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March 31, 2022

Mentoring Essential: Investigative Inquiry and Discernment


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Have you ever been mid-conversation with an acquaintance or a friend and they say something that sheds light on just how different they are from you? Maybe it goes back to vastly different cultures, or the way your parents parented, it might be philosophical or religious… It could even go deeper into areas of trauma they experienced… or didn’t experience. There are millions of reasons we differ from one person to the next, but it can feel isolating and confusing. It can also open up a window into a person’s background and help you better understand them. 

The Important Moments

Mentoring is full of these moments. In fact, mentoring relies on these moments. We will never be exactly the same as the people we mentor or those who mentor us. Eventually, all mentors are going to have to seek and work to understand their mentee; their past, their relationships, their current circumstances. It’s the mentors job to try to make sense of why a person is the way they are, because the more they know and understand a person, the more they can help them. A mentee can help the process by being forthright and vulnerable. 

This is why investigative inquiry and discernment is an essential behaviour for mentors. It may feel strange to think of “investigating” as part of the process, but on an emotional level, that is exactly what needs to be done.

Dr. Charles R. Ridley (Chuck), Marcy Bradford, and Dr. Robert E. Logan (Bob) and I have created a profile of what behaviours support investigative inquiry and discernment:

  • Asks probing questions to elicit honest and relevant information
  • Extracts unmentioned facts
  • Helps to build a clear picture of current realities
  • Determines valid spiritual and personal implications
  • Challenges erroneous spiritual and personal implications
  • Ascertains how God is speaking to the mentee in the circumstances
  • Identifies key areas for growth
  • Retains humility in curiosity

Discovering the Differences

I was mentoring someone and there was a division in the church looming; a number of people may be leaving my mentee’s church for a congregation started by another leader within my mentee’s church. As I probed with questions to help the pastor to see;  it became clear the difficulties were based in cultural differences. This other leader within their church had a male- dominated, fundamentalist world-view, whereas my client had a shared leadership with his wife and was very egalitarian. It helped to understand that this was a culture difference and not personal. 

As a result, I was able to guide my mentee to new insights almost entirely by asking the right questions.  These questions help them become aware of what is happening around them and in a wider context.

Here are a few major things that shape us all… and a good place to begin to understand a person and the factors that are impacting their world at this time:

  • Culture
  • Past traumas
  • Financial situation
  • Current employment
  • Tribe or denomination
  • Impact of Corona virus on their personal life
  • Ethnicity and identity
  • Health of relationships 

For more information about the Profile of a Healthy Chrisitan Leader… https://vervelead.com/tools/#profile

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