Ten Tips for Great Mentorship
As a former Bible college dean, I’ve had many young people ask for mentoring. For clarity’s sake, I learned to ask them what exactly they were looking for in a mentoring relationship.
Here are some of the answers I received:
• “I don’t know what I’m looking for, isn’t that what you are supposed to decide?”
• “Well, I just know I am supposed to have a mentor, so whatever you think is right is good by me.”
• “I need someone to tell me how to grow spiritually.”
While I applaud their initiative for spiritual growth (their ideology had some value), all of the responsibility for their development was placed on me. I felt I was supposed to design a pathway for these students’ spiritual growth. They wanted me to discern what their next steps would be. And in some cases, there was a hope that I would use my influence to connect them with a ministry position. Their perspective was one where I would be the leader, the teacher, and the guide, and they would come willing to receive.
This paradigm put a lot of pressure on me. I felt like I needed a pre-meeting with God for every person I was meeting with so I could hear from him for them. Right around then, I had an “Aha” moment. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “There is one God and one mediator so that human beings can reach God. That way is through Christ Jesus, who is himself human.” I realized I didn’t need to feel the pressure of discerning their spiritual growth, I needed to partner with them in their journey. I needed to believe in them and help them to connect with God personally.
In the New Testament, God’s plan is for people to interact directly with him. Leaders can get in the way of other people’s personal connection with God when we allow them to come to us instead of going to him. Of course, we all need each other and shouldn’t just “hermit” ourselves away from the body of Christ, but mentors are not like the priests of the old covenant. True mentors are partners in the journey.
There are other difficulties in when it comes to mentoring, so I put together some ideas to help both the mentor and the mentee in building a mutually beneficial relationship.
Here are my top ten tips for a great mentoring relationship.
10. Decide how often you will be meeting.
Some of the mentees expected unlimited access. Clarifying the connection upfront pre-empts awkward conversations that address clingy behavior.
9. Clarify the “why.”
Make sure the mentee knows they will be the one deciding what the focus of the conversation will be. They need to come with questions or conflict that needs to be resolved.
8. Journey together.
There needs to be an understanding that we are all on a personal faith adventure. Both parties need to share personal stories authentically. When the mentor shares, they need to understand that the way they got through something is a way to get through things, not the way.
7. Beware the “tell.”
Both the mentor and the mentee need to be cautious about “telling.” If the mentee is looking for advice, they should ask for the pros and cons the mentor sees. They can ask how the mentor goes about hearing from God, but they both need to beware the propensity toward the Old Testament plan where the priest decided what the people were supposed to do. The mentee will learn from whatever decision they make, and then the mentee can help them process what happens.
6. Remember, God always offers a plan.
We can all go to him, and he promises to be there for us. Mentors should be encouraging a personal connection with God first and foremost.
5. Ask Questions.
The mentee should come with questions they have, and the mentor should help them find the answers God has for them by asking questions that build the faith of the mentee.
4. Celebrate together.
Share where God has met you and where you are looking for him to come through now.
Talking together to God is a powerful way for the mentor to model relating to God and for the mentee to grow in confidence.
2. Be honest with each other.
The mentor should feel comfortable sharing concerns or perspectives they see. The mentee should not feel a sense of guilt or a need to comply, but rather to learn to discern for themselves how God is guiding them.
1. Have fun.
Doing life with someone from another generation can be very fulfilling for both people. God meant for us to be Better Together.
So, if you are looking for a mentor go ahead and ask someone you would like to partner with on your journey. Be clear about your ask and see where it goes. If your first ask doesn’t work out, chalk it up to good research and ask someone else till you find a good fit.
On the flip side, if you want to offer mentoring, the same tips apply. You can offer to partner with them on their journey. Be clear about the offer (bi-weekly coffee or whatever you are thinking) and be sure to let the conversation be about their journey and not a soapbox for your ideas.
Let’s take “better together” in some new directions!