By Mike Cheney, AME Program Director
In the 250 years since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when the fragmenting of the family into individual units of labor began in earnest, the concepts of apprenticeship and mentorship have largely disappeared from the American culture. The common practice of children being trained up for their lives’ work by parents, relatives and like-minded friends has been replaced by another sort of vocational orientation which might or might not teach the basic skills of the job but which severely lacks the training in wisdom and knowledge of the foundational type, the wisdom of God.
There is no denying that the trend which began in England in approximately 1750 and spread to America shortly thereafter brought with it a bevy of inventions, policies and processes that were and are beneficial to society. Per capita income increased dramatically as well. Equally undeniable has been the devastating effect on the fabric of the family and our society as this new period in history was a major catalyst in moving away from biblical principals and more toward egalitarianism, pragmatism, feminism, debt- based economics and a low view of and independence from family. The word of God tells us this will be the inevitable result of our drifting from His precepts toward our own wisdom (foolishness).
Thankfully, the Apprenticeship/Mentorship model is making a comeback. The environment for its return is being aided somewhat by current economic conditions. For instance, a college education has become prohibitively more expensive and at the same time less valuable in terms of producing income, or even a job for the graduate. According to the articles I read the price of a college education has been increasing at twice the rate of inflation since 1982.1
I am not making the claim that a college education is not required under any circumstances or that no one should seek a degree. Some fields rightly require a degree which follows a rigorous course of study.
Even so, much of the college level work can be accomplished in a less expensive and time- consuming manner than the colleges and universities tend to push on us. Nonetheless, the college degree is not a ticket to a secure and high paying job in most cases as the statistics are now bearing out.
TheBlaze.com lists the top 20 highest paying jobs which do not require a degree. They note that the starting pay for these jobs ranges from $17,000–$30,000 with top pay of $50,000–$150,000.5
Part of the process of learning a task is repetition under the watchful eye of a master. Upon sufficient instruction and correction from the master the apprentice has now learned the job.
However, simply learning the basic skills is not enough. The “how” is insufficient without the “why.” In the long term, the “how” will not sustain us through the difficulties that will be encountered along the way. The grouchy boss, nitpicking customer, lazy coworker, tough working conditions, etc. all become stumbling blocks to the one who knows “how” to do the job but does not know “why” he is doing it.
Mentorship encompasses careful instruction in the “why”- doing whatever we do in an excellent manner as unto the Lord.
Mentorship Comes in Many Forms
I was fortunate to have my son mentored by several strong men of God. He and several other young men spent two to three days per week under their direct training. I will always be grateful to Kevin Swanson, Dave Buehner and Joaquin Fernandez for their investment in the life of my son. Corey has been blessed greatly by their selfless outpouring and I pray God will bless them accordingly. I know He will.
My circumstances allowed me a low-key approach to mentor a young man in the real estate business. His father had called previously to ask me about mentoring his son. As I was already working with my son in this regard we included the other young man in our daily work flow on the days when it was mutually convenient. We ended up spending 1-2 days per week together. This young man continues to pursue his business and calls me every several weeks just to chat or ask a question. That was my initial foray into mentorship of someone other than my own family. I plan to do it again from time to time. Someone coined the phrase “mini-mentorship” to describe what I did and I think it fits very well.
There is no particular template which defines mentorship. I recently heard two young men exhort a room full of fathers and sons to seek out three men whom they would ask to speak into the sons’ lives about the Christian life, specifically- honoring their fathers and mothers, developing the habits of a wise man of God (Proverbs) and earning a living.
Where to Begin
About the Author: Mike Cheney
Mike and his wife, Roxie, have been blessed with two children, Annie and Corey, whom they have home educated since birth. They are entrepreneurs and believe in developing multiple streams of income to keep family economies strong, vibrant and able to weather economic difficulties for present needs as well as those of future generations. As a realtor, Mike works with real estate investment, brokerage, and property management. As the director of the national AME Program and of Family Economics for Generations with Vision, Mike has a passion to share a vision for discipleship in all kinds of businesses. He is a founder and teaching elder at Covenant Love Fellowship Church in Parker, Colorado.