Typically we think of mentoring as one more experienced person helping a less experienced person. As J. Loren Norris, founder of Excellent Life Leadership, puts it:
If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.”
Because a peer is defined as “one that is of equal standing with another,” it would appear that pairing “peer” and “mentoring” is at best incongruent, and at worst oxymoronic (or not—I just needed half an excuse to use a fun, tongue-twister of a word like “oxymoronic”)
However, peer mentoring does exist as a concept, most often in the education context. And even then it does not mean two people of equal standing. It is described as the process of a more experienced student helping a less experienced student.
I would like to offer up a different concept and definition of peer mentoring, one that does involve people of equal standing.
My concept of peer mentoring exists in any context. It is defined as two more or less equally experienced people helping each other. It reflects one of my life verses:
The more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” ~ Proverbs 11:14 (MSG)
For the past 10 years, I have been the beneficiary of peer mentoring. Every Friday morning, if both of us are in town, my friend Brady and I have breakfast together. It started with me providing him with advice and counsel.
He was a new pastor being asked to make organizational change, and I had some experience making organizational change. Then, as I began to get more involved in ministry and helping church leaders, I began to ask him for his advice and counsel.
Since I have become a pastor as well, we regularly seek counsel from one another, steal each other’s ideas, support one another during periods when we are less than ecstatic about our roles, share the wisdom of the Lord and argue each other down about college football games and who has the best chance of winning the NBA championship (c’mon, it’s Friday morning breakfast—it can’t be all serious all the time).
Over the years I have learned a lot and gained a lot. I highly recommend the concept of peer mentoring: It is a great supplement to traditional mentoring, and it creates a different atmosphere of learning and growth that can’t be found elsewhere.