June 1, 2016
What is it?
Mentoring is the process by which a more knowledgeable or more experienced person helps guide a less knowledgeable or less experienced person. It’s a partnership between two willing people: A mentee who desires to learn and grow in knowledge, expertise and maturity and a mentor who possesses knowledge, expertise and experience and is willing to provide a guiding influence through teaching, training and modeling. Mentoring involves a caring commitment working side-by-side for the purpose of life change.
Are you a mentor? Have you been mentored?
You can probably answer “yes” to these questions if you are a parent or have been a child in a home. Mentoring provides relationship-based communication through informal transmission of knowledge and experience.
When should a person seek out a spiritual mentor?
One may seek out a mentor to help find biblical answers to questions of identity, purpose, values, priorities, goals, time and legacy. A mentor will help the mentee answer the questions of: Who am I? Why am I here? What really matters? What shall I do? How shall I do it? How will I finish?
Seasoned believers may want to seek out mentors when they become spiritually content and are living a tasteless, powerless, Christ-less spiritual existence. Mentoring has a way of restoring one’s passion to taste and feed on the abundant life which is only found in Christ.
What are some of the qualifications of a spiritual mentor?
First and foremost, spiritual mentors must have a love for God and others. They are people of integrity who practice personal holiness, study God’s Word and spend time alone with Him. They sow, fertilize, weed and water. Encouragement is one of the key ingredients of a mentor’s life. They anticipate the challenge of the time involved in the mentoring process and are able to balance it with time for God, family, work and church. Mentors model biblical values, ask questions, offer feedback, see potential, help define personal dreams and offer suggestions as to how to turn dreams into reality.
Jesus was the consummate mentor to His disciples. (supreme, superb, superior, skillful) Through the process of mentoring, Jesus changed lives and saved lives. He taught truth and modeled what He taught. His followers caught it, internalized it and practiced it themselves. He did it all in a loving, caring way.
For many, discipleship is more caught than taught. However, I have observed that leaders often, in their desire to save time and impact larger numbers of people, pour all of their efforts into preaching and teaching. Often this results in very little or no time spent in mentoring. Preaching and teaching was one of the methods Jesus used when speaking to the masses, but He didn’t use that method in training the twelve disciples God gave Him. He mentored them. “And He appointed twelve to continue to be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach…” (Mark 3:14).
I’ve been fortunate to have had four mentors in my life who took the time to teach me, show me and train me. My first mentor was my dad. He spent hour upon hour instructing, showing and modeling for me the moral principles needed for leading a good life:
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8).
My first spiritual mentor was Dick, who pastored a church plant just off the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, IL. He introduced me to Jesus and spent the next year meeting with me one-on-one each week. He taught me how to have a quiet time, how to share my faith and how to love my wife and children. When we moved to Indianapolis, IN, God brought Don with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship into my life. We attended the same church and he mentored students at Indiana University. Again, we met weekly as he poured himself into my life and showed me how to get the most out of God’s Word and apply it to my own life (The ABC Method of Bible Study). My current mentor, Jim, was a chaplain to athletes at North Carolina State and currently is the President of Capitol Commission. He has infused into my life the knowledge, expertise and godly advice needed to meet each day’s challenges in loving, caring ways. These three men have had major impacts in my life in understanding God’s Word and growing in my spiritual walk. Each one modeled what they taught.
I believe the lack of mentoring today is one of the key reasons we, as Christians in the United States, have such little impact on our society. In addition, Barna Research reports that young adults who have not had a close personal friendship with an older adult to mentor them are twice as likely to leave their local faith community after their teen years.
Is mentoring on the horizon for you?
I encourage you to ask God if He would have you realign your priorities and sacrifice some of your personal time to be mentored or begin to mentor someone else. It may require setting different priorities, spending more time in God’s Word, sharpening your relational skills or becoming more proficient in how you manage your time. If He is asking you to step into this new adventure, it may require focused prayer in seeking God’s choice of a person to mentor you or for you to mentor.
Will it be worth it? You Bet! Seeing God grow you or use you as His instrument in the spiritual development of another is priceless. It provides the opportunity to leave a legacy that will continue to bear fruit long after the things of this world fade, rust or become obsolete.
Who does God want to put in your life to mentor you or for you to mentor?
Ask God to prepare the heart, speak to that person regarding the ministry of mentoring and arrange the circumstances for a conversation to take place. Then continue to pray as you wait for Him to answer. God is more interested than we are to see us continue to grow and become all He wants us to be.