Mentoring is not a new idea. It has been basic to most apprenticeship systems for many hundreds, if not thousands of years. A good mentor can enhance a person's life or career through helping to build competencies and confidence. The role of mentor requires a range of skills, values and knowledge.
One particular aspect of mentoring is the mentor's encouragement of the 'mentee'. Encouragement does not mean giving constant false praise. It's more about strengthening, so can include identifying problems, or giving someone a bit of a shove in a better direction.
Some people have a particular gift of encouragement. One person who good at encouraging others is commemorated today. He was Barnabas, 'son of encouragement'. The name by which he is known is the nickname that early Christians gave him, because of his character. His real name was Joseph (cf Acts 4: 36 -37).
In the early days of the Christian church Barnabas was an encouraging mentor for St Paul. After Paul's Damascus road conversion, it was Barnabas who believed Paul's change of heart was genuine. While others were sceptical about Paul, it was Barnabas who sponsored him and introduced him to the Christian community. Paul was encouraged by Barnabas' example as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. He gave Paul the opportunity to work with him in ministry in Antioch. He accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey and as Paul developed Barnabas took the lesser role so Paul could develop his potential. He was a great encourager.
I thank God for all those people who have been like a Barnabas for me.
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