April 25, 2024

Five Ways to Check if a Mentee’s Theology is Sound

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Occasionally when mentoring or supervising professionally in the Christian community, you will need to have a difficult conversation about theology and beliefs. Even within the Christian community, there are many differences: between denominations—for instance,Catholics and Protestants, Calvinists and Moravians all vary drastically—but there are also subtle differences even within a denomination. For example, some mentees/supervisees may believe in predestination, while others are firm believers in freewill. Every person is influenced by their own experiences and their spiritual education, which leads to many different interpretations of God’s word and will. 

Conversations about theology can be tricky, because a person’s beliefs may not line up exactly with your own. However, it is essential to refrain from judgment and to not push your own personal beliefs onto them. Your role is to make sure that their own theology is sound (meaning that they have a solid foundation; their faith is dependable and reliable) and is positively influencing their well-being and growth. We want to respect their personal theology, but we may need to challenge certain beliefs if those beliefs seem to be causing harmful thoughts or actions. 

Here are some tips for an effective and peaceful conversation: 

Do not interrogate.

I once had a conversation with a corporate leader about his relationships with his spouse. He said something about “we’ve got to interrogate that thought” in regards to something his wife had said. I feel like this is the opposite to the approach a mentor/supervisor should be taking. You should approach the conversation with true curiosity. Your client should feel safe to share doubts, anxieties, shame or confusion without fear of judgment or bias. You are simply there to help them see things that they are struggling to see on their own. 

Does this truly matter? 

When you feel conflicted by a client’s theology, you need to ask yourself “Does this truly matter?” Are you feeling conflicted because you simply don’t agree with their belief or is it because it is harming their journey towards transformation? The questions that we should be asking ourselves are, “Is this a solid foundation for them? Does it fit with general orthodoxy as a principle? Is it helping them to have a solidness that they can stand and build on?”

Understand Their Context 

What is informing their view here? Sometimes, it can be a purely theological belief, but often, a person’s views are affected by many different things. For example, I recall a mentee telling me that “God would never forgive me.” This raised a red flag in me, because forgiveness is an essential aspect of Christianity. I asked him, “Can you hear someone say that? Is it something from your past?” He told me that his mother used to tell him that. This wasn’t a theological issue really, but an issue stemming from trauma and poor self-image. I find it helpful to talk about a mentees/supervisee’s theological orientation early on in the initial contracting. That way, you have an idea when a client is going against their own theology. 

Consult the Bible

As a mentor/supervisor, our job isn’t to shape our client’s theology but we can certainly use scripture to push or support their thinking.  I remember working with a pastor who was battling with burnout and feeling highly dissatisfied with his work. He’d say things like, “I’m no good, just a miserable sinner. My problem is I’m a Presbyterian. So, I feel bad about myself.” I pointed out that Paul identified as a sinner as well, but when we looked at Ephesians 2:6, “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus,” it reminded him that we are forgiven through Christ and can look forward to an eternity with Jesus. 

Use Candour 

Be honest and vulnerable with your client, and it will encourage your client to do the same. Candour is essential in helping to see their context and confusion clearly. Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great,” emphasizes the importance of candour in business, if you are looking for more information. 

What’s next? 

As we wrap up our series on “Challenging and Confronting” here are a few final reflection questions:

  • What is my competency in challenging and confronting conversations? 
  • How am I at addressing tough issues with my clients? 
  • Do I have good discernment? 
  • Do I need help to grow in this area? 

If you still feel unsure about any of the above, please check out our Mentor Growth Track: 

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