Do you feel ready to begin helping someone else grow in their Christian faith or spiritual journey? Taking that role in another person’s life is what we often refer to as mentoring.
Being a mentor means taking an influential and important role in another person’s life. It sounds like something reserved for experts or people with decades of wisdom. But that’s not necessarily the case. If you have a relationship with Christ, are living in community and are growing in your faith, you can come alongside others and point them to Jesus.
If you aspire to mentor others, here is a framework to help get you started.
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In Christian mentoring, not only will the person being mentored grow in their faith, but the person doing the mentoring will grow as well. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (New International Version). God uses the mentoring relationship to strengthen the faith of everyone involved.
Mentoring also helps people put their faith into action. Lots of people have the desire to live out and share their faith, teach others about Jesus or be a part of a ministry, but they lack the tools to get started. Once mentoring becomes a regular part of your life, your own walk with God will become more dynamic and exciting. Why? Because this is part of God’s plan for how you grow.
Think of the first two people God created, Adam and Eve. God gave them responsibility for watching over everything else in the garden and helping things grow. Mentoring follows in that tradition because God uses mentoring to help both parties grow more and more into who He designed them to be.
Christian mentoring and secular mentoring look pretty different.
Secular mentoring tends to focus on professional development, leadership skills, or guiding people into skills they want to grow in. These are important and valid reasons to seek a mentor. But if your spiritual life is your first priority, why would you not invest the same time, energy and resources into it?
Some of the elements of Christian mentoring are similar to a professional coaching relationship. You may want to grow in your capacity for leadership, and you may have goals you set for yourself over periods of time. But the focus is different in one really significant way.
Christian mentoring is about more than self-improvement or personal development. It’s about helping people become more and more like another person, and that person is Jesus.
In Christian mentoring, you can expect to see the following conversations and activities taking place:
Discussing specific areas of life to grow in.
Agreeing to a plan for studying the Bible and praying together.
Choosing a relevant book or series of articles to read together.
Spotting blind spots and opportunities for transformation in both parties’ spiritual lives.
Finding and celebrating evidence of becoming more conformed to the image of Christ.
Addressing areas of ongoing struggle or ungodly thinking and behavior.
The degree to which these topics are relevant to both of your spiritual lives is something you should discuss at the beginning of the relationship. Some mentors choose to make it more of a two-way conversation than others, and whichever you choose, it’s worth explaining why that’s your preference.
For example, as a mentor, you may decide there is a certain level of disclosure that is not appropriate with a particular person — which you might reserve instead for your own mentor. There are no hard and fast rules about this. You need to think about what will build trust and help your relationship to develop in the way you think it needs to.
It’s normal for the person who has been a Christian for a longer time to take the role of the mentor.
Mentoring is an opportunity to receive a different perspective, be held accountable, and to get good, godly advice.
You can find people who need mentoring at every stage of life. Some examples include:
High school and college students. They need mentors who can invest in both their spiritual and personal lives. This is a formative time of life, and having someone to walk beside them will be a very powerful foundation for their futures.
Newly married couples. Engaged people and newlyweds always have questions about marriage, and they need people who can speak specifically to this season of life. How will they learn how to share their lives with another person unless they can ask questions of a trusted friend?
Christian adults. We never grow out of our need for other people intentionally investing in us. Jesus wants us to help one another grow. There is a huge need for mentors who can teach younger adults how to care spiritually for their spouses, families and friends.
You may see yourself in one of these categories or recognize a need you want to help meet. But these are just a few categories, so if you are interested in mentoring or being mentored, ask God to help you understand your specific needs or calling.
As a mentor, you will need to be willing to listen — a lot. The person you are mentoring will trust you to know what Christian growth looks like (although each of our spiritual journeys is unique in some way). It will be helpful if you know how to help someone make a simple plan for practicing the spiritual disciplines you’ll work on together, such as daily Bible reading and prayer.
But if you’re still asking yourself whether you are the kind of person who should mentor others, we recommend thinking first in terms of character qualities rather than specific skills or years of experience as a Christian.
So what kind of character qualities are you looking for in yourself as a possible mentor?
The Bible gives a very helpful inventory of things you can expect to see in the life of a person who is increasingly living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22, NIV)
This passage is a helpful reference point when you think about yourself as a mentor and when you pray for the person you are mentoring. Most importantly, it lays a clear foundation for what you most need to know about growing as a Christian and helping someone else grow.
Remember, you have everything you need already because of the Holy Spirit. Many people discount themselves from becoming mentors because they look at themselves and see what’s missing rather than what’s present. If the Holy Spirit lives with you, then you have something to pass on to another person.
The Bible explains this in simple terms:
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV)
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13, NIV)
To be a mentor, you do not have to be perfect, have all the Bible knowledge or ministry experience, or even have a particular personality. To begin with, you need a willing heart and a desire to pass on to someone else what God has done in your life. God promises to help you grow as you depend on His Holy Spirit and commit to learning how to mentor, one step at a time.
If you are not sure where to begin, try praying. Ask the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God) to show you the next step. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as a guide, so let Him guide you. When you pray as a mentor, you might ask the Holy Spirit some of the following questions:
Who do you want me to invest my life in?
What do they need to continue growing spiritually?
What is holding them back?
Which passage of Scripture should we explore next?
Is there a specific goal we need to set for ourselves?
There are lots of resources available to help guide your time together with someone you mentor, but remember to keep depending on the Holy Spirit as your primary source of guidance. The ultimate goal is to help a younger believer experience the fruits and gifts the Spirit has for them.
Here are some simple principles to help you think about the essential activities you might plan as you seek to mentor effectively:
Cultivate a humble and teachable spirit within yourself. Spend time with the Lord outside of your mentoring times.
Pray for the person you mentor. Ask the Lord what He wants you to teach them.
Invite the person you mentor to do regular, everyday-life things with you. Exercise together, grab frozen yogurt together, or have dinner together.
Do not underestimate the power of inviting the person you mentor into your home. This shows the person you mentor that you care about them enough to let them see who you really are.
Practice vulnerability, and be the first to step out in sharing your story. For example, if you struggle with sin in a particular area of your life, be honest about this with the person you mentor. This will create bonding and help the person you mentor know they can be honest with you.
Consider meeting together for an agreed-upon period of time: maybe a school year, a calendar year, or a few months. Then review your progress and commit to another period of time if you want to continue.
Choose materials to study.
Read the Bible together.
Learn how to share your faith together.
Continually refresh your vision for mentoring and pass it on to others. Learn how one person can help change the world.
If this feels overwhelming to you, try to think of this process in terms of taking the next step, then taking the one after that, and so on. If you try to understand everything you need to know about mentoring before beginning, you might never take the step of faith that allows you to experience something God wants for you.
The Bible provides many examples of what mentoring looks like. But the best model is found in the life of Jesus.
Jesus only spent three years of his life in public ministry. While this period of time is well-known for the miracles and other significant events, much of His focus was on the relationship He had with His closest associates, whom the Bible refers to as His disciples.
Jesus taught them everything they needed to follow Him for a lifetime. But most importantly, He taught them in a way that enabled them to teach everyone else they came into contact with.
Jesus knew He could not mentor everybody personally. So He chose twelve men whose responsibility was to multiply themselves by passing everything He taught them on to others, who would pass on to others still.
As you think about who you will mentor, follow Jesus’ example by limiting yourself to people you believe you can invest in significantly.
As you begin a mentoring relationship, you might also explain that your vision for mentoring is about investing in people with a willingness (if not yet the confidence) to pass what they learn on to others. This is mentoring the Jesus way.
Jesus also walked through the ups and downs of life with his disciples. This is probably most obvious in the life of Peter.
Peter was hotheaded and impulsive. He was one of Jesus’ closest friends, and yet the night that Jesus was on trial before He died, Peter emphatically denied He was Jesus’ friend to a group of people. At the moment Jesus needed Him the most, Peter put himself first. And yet, after Jesus died and came back to life, He met up with Peter to restore their relationship.
Jesus helped Peter grow in character by walking with him through failures and disappointments, which strengthened Peter’s faith.
Jesus told Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18 NIV).
He also told Peter (who was also called Simon), “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32, NIV).
After Jesus met with Peter and told him He was forgiven and loved, Peter did become a leader of the early church.
The people you mentor will mess up. When this happens, it’s extremely powerful for them to have a mentor who will speak truth into their lives. As you persevere with someone through challenges, you help them become who God created them to be.
In the book of Acts, we see several other great examples of mentoring relationships.
The apostle Paul, who was also called Saul, wrote much of the New Testament. He was mentored by Barnabas in the context of their journeys as missionaries. These two men spent time investing in some of the earliest Christian churches, passing on whatever they knew about following Jesus.
They lived with the church in Antioch for a year, where they taught the new believers the basics of Christianity. In fact, Barnabas sought Paul out for the task. Acts 11:25-26 says, “Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (New International Version).
After his relationship with Barnabas ended, Paul brought Timothy, whom he was mentoring, with him on his journeys. They were so close that Paul calls him “my son” in 2 Timothy 1:2. Having a heart to help people grow and imparting the wisdom you’ve been taught is one of the foundations of Christian mentoring.
It’s a well-known idea that the best way to learn something is to teach it. The mutual blessing of mentoring someone is that as you help them grow, you grow yourself.
What better way to deepen your own relationship with Christ than to teach someone else about the wonderful God we know personally and dedicate our lives to following?
We can also learn about mentoring from current-day examples. Sometimes it is challenging to see how mentoring fits into your everyday life. But the more familiar you are with tried and tested resources and concrete examples, the more excited you will be to try mentoring.
Here are a few real-life stories of mentoring to get you excited for your potential mentoring relationship:
“Mentoring: To Learn Twice” is a great article about a mentoring relationship and how both parties grew through it.
“The Road to Mentoring: Anyone Can Change a Life” is a compelling story about two college students in a mentoring relationship.
“How Can a Mentor Help You?” is a helpful article breaking down the needs we all have, and how a mentor can meet someone in the midst of life’s circumstances.
The key to Christian mentoring is that you entrust what you have learned to people who will eventually pass it on to others. Jesus’ disciples followed this practice. Paul, Barnabas and Timothy followed this practice. So should we.
Paul said to Timothy, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, NIV).
It’s partly thanks to Barnabas teaching Paul, who taught Timothy, who taught others that we have the church as we know it today.
The more you familiarize yourself with real-life examples of mentoring, the easier it becomes to see how a mentoring relationship can work for you. But this is about a unique relationship between you and another real person. So as you find examples, try to take away principles you can adapt rather than treating them as blueprints you must follow precisely.
Knowing where to start with mentoring can sometimes feel like the hardest part. Here are a few resources to help get you started. If you’re wondering how to mentor someone, both resources will help you take the next step.
“Collaborative Discipleship” is a free discipleship kit. There are articles, worksheets, and examples you can use. If you are not sure where to begin, start with the “Essentials Pathway.”
Help Others Grow is a section of Cru.org with many different articles that will help with mentoring. Click on the “Browse Topics” tab under the heading “Discipleship” to explore the different topics. This will help you form a next step if you are looking for ideas. This is a good place to start if you are still wondering whether mentoring is right for you.
If you’re looking for someone to mentor you, read “How Can a Mentor Help You?” to get some ideas and then learn how you can connect with someone to help you take next steps in your spiritual growth.
Jesus was a mentor who made mentors who made mentors. This is at the heart of what the Bible is describing when it talks about “making disciples.” Jesus’ last words on earth serve as our invitation to mentor others and be mentored ourselves:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)
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