So You Want to Be a Mentor?

Yesterday the interim teaching pastor at my church, Jay Barber, gave a message on mentoring. Spiritual mentoring is one of four key values my church has identified as important in a person’s spiritual growth. For the last year and a half I’ve been on what we’ve called the “Mentor Team” assisting staff and volunteers as we’ve been forming what we want mentoring to look like at Sunset.

Having been involved with The Mentoring Project and also been blessed by having several mentors throughout middle school, high school, and college, I’ve seen first hand the incredible blessing great mentors are. The mentoring series I hosted here on this blog last summer still remains one of my favorite things I’ve been a part of, take some time to read those posts if you haven’t.

I would imagine that many in my church today are feeling inspired to start mentoring someone…anyone probably. And despite mentoring being a bit of a buzzword I hope many of you sense God’s leading to get involved in mentoring others in some way. With all that said, I do believe it is possible to go at this whole mentoring thing wrong. I’ll look at mentoring here primarily from an older person mentoring someone younger, even though I know a lot of 45-year-olds who need some mentoring from mature 25-year-olds. From my experiences, here’s some good first steps for mentoring:

  • DO NOT ever start a conversation with someone by saying, “I want to mentor you.” How do you expect the person to react? It is forcing a relationship on someone. That isn’t helpful.
  • Pursue time with them in a casual environment to begin the friendship. Bill Hybels says you can’t have a quality relationship without a quantity of time invested. Take time to simply get to know someone to allow both people to see if a mentoring relationship would even be a natural fit. Go to coffee, ask them to go to a sporting event with you, invite them over for dessert.
  • Get to know their story before you walk them through the 3 steps to becoming a better follower of Jesus. Hopefully this one is obvious. The worst thing a mentor can do, especially with a younger person, is walk them through a few steps in a booklet and think the job of mentoring is done.
  • Ask questions before giving answers. This principle could really go for any conversation, however I think the natural tendency when trying to mentor someone is to provide answers without asking the right questions that allow the mentee to find the answer themselves.

What would you add?

(This isn’t meant to discourage those of you thinking about mentoring, only some advice. If you’re sensing a desire to mentor a person or two around you, I’d say the desire is probably the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life. Time to stop reading this post; time to do something about that leading.)