A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Mentoring - Finds.Life.Church

A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Mentoring

by Sam Larrabee

All of us have something we can teach someone else, and that’s why choosing to become a mentor is so significant.

A Christian mentor is someone who’s “been there.” They have experience, wisdom, and knowledge they want to pass on to others. They offer helpful advice, share encouragement, and provide guidance for future choices.

My first Christian mentor, Geoff, was only a few years older than I was, but our relationship became one of the most meaningful to me. His influence helped me take significant steps of faith that changed my life. I’m confident that you can have the same kind of influence in someone else’s life.

Becoming a great spiritual mentor might feel intimidating, but don’t worry: There are some simple, practical steps you can take to get started in your mentoring journey and learn to do it well.

What Is a Christian Mentor?

A Christian mentor is a Jesus follower who helps others follow Jesus in a one-on-one setting. They regularly spend time with their mentee (the person they mentor), sharing stories, teaching, and encouraging their spiritual growth. Christian mentors also often spend time praying and reading the Bible with their mentees.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring. That’s because every mentor is unique and will approach mentoring relationships in a different way. So this guide will be focused on the big picture of adopting a healthy mentoring mindset that can help anyone grow into a good mentor. 

Christian mentors don’t need to be perfect.

No one is perfect, even spiritual mentors. My mentor, Geoff, always reminded me that everyone is in the process of becoming more like Jesus. He didn’t have all the answers, and certainly still made mistakes. But he was still a great mentor. Why? Because he had a few key qualities. These qualities helped fuel my spiritual growth, and they can help you become a great spiritual mentor too.

1. A great mentor invests their life.

Geoff was a great mentor because of his willingness to be an honest, imperfect example of how to follow Jesus. His choice to be involved in my life didn’t make his life any easier. It took time, prayer, and a lot of patience to mentor a confused and inconsistent younger believer like me.

Mentoring is incredibly rewarding, but it comes with challenges. It’s a meaningful relationship that requires sacrifice. Effective mentors are honest about their past mistakes and take time out of their schedules to meet.

2. A great mentor asks a lot of questions.

When you think of a mentor, you probably think about someone who has all the answers. While it’s true that a mentor tends to be knowledgeable, the questions they ask tend to be more important than the advice they offer.

Think about Jesus. He often taught by asking questions like “Who do you say that I am?” or “Do you believe?” Jesus knew that asking questions is an effective way to help people learn and grow.

Asking questions also helps spiritual mentors identify the most helpful mentoring strategy. Geoff barely spoke in our first mentoring meeting. Why? Because he spent most of the time listening to my answers to his questions. He wanted to get to know me. He asked about my past, current spiritual queries, and hopes for the future. His questions laid a great foundation for our relationship because I knew he cared about me.

3. A great mentor shows a growing faith.

A mentor doesn’t need to be perfect, but they do need a consistently growing relationship with God. Part of their role as a mentor is to show their mentee what it looks like to live and love like Jesus Christ.

Geoff had a strong habit of prayer, and he genuinely loved to pray for me. He served in his church and had a consistent practice of reading Scripture. Through these habits and practices, I got to see some of what it meant to seek God every day.

What Does the Bible Say About Mentorship?

Geoff’s example reminded me of these words written by a great spiritual mentor in the Bible: Paul.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV

Alone, these words can almost sound a little arrogant, but in the context of mentorship, they make sense. Paul was a significant leader of the early church. His dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ led him to teach, encourage, and offer advice to early Christians. As a part of his ministry, he planted dozens of churches and also wrote several books of the Bible.

Mentorship Leaves a Legacy

We get to see some of Paul’s mentees contribute to Scripture as well. Timothy traveled with the apostle Paul for a few years. Paul poured into Timothy, and Timothy grew spiritually to the point where he later co-wrote six letters of the New Testament with Paul.

Paul’s mentorship left a lasting legacy that fuels our faith today. The same can be true for you. When you choose to invest in someone, you aren’t just changing their life—you’re changing the lives of everyone they meet.

Even the Best Mentor Faces Challenges

One of the most famous mentoring relationships in the Bible is between Jesus and the twelve disciples. Jesus spent three years with these young men. He was involved in their daily lives and gave them great examples of how to seek God. He was the perfect mentor—but He still faced mentoring challenges.

The Disciples Didn’t Always Understand

Jesus was perfect, but His mentees had some issues. Jesus would speak, and they wouldn’t understand. He would share wisdom, and they would get offended. And He’d ask them to pray, but they’d fall asleep. These things probably frustrated Jesus from time to time, but He didn’t give up on them. Instead, He continued to invest in these key relationships, even when it wasn’t easy.

Jesus’ Mentees Gave Up on Him

At the end of Jesus’ ministry, almost all of His disciples abandoned Him. You might say that they gave up on their mentoring relationship. Why? Well, one likely reason is that they probably felt like failures. Jesus led them to live a certain way, and they fell short. But Jesus, the greatest mentor of all time, still believed in them. Jesus invited them back, and their faithfulness led to the beginning of the Church.

Mentoring Relationships Can Be Messy

As we’ve seen, spiritual mentoring isn’t always easy. That’s because it’s a relationship between two people living in a broken world. Despite our best efforts, we’ll get things wrong, make unhealthy choices, and say things we wish we could take back. That’s why mentoring requires sacrifice, patience, and a willingness to show grace.

Mentoring also requires a consistent pursuit of Jesus through Bible study, prayer, and other spiritual practices. As we continue to grow closer to God ourselves, the Holy Spirit will give us wisdom to help our mentees grow to be more like Jesus too.

Setting Boundaries in Your Mentoring Relationship

By now, you might be wondering, I know mentoring requires some level of vulnerability, but how much is too much? And mentoring also requires showing grace, but how much grace is healthy in the context of mentoring relationships? Great questions. I’m so glad you asked.

Setting boundaries in mentoring relationships is essential. Boundaries help us keep our relationships healthy, fruitful, and appropriate for everyone involved. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating boundaries, but here’s a helpful article if you’d like to learn more.

How to Build a Great Mentoring Relationship

Every Christian mentoring relationship looks different—but they do have a few things in common. Here are some ways for you to get started.

How to Find a Mentor or Mentee

If you’d like to find a spiritual mentor, or you hope to develop others through mentoring, then your local church is a great place to start. You could check with the pastors and staff to see if they have some sort of mentoring program. Or you might already have a person in mind. If so, invite them to lunch or coffee.

Find a Small Group

Another great way to find a group of mentees is by leading a LifeGroup. LifeGroups are small groups of people who meet regularly in person or online. In a LifeGroup, you’ll get to lead, teach, share wisdom, and grow in your own relationship with God.

Setting Expectations

One of the best ways to set up your mentoring relationship for success is to lay out clear expectations. Expectations help create clarity so you focus on the right things. They can also protect everyone from hurt feelings. Here are a few questions that can pave the way:

Knowing When It’s Time to Move On

I had a mentee I met with regularly for two years. During that time, he grew in his faith and self-awareness. Eventually, he decided to find a new mentor who could help him develop in different ways. 

When he first told me, I felt a bit guilty. Had I failed in some way? Was I a bad mentor? No, there was nothing wrong with our mentoring relationship; it had simply reached its conclusion.

Some people have lifelong mentoring relationships. Others only journey together for a brief season. One way isn’t better than the other. Sometimes it’s good, healthy, and wise to move on from a mentoring relationship.

Maybe your mentee wanted help with a specific spiritual practice, and a few months later you’ve helped them develop healthy habits. Or maybe you recognize that your mentee needs more than you can offer, so you allow them the opportunity to find a new mentor with a different perspective. That’s not a failure on your part.

You Can Make a Difference

Christian mentoring made all the difference in my life. Geoff helped me get to know God better and encouraged me to follow Jesus every day.

So now, I want to encourage you to find a mentoring relationship. Maybe you’re new in your faith, and you want to find someone to help you grow in faith. Or you might be ready to start investing in someone else’s life. If so, don’t wait. Find someone you can develop. Maybe it’s someone you already know, or you might need to do some searching.

Remember—starting a LifeGroup is a great way to start mentoring others.