What is a mentor?
There can be a lot of confusion with different words used to describe the person that “does” spiritual discipleship through mentoring. We do not call ourselves “counselors” but instead use words like: coach, spiritual guide, accountability partner, etc. Mentoring at its core is a relationship. Based on Jesus’ mandate in Matthew 28:18-20, all Christians are called with mentoring others, starting with our families. A mentor is someone who is committed to a healthy relationship with another person who will:
listen as much as they speak,
give wisdom based on God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17),
offer perspective based on a Christian worldview,
care through practical acts of service
support through prayer,
provide accountability through vulnerability and authenticity,
A mentor does not have to have all the answers and is not perfect, but is a person with a servant’s heart who is sure of who they are because of their identity in Christ. A mentor strives, with the power and desire from the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:13) to live out the life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). Mentors model a submitted, Holy Spirit-guided life so they can humbly say like the Apostle Paul, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Every mentoring relationship will be different because it involves people!
What is a disciple?
A disciple is a teachable learner who is committed to a healthy relationship with a mentor and who is humbly seeking to grow in their faith to become more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29; Luke 6:40). Disciples also can be people who haven’t submitted to Jesus as their Savior and who are seeking spiritual and practical wisdom.
How do I select a disciple?
Pray for the right person to disciple and that the Holy Spirit would cause some divine appointments to happen. We will mentor someone of the same gender only. Emotional attachment can form very quickly with a person of the opposite sex that can lead to mental and physical adultery. Often a person in a similar family life-stage (small children, empty nesters, etc.) and common backgrounds, life experiences, careers, interests and spiritual journeys will be a good match. But, don’t limit potential disciples to someone like you or someone that you’d ordinarily choose, trust God to bring the right person. Be intentional about seeking potential disciples out and get to know them.
How many people should I disciple at one time?
Normally you should only mentor one person at a time. The investment that you will want to make beyond the weekly meeting makes mentoring more than one or two at the most unreasonable to you and unfair to the people you are mentoring when you spread yourself too thin.
What is the best way to get started?
The best way to get started, in addition to having a “pre-meeting” with a potential disciple, is with lots of prayer, trusting God’s Word and believing in the power of the Holy Spirit!
1) Pray in Jesus’ name against the evil one and his demons who will do everything in their power to stop this mentoring from happening, pray for perseverance due to the commitment that mentoring will require, and pray for God’s revelation through His Word.
2) Trust God’s Word to do the work of “renewing your mind” and penetrating to “dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow” as it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart of both mentor and disciple. As often as you can, have the person you are mentoring use their Bible to look up the Scriptures. This will help them become more familiar with God’s Word.
3) Believe that God the Holy Spirit will be the one to transform people, not you! Remember the story of Lydia’s conversion in Acts chapter 16. When she heard the apostles teaching, it was the Lord that opened her heart. Your job as a mentor is to encourage, listen, facilitate the discussion and provide accountability for getting into God’s Word.
Oh-and makes sure you discuss this new responsibility and time requirements with your spouse before you commit!
What should we talk about during the pre-meeting?
This should be a face-to-face meeting if at all possible and will help to determine if mentor and disciple is a good match. It should be a time of asking common questions about each other’s families, backgrounds, life experiences, careers and interests. Special attention should be paid to each other’s spiritual journeys without overwhelming the person that is considering being mentored. A key component should also be the mentor explaining the commitment that will be required: a weekly meeting, reading each chapter, answering the questions at the end of each chapter and memorizing Scripture each week. If a person is not ready to commit to this level of training, that is OK, it is better to determine this up front rather than get frustrated and discouraged by unmet expectations later on. A great tool for helping to determine what the potential disciple is expecting out of this relationship and their level of commitment is the mentoring questionnaire that is available from your Mentor Coach or Mentoring Team Leader.
How often do we meet? How long should a session take?
You should meet every week. It will take about 9 months to go through all three Mentoring His Way-Disciple Twelve books. Each weekly meeting should last between one hour and one hour and thirty minutes. The more time you spend in prayer, catching up and talking through personal issues will add to the length of your meeting. It’s critical that you set a definite starting and ending time and then start and end on time each week to value each other’s time and other commitments. By mentoring only one person at a time, you will also probably have opportunities and the time to get to know each other’s families outside of the weekly meeting.
What are the expectations for me as a mentor outside the weekly meeting?
Mentors should care for, support, encourage and pray for the person they are mentoring outside the weekly meeting but only with appropriate boundaries (see “boundaries” question further down in document). These must be established early on so that our God-given priorities of don’t get misaligned and unmet expectations result in hurt feelings or broken relationships. Regular, not excessive, contact between meetings is encouraged. Occasional meals with each other’s families can be a great way to deepen relationships and get to know each other’s spouse and children.
Our meeting schedule is so inconsistent.
Vacation, illness and other unexpected work or family issues may occasionally cause you not to meet. This is why a pre-meeting is so important where you talk frankly about the commitment required. Have you BOTH made your meeting time a non-negotiable in your week? Talk honestly to each other about the reasons why your meetings don’t seem to be a priority. You may need to change your meeting time or day. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t meet for a week; just jump right back into a regular schedule as soon as possible.
The person I’m mentoring has a hard time completing the homework.
The homework, in addition to praying for each other, includes reading the chapter, answering the questions at the end of the chapter and memorizing the memory verse. This is another area where setting clear expectations before starting to officially meet is crucial. As a mentor, you need to lead the way by having reread the chapter, gone through the questions again and ensure that you know and are able to recite the memory verse. You as the mentor need to hold the person you are discipling accountable by asking them to say the memory verse out loud and to make sure they have answered the questions.
The person I’m mentoring gets distracted easily during our meetings.
There can be lots of reasons for distractions during a meeting:
Location: a bustling deli, a room with kids or even some pets (and sometimes other adults!), and a noisy office break room are examples of locations that aren’t ideal for meetings.
Time of day: Too early or too late can be detrimental to effective meetings, especially if an early riser is paired with a night owl. Lunch time can be a good time to get together unless a short lunch break or travel time cuts too far into the time required to both connect and cover the material sufficiently.
Cell phones/other electronic devices: It is best to silence cell phones and other electronic devices unless you are “on-call” for work (emergency personnel, doctor, etc.) or you are expecting an important call from your spouse or a child. On the flip side, many electronic devices come with Bible applications that are helpful in reading from different Bible versions, finding key words or passages quickly and taking notes. The method of learning God’s Word isn’t the most important issue, being able to recall it quickly and accurately and being obedient to it is!
Our weekly meeting always seems to get off topic.
The mentor sets the agenda, pace and tone of each meeting. After a brief time of catching up with each other, the mentor must be intentional about going through the lesson. Not every sentence will need to be or be able to be discussed. A good question to ask is, “What has God been teaching you through this section and His Word?” Sometimes subjects come up that are worth discussing, but not all “rabbit trails,” even spiritual ones, should be followed immediately. A technique of putting a topic aside for later discussion after prayer and research is called “the parking lot.” To help stay on track, both mentor and disciple can call “parking lot” on a subject, verse or thought that they want to come back to at a later time.
Another helpful idea is to encourage your disciple to come each week ready to briefly answer these four questions:
What is one thing God is teaching you through His Word, the preaching of the Word during Sunday service, or the mentoring material?
What is one challenge you are currently facing that we can cover in prayer?
What is one victory you are experiencing in your life, especially as it relates to being conformed to the image of Christ?
What one important topic (if any) would you like to discuss this week?
Our meetings always seem to turn into a counseling session.
There may be occasional times when you need to put the lesson aside and spend an extended time of listening to a disciple’s situation or problem. Be careful to not get in over your head into areas (extended grief, complicated marriage issues, suicide, etc.) that may need professional counseling help. Refer these situations to your church staff or local professionals. Remember, you are not in the role of a counselor. You can offer wise, Biblical counsel, but your role in your disciple’s life is a spiritual mentor, not counselor. The three areas that you can provide assistance are 1) in prayer, 2) finding out what God’s Word says about an issue, and 3) personal life experiences that relate.
The person I’m mentoring won’t open up. Our meetings seem so superficial. Trust won’t usually be granted immediately in a new mentor-disciple relationship. It will take some time. Confidentiality is an absolute must; what is said in meetings is never repeated to another person without permission. Again, the mentor sets the tone. If you are willing to be vulnerable and share your life experiences, struggles and failures and are a good listener, a disciple will probably eventually open up.
What can I do to add some new life to our mentoring relationship?
If your time together starts feeling stale, make sure you are praying for your disciple and his/her family. Try changing your meeting time and place. Sometimes a change in routine or venue can make a positive difference. Skip a week of mentoring and instead, do something fun with your disciple. It also may be due to you! Recommit yourself to discipling and pray that you would use the desire and power that you’ve been given by the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:13).
There is lots of mentoring material out there. Why should we use the three book Mentoring His Way-Disciple Twelve series as our curriculum?
The Mentoring His Way-Disciple Twelve series is so effective because it continually uses God’s Word as the guide.
What about confidentiality?
It is important that you manage the expectations up front with your disciple as it relates to confidentiality. Under most circumstances, your disciple needs to know that it you will NEVER break his/her confidence. This means that whatever your disciple shares with you will not be repeated to anyone at any time. This means your wife, husband, mother, best friend, co-worker, etc. You will lose trust and credibility with your disciple if you break confidence even to one trusted person. One trusted person telling another trusted person telling another trusted person is how trust gets broken and even destroyed!
However, just as your disciple needs to know you will not break confidence in most things, your disciple needs to know that you will absolutely refuse to keep any confidences that cover up evil or potential danger. This is a topic that must be covered in your initial meeting. We are never to keep a confidence that helps someone cover up an evil or pose a danger to himself or herself or someone else. For example, if your disciple confesses infidelity your next question should be, “Are you going to tell your spouse, or am I?”
What boundaries should be in place as I meet with my disciple?
It is important that you strike a healthy balance with your disciple. Your disciple needs to know they have your support, prayers, counsel, and attention. However, your disciple needs Jesus far more than you. It is critical that you are mindful of keeping your disciple seeking God’s counsel, approval, blessing, praise, and teaching above and before your own. BOTH parties lose if a disciple begins to “idolize” the mentor. If this happens, you are both set up for disappointment and disaster.
Of special note, if your disciple is married, it is equally essential that you do not allow yourself to become the “primary relationship” in your disciple’s life! This unique role is for their spouse only. Your disciple should get all emotional needs met first by their spouse. In some cases, an disciple unhappy in his/her marriage will begin to attach to other people in hopes to get their human-emotional needs met. This will only continue to hurt your disciple and his/her marriage. Be sure to avoid this.
This may mean that your disciple needs to understand that you may not be able to answer a phone call at all times of the days or in every crisis moment. Ask God for wisdom in how to walk humbly, lovingly, but with great discernment if boundary issues arise.
Additionally, be sure to never loan money to your disciple. This changes your relationship (in the words of Dave Ramsey) to a borrower-lender dynamic that will cause friction unnecessary difficulty.
What do I do if my disciple is constantly demeaning his/her spouse and frustrated in his/her marriage?
First, it is important for you to uphold God’s view of the sacred covenant between a man and a woman. Scripture is clear: God hates divorce under any circumstances, even though He may permit it under some very grievous situations. You should always encourage your disciple to pursue reconciliation and faithfulness to his/her covenant before God.
If your disciple spends a lot of time complaining about his/her spouse, redirect the conversation to focus on what your disciple can do to be more like Christ in their marriage. Remember, there are always TWO SIDES to the story. Your disciple needs to focus his/her attentions on growing in conformity to Jesus Christ, even in a difficult marriage. You may want to say something like, “I know that it is frustrating that your husband is not being the father to your children that you would want him be. You can be sure that God will work on him and call him to account for his fatherhood. Your concern is that God will call YOU to account for your motherhood. So let’s talk about you instead. How can you be growing a mother to your children so regardless of your husband, your bring joy to God?”
If my disciple is in sin, how do I lovingly rebuke or correct him/her?
There WILL be things in people’s lives as you mentor them that you will see that need to be corrected or reproved, or admonished (or encouraged). The Holy Spirit will at times compel you to speak directly into these matters.
Here is the thing: BOTH PARTIES can fear this.
- THE MENTOR fears being despised by the disciple
- THE DISCIPLE fears being ashamed, thought of as “less”, appearing ungodly
Because of these fears, we can each act out of our own flesh:
- THE MENTOR might refuse to speak up. They want to guard their own comfort, don’t want to risk insult, or breech the relationship, etc.
- THE DISCIPLE might take it completely in the flesh. They might be offended, wounded, etc.
What to do:
- THE MENTOR: The best way to reprove someone, or point out their sin (or potential sin) is to cradle the reproof in love and hope, and in absolute gentleness. (Note: Galatians 6:1; Matt. 18:15; Hebrews 12:11). Your motive should be for good, for godliness, for a right relationship with the Lord or with others.
Only God can know what good the reproof will do for the disciple and whether they glorify God in response or not. But YOU WILL GLORIFY GOD by obeying His Word to teach and encourage in that which is godly, pure, and holy.
- THE DISCIPLE: You will see much more about their godly character (or the lack of it) by the way this plays out.
If they actually want to become more and more godly they will respond in humility, sincerity of heart, and thankfulness EVEN IF at first they are wounded. (Proverbs 27:6)
If they actually want to simply appear to be godly (which means they only want people to think highly of them) they will respond in pride, justification, bitterness, distance, guarded and you may even see them “posturing” in front of you in the future.
This is very hard. It requires a slowness on your part to speak, a wise and discerning heart, a tenderness of your spirit along with a courage to put off falsehood and speak the truth in love.
LAST MAIN POINT:
A good test of whether or not something is of the Spirit is the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit on the situation or how it is handled.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law". (Galatians 5:22)
If a rebuke, or anything is brought about and there is not OBVIOUS patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, love, etc. EVIDENT on it, (and if there are things contrary to it - like arrogance, bitterness, rage, malice, criticism, pride, etc.) these are not proofs that the Spirit has led the encounter, and are indeed evidence that He has not.
Questions to ask yourself: (CHECK YOUR OWN HEART)
Is my heart completely Godly? Am I being compelled by the Spirit or my flesh to bring up the matter? Is it about me in any way?
Have I covered the matter in prayer? Have I weighed my answers and my words carefully before the Lord BEFORE speaking?
Is it a morality/ sin/ godliness issue?
What benefit will the disciple reap if I reproach this this? What benefit will others reap?
Will the Spirit be EVIDENT in me as I do this?
Check the disciple's heart for evidence of being teachable:
Is the disciple teachable? Is there evidence in them that they can and will receive it?
Do they seem eager to grow and learn?
Is the promise of hope and maturity WORTH IT to the disciple to suffer a momentary loss of pride?
Have I prayed that God Himself will teach it to the disciple?
How can I teach it in a way that allows God to do the majority of the teaching, and certainly the convicting?
How long should this mentoring relationship last? What does it look like after the 9 months of going through the books? What does the transition look like?
Sometimes relationships that began as mentoring last a lifetime. Sometimes these relationships are only for a season. Both are OK! Just like talking about expectations is vital at the start of a mentoring relationship, as you near the end of the curriculum, talking about “what’s next” is also very important. Occasional meetings for coffee or lunch would allow for time to catch up. Continued prayer for one another would be great!
How do I get out of a mentoring relationship that just isn’t working or that is dysfunctional?
Getting out of a mentoring relationship that isn’t working is always a tough issue and should be continued to be covered in prayer. There are three key words when dealing with an interpersonal issue: care, honest, and fair. Used together they might sound something like this: “I care far too much about you not to be honest with you, and in fairness to you I think we need to stop, change, or redefine our mentoring relationship.” Then explain why. If you need advice or even a third party to mediate, seek out your Mentoring Coach, Mentoring Team Leader or the church staff. Most people get uneasy, uptight, insecure and a bit anxious when they have to confront someone. Instead of confront, use clarify! It might sound something like this: “I care far too much about you not to be honest with you, and I need to clarify how I felt when you said that; I need to clarify the assumptions I was making; I need to clarify the expectations that I had for our mentoring relationship that led to my disappointment.” Sometimes people just need confronted though-just make sure you do it with both truth AND grace! See the rebuke/correct section above.
What are some ways that I can encourage my disciple?
Prayer, encouraging phone calls, emails, texts, cards/notes, inexpensive but nice gifts, doing things outside the weekly meeting with them, authentic compliments, etc. Food! Tell them how proud you are of them. When you see positive growth, tell them. Set the example in this way and remind them that your mentoring relationship isn’t the end to their journey, but that “when they are mentoring” someone else, they’ll be able to encourage somebody else too!