  (Share your ideas with us in the comments below!)

How To Build Your Bullpen

Here are some quick ideas, in no particular order, about building your team:

  • identify your needs – think about your life as a whole.  Where are the gaps?
  • be proactive – you can’t expect mentors to find you; you’ve got to move toward them.
  • be clear – let a potential mentor know you appreciate them, and, that you’re looking for mentoring in a given area.
  • don’t overwhelm them – people with something to give are typically busy and in demand.  Reassure them that you’re not going to monopolize their time.
  • it’s like dating – just get together once and see how it goes.  If it goes well, keep going.  If you can tell they’re not able to give what need, or, you just don’t gel, it’s OK to not meet up again.
  • one step at a time – you might have 5 or 10 areas of need, but don’t get overwhelmed.  Identify your biggest need and start with someone who can help you there.
  • ask God to provide – this sounds obvious, we can overlook this.

A Final Challenge

It’s absolutely critical to build our team of mentors, our mentoring bullpen.  But, God also wants us to take what he’s invested in us and give it away.  To others.  We need to look around and pray about where we can serve as a mentor to others.

Question: Where in your life do you most need mentoring?  What person could you approach about meeting this need?