Christian Creatives Need Mentors
The idea of mentorship has found its way into the cultural zeitgeist, both in the church and outside of it. Young upstart business majors seek to be mentored by their superiors on the ins and outs of the corporate world, medical students spend their residency shadowing wiser and more experienced doctors, and budding lawyers are guided and trained by the learned heads at the firm.
Even in church, the idea that “we should find a spiritual mentor” is reiterated, as the church has long known the power of having a wise counselor. Mentorship is a natural part of the process of becoming more skilled and better equipped in whatever endeavor we set out to accomplish, be it professional or spiritual. And while mentorship has woven itself into the fabric of a multitude of places in modern society, one arena seems to be almost completely void of this necessary role.
A Need for Mentors
When I moved to Hollywood as a teenager with big hopes of being an actor and filmmaker, I mistakenly believed it was going to be an easy road to living out the dreams I believed God had placed on my heart. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I found myself in an industry where, unlike more traditional professions, there were no formulas to success—there was no bar exam I could pass or graduate program I could take that would usher me into a known career. But even worse than there being no set path was that there was no one to help me figure out the chaotic and unpredictable world of professional creativity.
This lack of guidance left me overwhelmed, confused, and at some darker times, depressed. In the following years, my attempts at figuring out the crazy world of Hollywood involved trial and error. A few times, out of my desperation for guidance, I trusted preying figures who took advantage of my situation, leaving me hurt and further from my goal. But a few years into my journey, through my local church, I was paired with a godly mentor who invited me into a small community of Christian creatives.
It felt like a breath of fresh air. I was no longer doing this alone. I had a place to find guidance in my walk and discernment in my decision-making. Since then, I have been able to more wisely navigate Hollywood and the entertainment industry. But unfortunately, I am in the minority when it comes to young artists of faith having a support system.
A few years ago, I started coaching young artists in an attempt to offer them what I needed when I began my career. Over and over again, I see the same story: a young artist feels called by God to use their creative gifts in a place like Hollywood, New York, or Nashville but has no idea how to move from the passions they feel at “A” to the realization of that dream at “Z,” much less how to avoid the pitfalls, wastes of time, and people who would take advantage of their naivety.
Young or aspiring artists need good, wise mentors to help them realize the dreams in their heart in a healthy and sustainable way and to protect them from destructive influences. The idea of “mentorship” can be likened to the biblical concept of discipleship. We see this dynamic displayed in Scripture repeatedly, be it Elijah the Prophet mentoring Elisha, Paul training and supporting Timothy, or Jesus as he discipled the disciples. But finding a mentor in the entertainment industry often seems like an unsolvable problem. So having already discovered the “why” of finding a mentor, I want to lend some insight into the “who,” “what,” and “where.”
This is the most important aspect of the entire search. Scripture tells us of our need to surround ourselves with wise people, and ignoring that advice would be to our own detriment. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” This Scripture has proven true in my life.
I have found that when I surround myself with foolish people, my life is filled with trouble. Conversely, when I have walked with the wise, there have been clear signs of blessing in my life. But how do we discern who is “the wise”? Look at their track record and listen to what others say about them. A wise person will have a consistent history of success and experience. One of the best ways to gauge people’s integrity is to listen to the people around them who have known them for a considerable amount of time.
So once you’ve found a person who’s willing to mentor you along your creative journey, what do you do next? I have found that there’s a benefit to regularity in almost every aspect of life. Just as working out repeatedly will make you stronger, meeting with someone on a consistent basis will yield long-term positive results. Even if it’s just coffee once a month, this rhythm will be an enormous blessing on your journey.
Use the time you have well. Doing so will take honesty and humility. Be ready to admit your struggles, confess mistakes, and authentically display your hardships so your mentor has access to the areas where you need the most guidance. It’s tempting to try to look like we have it all together, especially in front of someone we respect. But when we are humble enough to say we don’t know, we open ourselves up to the wisdom of someone who does.
Determining the “where” can be one of the most challenging hurdles in finding a mentor. We live in an isolated society. Authentic and consistent connection can feel impossible, especially in Hollywood. But I have found the institution of the universal church to be the greatest resource in finding people to help me on my way. It might take time, but regularly involving yourself in a local body will up your chances of both knowing people and being known by people who will fit the role you’re looking to cast. And don’t be shy. Tell people that you are looking for a mentor in a specific area—word gets around. Then engage any and all extra-church communities of faith. Here in Los Angeles, there are several faith-based groups dedicated to supporting artists of faith on their journey. Involving yourself in those communities might make the difference in your creative career and personal life.
We all need mentors. For whatever reason, they seem to be harder to find and keep in the creative world. But it’s necessary (perhaps more so) for aspiring artists to receive wisdom and guidance in a relational context, especially in a world that is often known for its unpredictability and uncertainty. It will take dedicated effort and time, but finding a mentor is a necessary part of living out the dreams of bringing light to a dark world through artistic expression.