The Meaning of Mentoring:
Encourage Others

Written by Rick Rapier

“There is an old Japanese proverb that tells the story of a master and student. The student says to the master, ‘I’m discouraged.’ The master says, ‘Encourage others.’” And that sums up the mentoring philosophy of US Army Chaplain Major Michael Baumann (PhD candidate in marriage and family therapy).

Chap. (Maj.) Michael Baumann, U.S. Army(PhD, Marriage and Family Therapy, candidate)

Baumann is Family Life Chaplain at Fort Hood, Texas

“There is an old Japanese proverb that tells the story of a master and student. The student says to the master, ‘I’m discouraged.’ The master says, ‘Encourage others.’” And that sums up the mentoring philosophy of US Army Chaplain Major Michael Baumann (PhD candidate in marriage and family therapy).

As chaplain of Garrison Family Life at Fort Hood, Texas, Baumann knows the power of mentoring, both as a mentor and as a mentee. “This is why I am seeking to mentor others. We cannot simply keep what we receive to ourselves.”

A native of Beverly, Massachusetts, Baumann didn’t immediately find his calling in the US Army. His journey began as a pastor at a small, rural church in Wisconsin.

“I had just graduated seminary and I was going to ‘teach’ these people what they were missing for the fifty-plus years the church was established,” Baumann recalled with good humor. “As a cocky, brash, young pastor from New England, I anticipated this church would simply be hungry for the knowledge I would bring them and there would be no cultural barriers. I’m sure you can imagine how this went over.

However, despite Baumann and that church’s elder board not seeing eye-to-eye “on anything,” there was one young elder who appreciated Baumann’s intentions. To Baumann’s surprise, he asked if the young pastor would mentor him.

“I never really thought about being a mentor before, but was eager to dive in. We met, we talked, we developed a plan; and for a year, we met weekly. We had a time of discussing books we were reading, talking about our personal lives and praying for each other. The growth in both our lives was phenomenal. I learned as much from him as he ever learned from me.”

A Mentor in Search of Mentees

Not long after, Bauman chose a new path and was commissioned in the US Army as a chaplain. His first duty station was at Fort Drum, New York, where he met a chaplain who was a bit more experienced than him. Baumann described that experience this way: “He was my peer, but he was senior to me. He and I became fast friends and we would talk about anything. I could ask his advice, vent to him, talk about the politics of the Chaplain Corps, whatever we happened to need to talk about at the moment.”

It became an informal mentor-mentee relationship, and eventually became reciprocal. The two have remained in touch to this day. While there have been other senior chaplains who guided Baumann and helped shape his approach to his calling, he marks that relationship as among the most influential of his career.

“Having been a chaplain for fourteen years now, my mentor and friend has taught me many life lessons through that time.”

Four years ago, Baumann was picked to participate in a program within the US Army Chaplain Corps called the “Family Life Chaplain” program. In this program the Chaplain Corps would send him to school to earn a second master’s degree in counseling, after which he would do a one-year practicum at the Family Life Chaplain Training Center, Fort Hood, Texas, and they would train him to supervise interns as an official mentor.

Through this program, Baumann gained two mentors, one clinical and one academic. And he soon learned that the interns responded well to him as a supervisor and mentor.

Said Baumann, “Through this experience I’ve found, as much as I love counseling, I love supervising even more.”

New Mentors at Northcentral

When Baumann decided to pursue his PhD, he did his research. Knowing that his situation required distance learning as a model, he searched for a university with an online doctorate in marriage and family therapy. That’s when he found Northcentral University.

“I received a warm welcome from everyone I talked to at NCU as I was applying. I was sure I came to the right place to earn my PhD,” Baumann offered.

And as he had hoped, Baumann found dedicated professors who embraced NCU’s one-to-one, mentoring approach to the learning experience. “I have had three professors through my time at NCU. Each of these professors has been gracious, mentoring, and enthusiastic about dialogue, and helping me focus on my ideas for my dissertation.”

Baumann continued, saying, “I am thankful the professors are so open to taking the time to correspond with me and help me iron out ideas for future study and plans.”

Advice from a Mentor-Mentee

As someone with years of experience as both mentor and mentee, and as someone who seeks out both mentors and opportunities to mentor others, Baumann has a good bit of advice to offer on the topic.

The Army chaplain and counselor shared the following seven primary lessons about mentoring he has learned through the years:

  1. Actively seek out a mentor. “Chances are, nobody’s going to walk up to you and say, ‘I’d like to be your mentor.’ It’s going to take your effort.”
  2. You may need more than one mentor. “Don’t expect that one person will be able to mentor you in everything. They simply aren’t equipped to do so.”
  3. Mentor relationships can have a limited shelf life. “Mentor relationships do not always last a lifetime. Sometimes they’re only meant to be temporary.”
  4. Peers can be good mentors. “Peer mentoring can be a tricky thing,” but “more enriching and rewarding than seeking out a supervisor or leader.”
  5. The process can be formal or informal. Mentor and mentee expectations on the question of approach “should be part of the first conversation a mentor and mentee have when the relationship begins.”
  6. Know what you hope to gain. One should have reasonable goals and also clear expectations for the mentoring outcome. Do not expect to gain something that a potential mentor cannot offer.
  7. Finally, pay it forward! “It’s not enough simply to be mentored. We should not only seek out mentors to make ourselves better, but we should be mentored with an eye toward mentoring others.”

Chaplain (Maj.) Baumann asserted he has been very happy with his education experience and with the mentoring he has received at NCU, saying he would encourage anybody who is looking for a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy to embrace the one-to-one teaching approach offered by Northcentral University.

“The courses are rewarding, the interaction with the professors is stimulating, and the personal growth is exponential.”