Giving youth pastors the tools they need to make and shape disciples.

Three Keys To Good Mentoring Practices From This Mel Gibson Movie

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This is one of my favorite Mel Gibson movies, after Mad Max, Road Warrior, and the Lethal Weapon series is Man Without A Face directed by Mel Gibson. Kidding aside, this is my favorite dramatic role by Mel Gibson. Mel Gibson plays a scarred, inwardly and outwardly, former teacher, Justin Mcleod. He’s gone into seclusion because of the scars on his face and because of the rumors that swirl around him from his previous teaching job where he had a student in his car when he crashed and subsequently received burns on his face. He is misunderstood and passionate about teaching and learning, but with no one to pass it on to.

Mentoring vs Discipleship

This is a mentoring vs a discipleship relationship. “What’s the difference? ” you ask? Discipleship is helping kids become more like Jesus and ask students to, as the Apostle Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.  We’ve waked this road to a certain point and we are willing to re-walk it with a student up to the point of our experience. We cannot lead where we have not been .

Mel Gibson is in a mentoring relationship with Chuck. He’s trying to teach Chuck a skill, to have a change of heart towards knowledge and learning. Although these two words, mentoring and discipleship, can overlap, mentor is more skilled focused do this LIKE vs discipleship which is “follow me as I follow Christ”

Have you poured hours and hours into a kid only for them to leave your ministry for another? I have, and it sucks. So, if you don’t want to waste time, here’s four ways to know whether a kid has the potential to be mentored.

Prove Them

In the movie, Mel mentors, reluctantly at first, a young man, Chuck Norstadt (Nick Stahl), looking to pass a test to enter a boarding school. There’s a scene early on in the movie where Mel tells his young protege to dig a whole. He does this to test Chuck to see how badly he wants the knowledge Mr. Mcleod holds.

In a later conversation, with his sister Meg,

Meg: The freak’s a teacher? Come on!
Chuck Norstadt: I think he is actually.
Meg: Well what does he teach?
Chuck Norstadt: He makes me dig holes.

Have a list of simple yet challenging tasks you can give to students to see if they “have what it takes” to be mentored. This can anything from setting up chairs, doing announcements, playing a game, or taking the offering. I keep my eyes wide open, while a student performs these tasks, so that I can determine if a kids has the grit or teachability to be mentored.

Value Time 

How much time will you spend with the student? Ask for a commitment of a once a month meeting to do nothing but talk and teach. If a student cannot keep a once a month date, do not honor them with your time; there may be another kid waiting in the wings who will give you the time and the effort you are looking for.

Define the relationship 

I have gotten off on the wrong foot before with those I’ve mentored by being their buddy. Buddies are supposed to be nice all the time, never get down on anyone, let their friends slide on small things and a mentoring relationship is none of those things. I define partners as, “were are working towards similar goals and but process will be hard sometimes” This may mean I have share some tough truth in love or they amy have so take on an assignment they are not thrilled with. Defining the relationship is critical to seeing those you mentor succeed.

In this scene, Chuck doesn’t want to read, so he blandly recites the words he’s asked to read. By end of the scene, Chuck is wearing a towel as a cape and uttering lines from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice like a veteran thespian.

Sadly, this is only a movie. In real life it is much more difficult and rare to pass on our knowledge to eager ears.


Be passionate, but be practical

Mel’s passion is contagious and Chuck catches it. The one thing we can do to be a good Christian mentor, is be passionate about what and Who we know, but passionate words or emotions alone will not draw potential students to you, they have to see that you are doing the things you talk about. Our hope should be, as youth workers, to create a thirst in the souls of a teenager to want to know what and Who we know.

The goal of mentoring

Ultimately, the goal of mentoring is transformation; to take a kid on a journey from point A to point B. I want kids who are apathetic, foolish, or frivolous to become caring, wise, and disciplined so they can enjoy the fruit of their work and life with Christ. This only happens in one on one mentoring relationship. Scan the crowd, lay out some bread crumbs and see who’s willing to follow them.

My hope for you, like me, is that you are, weekly, scanning your youth group or church for potential kids to invest in, to “show them the ropes” at preaching, how to run a game, computer skills, how to apply for college, or even how to take care of their car. Mentoring is an investment, but the rewards are eternal and far outweigh our time and effort.

Towards the end of the movie, here’s what Mcleod said of his pupil,

McLeod: You gave me what I never expected to find again. A gift of your trust and love. And nothing can take that grace away. The best is yet to be, Norstadt. So do it well…

Nick does get into that boarding school, but this movie isn’t about getting into a school, it’s about trust, learning, life, growing up and leaving a legacy of a life transformed. The best is yet to be youth workers, so do it well.

Your Turn

Are currently mentoring a student? Why or why not?

What are you teaching him or her?

What obstacles are you currently facing in this mentoring relationship?

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