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Chris’ working life began as an office clerk in a large farm implement manufacturing company in Dalby Qld. After a year he began an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner in the same company and successfully completed his indentures four years later.
Looking for an adventure he then travelled to Israel to work on a Kibbutz. He primarily worked in the farm section of the Kibbutz producing turf for many of the major tourist and residential developments in Israel at that time.
On his return to Australia he began working at the local Dalby Hospital and completed his training as an enrolled nurse. He then worked at Baillie Henderson Hospital in Toowoomba for a year.
Chris completed several years of Bible College training and worked as a teacher and then Dean of Cornerstone Bible College in Emerald, Qld. He moved to Charters Towers in North Queensland to commence employment as a church Pastor with the Churches of Christ and Baptist Churches. During this time he also worked as a Nurse, Newspaper Photographer, School Teacher, Chaplain and a variety of other jobs to augment his role in the church.
Chris’ interest in education was developed through his studies at the University of Southern Queensland where he completed a Bachelor in Further Education and Training. Chris moved to the Gold Coast in 2002 and completed his Masters in Education (Online Learning) that year. At this time he began applying some of the ideas formulated during his studies to the development of a Cert IV in Christian Ministry. A number of students were engaged in individually adapted learning that sought to provide learners situated learning within their community of practice.
In 2007 Chris moved to Toowoomba with the aim to develop an applied spirituality in the workplace. He became a builder’s labourer working on site with the purpose of developing a holistic mentoring model that produced positive learning outcomes for the business.
Chris began Fortress Learning with Bryan early in 2008. This was the result of a shared passion for learning and a sense of adventure to create a business that seeks to enable access to that learning and to build relationships that value integrity, trust and honesty.
In 2010 Chris spent 6 months teaching Business and English in China. This was an adventure and educational experience for the whole family. Chris and the family returned in February, 2011.
In 2014 Chris began a 6 month leadership course with the Centre for Courage and Renewal in Austin, Texas. He will complete this in April 2015. One of his recent learning influences has been the work of Parker Palmer who founded the Courage and Renewal Academy and authored the work, The Courage to Teach. This experience has inspired Chris to recommence his Phd studies in 2015.
Masters in Education (Online Learning)
Graduate Certificate in Theology
Bachelor in Further Education and Training
Diploma in Theology
Diploma of Vocational Education and Training
Diploma of Training Design and Development
Diploma in Counselling and Groupwork
Diploma in Business (Frontline Management)
Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
Certificate III in Human Services
Certificate III in Fitting, Turning and Machining.
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Southern Queensland
Summary: This essay will be in two sections. In the first section I will reflect on my personal experience of mentoring with two significant mentors. The second section will review where my story intersects with mentoring literature. The aim is to review the connections between my mentoring experiences and the current mentoring literature.My mentoring stories:
My first two careers after leaving school at age 15 were firstly completing a trade as a fitter and turner then completing my nursing studies. When working as a nurse I went through a personal spiritual experience and ended up in a small community in Emerald, Queensland. The community had a philosophy of work, study, tutorials and sharing life with people who had similar desires.
One of the most keenly anticipated parts of the experience was the regular tutorials. These were occasions when a community leader would meet individually with each student to check in with their progress and to listen to their concerns and ideas.
Initially it took a while to connect to my mentor. He was naturally a shy person that didn’t quickly disclose personal information. But, the relationship deepened as the first year progressed and we shared more experiences together and we began spending time with each other outside the formal tutorial arrangements.
Once my student days were completed the relationship continued. We became colleagues and then after a period of time I replaced him as Dean of the college. Over time the relationship matured and deepened to become a valued friendship. He was a person who demonstrated amazing humility in allowing me to lead the community that he founded.
Today I cannot remember many things that were said to me. But, I am deeply grateful for the time that he invested into me. As I emerged from my previous self destructive lifestyle I was impressed that he valued me enough to commit himself to my well being. Like most young people I was uncertain about myself and my capacities, I was still learning to develop relationships and I was still developing a sense of my vocation.
This relationship was instrumental in my choice of vocation for the next 25 years and his influence continues to shape me today. I saw that John made enormous personal sacrifices to mentor many young people. I knew he sacrificed personal career options to follow what he believed in. He served as a role model who lived out what he taught. He served as an inspiration to me of what happens when an ordinary person committed himself to a higher cause.
My current mentor was for nearly three decades principal of a Bible College. I had observed him from a distance for more than a decade and felt a deep respect for his obvious humility and his evident personal warmth. During this first 10 years we didn’t connect one on one but I observed the way that he related to others and I valued his honesty and integrity.
I remember him stating clearly to a group of people that his one of his biggest failings during his tenure as Principal was the lack of leaders produced. He saw this as a huge deficiency in his own leadership. I admired his openness and my respect grew deeper at his frank admission. I saw him an an amazing leader who had brought his organisation through a radical transition from an extremely traditional college to a student centric, multi-modal college, that enabled access to quality education to a huge geographical area.
We began communicating personally when I was completing my Masters in Online Education more than a decade ago. This was the early days of online learning and he asked me the whether online learning was an appropriate platform for ministry training and particularly spiritual formation. We shared many of my ideas that emerged from my studies and were percolating in those early days of online education.
After he retired Keith committed himself to mentoring leaders. He was widely sought after by a number of CEO’s of organisations and also large churches. He has often said that in retirement he actually found his vocation and felt more productive and fulfilled than in his previous role.
With some trepidation I approached Keith to ask if he would consider mentoring me. I wasn’t sure if he would consider me worthy of mentoring because of his popularity and because so many important people were mentored by him. When we began our mentoring relationship I was an honorary small church pastor who had started a part time business and had little to offer when compared to his many high profile mentees. However, he said that he would meet with me to see if we were a good fit.
We met and connected and five years on we have an ongoing relationship. He speaks with amazing clarity into my life. I continue to resonate with his wisdom and insight. I am pleasantly surprised that he sees the time that we spend together as worthwhile. Usually at the end of session he thanks me for my time.
I describe my life so far as fortunate. I have a wonderful family, good friends,encouraging workmates and a great city to live in. I consider myself a privileged person who has benefited from a lifelong education that has opened many possibilities.
In the midst of this I have sought to maintain connected to a range of mentors. My relationship with those people I call mentors is different to the many other positive relationships I have.
In the two key mentoring relationships I described in section one growing trust allowed me to open areas of my life that previously I would be kept hidden. In the mentoring relationship, mutual caring and loyalty increases as the social distance between the mentor and the mentee decreases (Scandura, Tejeda et al. 1996). As this space diminishes there is increased capacity to connect to each other’s deeper selves. The commitment my mentors demonstrated to our relationship created a space where a close personal relationship could ensue. They didn’t just see me in terms of my human capital but as a whole person that was valued for my intrinsic worth.
I was recently talking to another mentor who is very successful in business and academia. I consider him as a mentor (even though we haven’t formalised the arrangement) and when nearly finished thanked him for his time. He smiled when I said how much I appreciated the chat knowing that I was of no economic benefit to him. His said that quite simply it’s not about the money it’s about the people.Then he proceeded to spend another 10 minutes with me telling me stories of how he had invested in other people during his career. Spending time with people was his passion and I believe also a key ingredient of his success. This is confirmed by Gagne, F. M., & Lydon, J. E. (2003). .
The mentors that I highly value know the worth of being able to waste time with someone. They are able to listen to my story attentively and because of this my story can explore nuances that are not available if they didn’t have the time to be attentive (Ref: Link) . My experience of other helping professions such as psychologists and coaches is that the relationship is firstly transactional and based on a very specific time period. For example the psychologist has allotted a one hour session and its always acutely obvious that to go over that time will impinge on the next person’s time. I have observed that my mentors have cleared the space in their schedule to allow for time to attend to the my story.
Mentors that have high levels of influence in my life have been willing to open themselves and connect their story with my story. Healthy development of the mentor/mentee relationship is dependent on this movement toward a deeper personal relationship as Casto et al. (2005), state, ‘‘successful mentoring requires a mutual commitment to time, open communication, clear yet flexible boundaries, and adjustment to new rules and roles as the mentee moves toward becoming a colleague’’ (p. 336).
I attribute the success of my relationship with my mentors to a growing meaningfulness that has developed into strong friendships. My review of the literature is that increased meaningfulness is to be expected in the final stages of a successful mentoring process, the relationship transforms into a more collegial, peer-like relationship (Kram 1983; Vance and Olson 1998; Morton-Cooper and Palmer 2000; Chenoweth and Lo 2001; Phillips-Jones 2001; Bower 2003).
We develop stories to bring to our lives unity and purpose. They assist in bring context to lifes experiences. My story is made up of the key actors, tensions that have arisen, resolutions or lack of resolution and hopes about the outcomes. My story is constantly evolving in light of new discoveries and new truths that come forward through different phases of my life. Generally when telling my story I am searching to bring some resolution to the events that have come forward at that time. Over time my story has matured and emphasises different things to what I did in early adulthood.
A significant part of a mentoring relationship is in the storytelling. Most of our time spent together is not seeking to identify particular issues to work on but on telling the story about the journey so far. There is incredible insight sharing a reconstructed past and the anticipated future n the desire to ensure that there is a future hope (Ref: Link) .
In a mentoring relationship the mentor keeps the mentee mindful of the journey by actively listening and contributing to the conversation. By listening to my story they enable me to make meaning of my journey. Keith always includes in a mentoring session a time on reflection on the key themes that he feels has emerged from our time together. I always appreciate this brief summary because it charts the journey as Keith as heard it and then is reflected back for me to hear the things that I have said.
My significant mentors have helped me to understand my place in the world. I want to know that I fit somewhere and they have helped me discover the unique value that I bring to the word. As Allen and Eby (in press) note, individuals possess a universal and fundamental “need to belong” (p. 399) (Source). My mentors have guided my understanding of where my story intersects with the rest of humanity’s story and then beyond that to an understanding of where it connects to a bigger spiritual story. This outside value has given increased meaning to the way that I see my current circumstances.
I know that I have modelled myself on my mentors. This highlights my attraction to Athene’s activities in The Odyssey where role modeling is a central quality of mentoring. Athene provided Telemachus with a standard and style of behavior which he could understand and follow, this was done because Athene took on human form to communicate in a way that was understandable for Telemachus. Athene helps us comprehend that mentors need to make themselves available to mentee as role models and to understand how their modelling can stimulate perspective, style, and a sense of empowerment within the mentee (Ref: Link).
John was a shy retiring person who never wanted to be in the limelight. Yet, he was one of the most gifted and powerful teachers that I have sat under. I don’t remember tiring of his lectures even after a year of learning. He spent hours with me sharing his own methods and insights into people and his own experience of dealing with the issues of community. Role models invest time, know-how, and effort in enhancing another person’s growth, knowledge and skills’ (Shea 1999, 3).
John’s teaching style heavily influenced my early teaching approach. His was a well structured, thoughtful approach with no hype but a solid logic. Today I recognise that he could have included more emotion however he contributed much to my current teaching practice. I recognise that sometimes I am the other extreme of having too much emotion so this early modelling served to moderate my style.
Keith is a significant leader in a church denomination. His influence has spread well beyond his assigned role as college principal. He earned his authority through his generous humility, innovative style and obvious care for others. There are few people that I have met that have such a powerful presence that is based on transparent modesty.
His leadership approach has significantly shaped my own understanding of leadership and particularly the concept of servant leadership. This phrase was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature”.
A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. I believe that this describes Keith well. He has served as a leader and mentor because he first chose to serve. He brings a people first approach to leadership demonstrates his commitment first to culture that then enables successful strategy to be developed.
I recognise that the two chosen mentors are both leaders but extreme introverts. I often wonder why I am attracted to these mentor qualities? I think I chose them initially because I saw that I lacked strengths that they had. In the MERID model (Figure One) they both belong in the non-directive, reactive spaces. I tend to be directive and reactive in my approach so I think that I gravitated to the strengths in their styles in an attempt to mitigate my own weaknesses.
Figure One – MERID model
As I reflect on the what things have mattered to me in the way that I have been mentored I realise that they are things that I have implemented in my relationships with others. I am discovering that as I am getting older there are an increasing number of mentoring type relationships emerging. I haven’t always set out to deliberately mentor some people but as the relationship develops and takes on a higher level of commitment this becomes an appropriate word to use.
Further reflection on my mentoring relationships evokes a deep sense of personal satisfaction from these relationships. I have been fortunate to have discovered positive role models, people who have been willing to waste time with me and people who have shared the journey over a period of time and for these qualities and behaviours I call them mentors. The label mentor assigns a sense of commitment to the relationship that implies the depth and character of the mentor bring mentoring qualities.
I know Salvation’s price is free
That part is done by you
My Father’s life freely given
Before my life is born
Your plan for me was made
Your desire for perfection
Life’s promised fullness
Is all completely paid
The community your son created
Against which hate cannot prevail
Is the place to discover
Salvations price revealed
Daily loved shared deeply
Connecting to an intimate me
Seeking hope in all who come
To our Father’s community
But to know what’s truly given
I must learn to let go
Of all what binds within
This world’s hopes
Clawing for my attention
Attachment’s present desire
Means to linger in the shadows
Today I choose the gift
From creation’s beginnings
You had a plan
With Adam’s decision
You had me in mind
My Father’s plans
Are clearly laid
As I walk life’s path
I discover each day
To learn what is needed
The truth of my heart
I come to you presence
I sit at your feet
Hearing your voice
Speaking creation’s sounds
The birds calling
The water’s shimmering
Rays of light
Filtering through trees
My Child this is what’s needed
My desire for you
Hear my voice
My deep love for you
Discover my heart
Listen to its call
Back to creation
Love’s first beautiful sound
It is good
You are good
I created you
My plans for you are good
Echoes from Adam
I love you today.
My Accusers Voice
The accuser screams,
You are worthless,
Harsh words echo
A voice of pain
There are the deep valleys that come from living in a broken hearted world. These valleys are full of shadows that obscure the path forward. Our inner reserves become quickly depleted because we feel lost and our vision becomes increasingly limited. This limitation develops insidiously like the physical disease of glaucoma when our spirits are depleted we see less and less but at first we don’t recognise its effects.
God steps into our world and his light pursues relentlessly the shadows that seek to overcome his light. We feel this most when we are broken and our hearts laid open. When we are devastated from facing hate’s lash and its stinging words. When we feel like every avenue of faith is blocked. Our story intersects with David’s at the point where it feels like there is no hope.
Is it so wrong to be rescued? I know that I struggle with this. The broken hearted person knows what it is to be humbled. They know what it is to have their world turned upside down, to be in a place where the darkness threatens to overwhelm every glimmer of light. The descent into brokenness brings God’s child to knowing that their deepest need can only be met through being rescued. This is the moment where all pride is released, and we can rest in our Father’s loving embrace.
You rescue the humble,
but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them.
O LORD, you are my lamp.
The LORD lights up my darkness.
There are times where I feel like I am totally in over my head. These are the places where the enemy seems to have the upper hand. It’s comforting to know that our God rescues us from this situation. These are those times when life’s deep waters threaten to inundate us. Like a drowning person we clutch for something to save us. This is where God speaks loudest to those who turn to him.
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
At that point where life feels like it’s about to be snatched from us we will take any solution but over and over David cries out to God. And, God responds by reaching down from heaven, he seeks us out and we are saved from the darknesses, suffocating he moves us from being in over our head to being able to draw breath again.
They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the LORD supported me.
What is worse when travelling through a valley is to be down and then be attacked. David experiences this with the betrayal of his closest friends. He know the deep pain that comes from the rejection of his love towards them. It’s a difficult lesson to learn that our enemies are not capable of returning love because they are locked into their own prisons.
He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me.
But, then God brings us to a place of safety because he takes delight in us. His words to Jesus at his Baptism echo in our lives today. You are my beloved [Child] with whom I am well pleased. Our Father sees us as his beloved child because our presence on earth delights him. He rescues us and brings us to a new understanding of his love in the midst of the accusations, the betrayal, the hatred. From the brink of despair God brings us to the threshold of new hope, because he is our deliverer.
Praise be to God.
A sparrow never questions
What will come each day
It only does what’s needed
Because it’s made that way
Now is all that matters
Cause there’s just today
Tomorrow’s only worry
Is at the end of every day
The way behind closes
finished at each old day
There’s no turning back
Time heeds no delay
Now is all I can know
It has no other say
Regret is impossible
Life is only one way.
The way ahead emerges
At the dawn of each new day
Its morning beams shed light
Keeping darkness at bay
Emerges with each ray
Of what must be will be
It is come what may
My Beloved’s Voice
You are my beloved
Soft words giving
My Father’s voice
Sure and insistent
I am your beloved
By an open heart
Longing to speak
Hope and trust
Well done my child