Intro – what is mentoring?
In it’s purest form, mentoring is learning from someone who’s been in your position before and can help you grow. It can cover simple things like learning to bake, leading a small group, getting used to working in a large office environment to leading a ministry or church. A mentor can be your official leader or a peer or a friend of a friend. They can even be a stranger at the beginning.
You can even have several mentors at the same time, all helping you in different areas you want to grow in and all do it in different ways. Each mentor and mentee have a different dynamic because you are both unique people in this particular season. You can even be a mentor and mentee at the same time.
Taking the initiative and responsibility for your own growth and development is extremely wise. No one else (except God) is more committed to seeing you grow into your full potential other than you. And you probably don’t even realise how much potential you have!
Below are some valuable points to think about to get started in the whole area of mentoring.
Old Testament style mentoring
From Moses with Joshua (Exodus – Deuteronomy), Elijah with Elisha (1 Kings 19) to Jesus with the disciples. These famous mentors and mentees had a full-time commitment style. Where the younger would literally live with, serve and follow their mentor around for years. You learn a lot living with someone because you get access to them 24/7 in public and private. You can ask personal questions, discuss the events of the day and so much more. The younger wanted to learn as much as they could because they knew, one day, their mentor would sadly die. Then they would possibly take on the role of leading the ministry their mentor had. Big shoes to fill and a life-long commitment.
These mentors were the ones who chose their mentees. It was an honour and privilege to be asked to be the one to become their mentee.
New Testament style mentoring
Barnabus with Saul/Paul (Acts 9+13) and then Paul with Timothy (Acts 17-19) were shorter in their commitment. Barnabus and Paul did seek out their mentees. But it wasn’t a life-long partnership.
Barnabus’ mentoring role to Saul (who became Paul), was to bring him to the other apostles, to vouch for him. To help Paul understand the role of an apostle, and they went on the first missionary journey. Barnabus had the relationship and platform with other leaders, he had the sensitivity to help Paul’s givings and boldness be harnessed (so he wasn’t killed). In time the bible (Acts 15) changes from stating “Barnabus and Paul”, verse 12 to “Paul and Barnabus” in verse 22, which reflects the change in their roles from mentor and mentee to partners. Then in verses 36-40 they sadly had a sharp disagreement and the split up, each taking new mentees.
We don’t hear too much more about Barnabus after this, but if it wasn’t for him – who knows how Saul would have ended up?
Here the mentee still travelled around with their mentor, we’re not sure how long Paul was with Barnabus but probably only a few years. This season was to help Paul get started in ministry. It ended when he was not only able to stand on his own but had new vision and direction which differed from Barnabus’. The season changed, so it was time to move on.
Thankfully we don’t have to go and literally live with our mentor’s (although some do for a season). But a mentor doesn’t have to be someone older than you. They just have to have more experience in the area that you want to be mentored in.
Peer mentoring happens with someone similar in age with you but has experience/ talents in the area you want to grow in. You can initiate the conversation to ask them if they could mentor you for a season in a specific field, e.g. leading worship or writing a blog.
You could even have a partnership where they teach you a skill, and you train them a different area. Thus you both learn and mentor for a season each other.
The mentoring relationship can have a few different dynamics, which is best to discuss and agree at the beginning to avoid confusion and frustration.
These could be:
- Who initiates the relationship:
- You can begin by asking someone to mentor you in “x” because you see their experience/ giftings.
- Or someone sees talent in someone younger and asks if they would like to be mentored in “x” because they see their potential.
- Is the goal of what you want to achieve with this mentoring relationship clear for both sides? It’s good to know where you want to go, so you both know when it’s been accomplished.
- How long should this mentoring season last for?
- Depending on the area to be mentored in, it could be anything from six months to two years. If it’s a small thing, then after six months, the dynamics of the relationship can change to being less formal training and more informal encouragement or feedback. Depending on what else is going on in your life (especially if you’re in high school or University). These natural changes can be a logical time to set as an end to your mentoring relationship as well. Especially if you’re moving cities.
- Is the time frame of this mentoring relationship deterred by the goal set?
- Mentoring can move from formal meetings to train and observe with discussions to the mentee doing more and receiving constructive feedback with increasing responsibility. To become, like Barnabus and Paul equal partners in a ministry – to then recognising the season shift to multiplying out ministry and each person taking on new mentees to develop.
- How often should you meet? Is once a week realistic for you both, or once a month in person better with emails/ phone calls in-between depending on how things are going.
- How formal do you want the time to be:
- where the mentor initiates the time and content of each session?
- The mentee triggers the meeting times and brings the things they want to discuss
- each person can initiate a time depending on how things are going.
- Keep being intentional and taking the initiative – you will only get out of this how much effort you put in. It’s you who wants to grow, so it’s your responsibility.
- How many people can be mentees at the same time? Is this a 1-to-1 or 1-to-2or 3 people at the same time because you all want to grow in the same area?
- Will there be homework type tasks? Work to do outside of mentoring session, and how much time will be needed for this? Or is it more like a discussion with encouragement and prayer?
Become a mentor too
As you can see from the list above, you can use the exact same points to enable you to become a mentor as well as a mentee. Think about experience, gifts, talents you have that others might be struggling to do as well as you. It’s not prideful to think you can do something better than others. It’s an honest assessment of what God’s giving you the ability to do and what you’ve had experience in being able to do. You don’t even have to be that much further ahead in knowledge either. Six months working at McDonald’s can easily see you as a great asset to a new employee who knows nothing about the Fast Food industry or McDonald’s culture. They just have a different title for you – it’s being a Buddy. But in essence, you’re a mentor for them. So you may already be a mentor and just haven’t realised it yet. Now you do, you can be more intentional in helping your mentee get the most out of your relationship.
You can do it
This may sound like too much detail to think about or even put you off, wanting to ask a leader to give you such a commitment to cover these areas. Most leaders want to help those they are leading. Other’s don’t think they are good enough to help others, so don’t think about becoming a mentor (as that sounds too formal or too much responsibility). But it doesn’t have to be – depending on what kind of relationship suits you both.
Pray and ask God what areas in your life you need help to grow in. And who would be the right person to help you develop. Then go, step out, and ask them to prayerfully consider training you in “x”. Then arrange a time to sit over a coffee and discuss what they could look like.
If they say, “sorry, no, not at this time.” That’s ok, ask them to come back to you when their circumstances change, and it would be possible. Or ask them to suggest someone else who’s experienced in that area to talk to instead. (If you don’t know them already, ask them to give you an introduction).
The wisdom is taking control of your time and energy and using it for maximum effectiveness. Taking the initiative and putting in the effort will increase your growth exponentially – you might not see all the growth in you, but others around you will. Spur them on too!
You won’t know unless you try – and who knows where it could lead. Go for it, you might be surprised by what happens. Years from now, you would be so thankful for the friendship you will have, and what’s you’ve been able to do with this little step out of your comfort zone 🙂