Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Value of Mentors

When Mormons are planning to move, they sometimes do what we call "ward shopping."  They will visit the area they are moving to and attend several of the wards in the area.  The intent is to find a ward that they like, and in which they think they will be comfortable1. The criteria for the search seem to vary a little by the age of the people searching.  A lot of the people who move into our ward are in their mid to late 20's and choose this ward for a mixture of the proximity to the hospitals, the school systems, and the fact that there are so many young (mid to late 20's) adults in our ward.  A lot of the people who visit and then choose the neighboring ward are in their mid to late 30's and are looking for a ward with lots of youth (age 12-18).

I really wish more people between 40 and 60 would move into our ward.

When I was the clerk, I once did a statistical summary of our ward.  I found that the median age of adults in the ward was about 27.  Being 29, at the time, I found that I was in the 60th percentile.  The 75th percentile was 32.

Let me tell you a little secret about people in their mid to late 20's.  Come closer so that not too many people hear it.  Alright...just a little closer.

People in their mid to late 20's really don't know what they're doing when trying to run a ward.

There, I said it.  And I believe it.  For the most part, the early to mid-20's crowd just doesn't have the hands-on experience of any kind of leadership to be trying to manage an congregation of 200 - 250 people.  In my experience working with seven bishopric counselors, I don't think that the early 30's group is much better.  Which is why I really wish we had more people between 40 and 60 in the ward.  We would all benefit from a few more mentors.

Without question, my best years in this ward were when I was the clerk.  I attribute a lot of that to the fact that I had a mentor in my bishop.  I was also blessed to have the mentorship of another couple in the ward who were so good at pointing out the larger picture of making a ward work.  And I have benefitted enormously from the mentorship of several people in my scout troop.

I realize as I sit here writing this that I can't pinpoint very many concrete things that I've learned from my mentors.  But that's kind of the point of a mentor.  Mentors guide, influence, and inspire.  You learn from them by being around them and watching how they respond to situations that you've never encountered before.  You grow under their care until suddenly you find yourself confidently bearing burdens that would have crushed you years before.

So let me say thank you to those who have mentored me into the person I am today.  I'm not quite ready to take on all of the challenges I think my life will put before me.  But I think I'm close, and I know I've gotten here a lot faster because of their mentorship.  Without them, I wouldn't have reached this level of maturity and confidence for another 15 years.  So thank you.

Unfortunately, mentors are becoming harder and harder to find.  Two of my mentors moved away this summer.  Due to a boundary change, one of my mentors now attends a different ward.  The new parents coming into my scout troop are increasingly becoming closer to my peers than they are my mentors.  And it appears that we all may lose one of my most precious mentors in the coming year.

I'm not ready for this.

I fear that the one lesson I really need to learn is one that they can't teach me.  That lesson is how to continue on without them around.  Tell me, how am I supposed to continue getting better without someone showing me the way?

Cherish your mentors people.  They disappear to quickly.  And the places they filled in your hearts are very hard to fill.

1 LDS wards are assigned geographical boundaries and members are strongly encouraged (almost required) to attend the ward in which they live.

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