Last week I introduced the whole idea of spiritual mentoring. By the way, I no longer use the term “discipling”. It feels old. Those of us raised in the church understand what that word means, but I don’t meet many new Christians, under 35 who do. However, almost everyone I know would like a mentor. When you add the word spiritual, there’s no hidden agenda. You’re not a business mentor, or cooking mentor. Your primary interest is in their spiritual, emotional and relational well-being.
One final thing, some of the people I spiritually mentor are not yet Christians. Traditionally we’ve called that evangelism, which is both a spiritual gift and a Christian privilege. But, personally I’ve found that term also feels archaic and has its own baggage. In the next few months, I’ll blog about this sub-set of spiritual mentoring – introducing people to Jesus. But for the purposes of this blog I’m assuming that at the very least, a protégé believes themselves to be a Christian.
So, where do you begin?
Finding the right mentor for you. First pray. As God puts names on your mind, write them down immediately. You may be tempted to dismiss some people as too busy or inaccessible, but if God is calling them to mentor you, you’ll only know that by asking them. Then ask your pastor or spiritually mature friends for names of potential mentors, in or outside your church. Ask God to guide you to the right mentor.
Finding a protégé who needs your wisdom. If God has blessed you with a level of spiritual maturity and some years of experience, I’d urge you to pray about becoming a spiritual mentor. You don’t have to be a spiritual giant. I have met men who could have been very good mentors, but who disqualified themselves because they’re not successful leaders or strong Bible teachers. All you really need to be a mentor is to love God, care for people, know the Bible reasonably well, and be willing to be transparent and available to another person.
At various times in my life I’ve met people who I sense need guidance. Perhaps they’re new in town and have left their spiritual community or family behind. In other conversations, I’ve picked up signals from people who have never had a close relationship with their father or another spiritual person.
If you have the courage to pray about it, God will direct you to just the right person. I’m sure there is a protégé, like the one I described above, right now looking for a person to help them, but afraid to ask or unsure who to ask. Be proactive. If God has put someone on your mind, pray about that person or ask God to bring someone to mind. He will. Then be bold. Take the first step. You reach out to them.
1. Invite the potential protégé or mentor out for coffee, a meal, or invite them to your home. Tell them, “God put you on my mind, and I’m trying to figure out why. Could we meet? I’d like to get to know you better.”
2. Spend time getting acquainted. Share your family and faith journeys, interests, and hobbies. Start to get to know each other without any discussion of mentoring. These meetings will help you get a sense of whether or not this person is the one God might have in mind for you. I don’t recommend committing to a mentoring relationship until you’ve met at least three or four times.
3. Ask your protégé to pray about whether or not he (or she) would like to continue meeting and ask them to call you if that’s their desire. Don’t ask for a commitment on the spot. Make it easy for them to say “no” by simply not calling. In fact, here’s what I tell them, “If I’ve not heard from you in the next few weeks, I’ll assume this doesn’t work you for and that’s okay.” Let the protégé take the next step; don’t call to follow up.
4. If they call and want to continue, set a time for your next meeting. Meeting every other week is a good place to start.
1. Take turns opening with prayer. You can discern a lot about a person by the way they pray.
2. At one of the early meetings, take time to share with each other in depth the history of the families you grew up in. You’ll gain valuable information by learning about their family dynamics.
3. Generally speaking, mentoring isn’t Bible study. However, a good mentor will encourage personal and group Bible study and use the Bible to give guidance to the protégé, particularly if they’re spiritually immature.
4. Expose them to other spiritual men or women. Let them meet your friends. Take them to sporting events, conferences and retreats. I’ve even taken my men on mission’s trips, or they’ve attended committee meetings to observe how Christians organize themselves. The point is to show them what Christian men and women talk about and how they conduct themselves in everyday situations.
5. Be transparent and share personal situations and how you handled them, even if poorly. Your protégé can learn as much from your mistakes as from your victories.
6. I will often ask the men I mentor to come with questions or situations they’re facing to discuss. Often that discussion will lead to others, but it’s a place to begin each meeting and it gives our time together a bit of structure.
The Rhythm of Mentoring.
Begin meeting weekly or every other week for a few months to build a relationship. After a few months, settle into a pattern of meeting once a month.
Most mentoring relationships will wind down and come to an end. You will sense when that time comes. Most end after three to five years. If you’ve done your job well as a mentor, the protégé should need you less and less.
In fact, that’s exactly how I word it. “You’ve made remarkable progress since we’ve begun meeting. I’m proud of you, of the man you’ve become. It’s time for two things: For you to begin mentoring another man, and for us to stop meeting so I’m available for another protégé.
Make your protégé feel they’ve graduated, that they’re now ready, and that this is not a rejection of a relationship, but an affirmation of their progress.
My question for you: If you have been a spiritual mentor or have had one, I’d like to hear from you. What has worked for you?
The information you’ve been reading was excerpted from A Guide for Finding and Being a Spiritual Mentor. I wrote this guide so that if each person had a copy, both the mentor and the protégé would have a clear understanding of what a spiritual mentoring relationship is and what is expected from each person. The complete eight page guide, includes questions to ask each other, assignments a mentor could give to a protégé and many other practical tips to maximize the impact of this relationship. The Guide is available on this website on the RESOURCES page.
Change of plans! Tomorrow, December 6, I’m going to post a few stories of men I’ve mentored, sharing with you some valuable things I’ve learned in the process. Rather than wait a week, I think it would be helpful if I put some flesh on how mentoring works in real life. Then we’ll get back to the regularly scheduled Monday blogs.
Next Week: I’ve been in an accountability group for almost twenty years with six men. It’s like group mentoring. I’d enjoy introducing you to the incredible benefits of having a few men or women in your life, who are committed to your success and you to theirs!