10 Questions and Answers about Becoming a Mentor
- Annie Yorty Crosswalk Contributing Writer
- 2023 14 Apr
Sweat dripped off me as I stood before 150 antsy kids talking about God's work in faraway Russia. While a metal pole building sheltered us from the brutal sun that day at Good News Camp, it also cooked us like a turkey in an oven. All the children rushed out for lunch the minute they were dismissed. All, that is, except one. That one preteen girl approached me, eager to learn more about being a missionary. I didn't know it then, but God used that moment to entwine our hearts in a mentoring relationship that will last a lifetime and carry into eternity.
Mentoring wasn't on my radar back then. I was, and still am, just an ordinary person doing my best to follow hard after God's heart. I hadn't achieved any kind of super-Christian status that I perceived was necessary to mentor others. Of course, I hoped to set a good example. Shouldn't we all aspire to be a good example to everyone in the way we live for God's glory? The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy, "Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity" (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT). Timothy, though quite young, could demonstrate godly living to the brethren in his community. Anyone, at any age, can be a good example.
But as we grow older and more mature in our faith, God expects us to go beyond being a good example. Though the Bible doesn't use the word "mentor," in Titus 2, Paul gives the blueprint for mentoring relationships. Titus was the leader Paul stationed in Crete to "promote living that reflects wholesome teaching" (Titus 2:1 NLT).
Specifically, Paul directed Titus to instruct older, and presumably more spiritually mature, men and women to "teach" younger men and women the practicalities of right living. Teaching goes beyond simply being an example by intentionally guiding. This is the essence of mentoring: an older, more experienced person intentionally comes alongside a younger person to show and advise how to live the Christian life. Paul's letter to Titus with these instructions was not just for those people at that time. No, his words provide valuable directions for our lives today. Perhaps you've attained the age where you've earned a few gray hairs, and you've been growing more mature in your walk with Christ. You don't know it all, and you're not perfect, but you have reached a season of life where your faith has been tested and strengthened by several trials. If so, God expects you to begin to mentor someone younger and less experienced in faith.
Most of us feel like we still have so much to learn about God and living well for Him, so we believe we don't yet have the wisdom to offer the next generation in God's family. And, with the immediate availability of Google's "wisdom," the younger generation doesn't always appear receptive to mentoring. But God's Word stands eternal (Isaiah 26:4), so His command to mentor remains relevant despite today's technology and norms.
How Do I Get Started?
Have I convinced you of your responsibility to mentor? If so, you may be wondering how it all works. Below are the most frequently asked questions I've received about how to become a mentor. I've drawn on Paul's instructions to Titus and my own experiences to offer answers that can help you feel more confident in your ability to mentor a younger person.
Frequently Asked Questions about Mentoring
Q: How do you know who needs a mentor?
A: Pray that God would connect you with a person who needs a mentor and would be a good match for your personality and experiences.
We all need mentors, so opportunities abound. God dropped mentoring into my lap, so I sort of skipped this important step. I suppose He knew I needed a bit of a kick in the pants to get started. Though I didn't think ahead enough to ask God for my first mentoring relationship, I have since learned to pray for young women I mentor regularly, and those God is preparing for future connections.
Q: How do I initiate mentoring?
A: Find a mentoring program to join or simply offer friendship.
Some churches or Christian organizations offer programs in which you can volunteer to become a mentor. In this scenario, the organization will match you with an individual who has requested mentoring. Partnering in this way lets you easily jump in. Often the organization provides helpful training and structure for the relationship. Sometimes, however, it will take trial and error to find a good match. This hurdle can usually be overcome through prayer and patience.
Don't worry, though, if you don't have access to a mentoring program. With the understanding of mentoring as intentional friendship, evaluate the needs of younger people you know. It's prudent to mentor someone who is the same gender as you. Is there anyone who seems hungry for spiritual growth? Do you sense a natural connection, even if not yet deep, that could be nurtured? You may ask if they want a mentor, but that's not necessary to move forward.
Once you have prayerfully identified an individual, get started by extending a hand of friendship. Suggest meeting for coffee or lunch. Invite them to your home for dinner and board games. Maybe you could attend a church activity together. You don't need to make a big pronouncement of the beginning of a formal mentoring relationship. With my young friends, I never asked upfront if they wanted a mentor. I simply invited them and allowed the relationships to develop organically. Some grew into ongoing mentoring relationships, and others took a different direction.
Q: What is the time commitment for mentoring?
A: You can set a reasonable schedule for meeting that fits your life's pace.
There isn't a formula for just the right number of meetings, but you should meet frequently enough to get to know each other better. Especially at the beginning of a relationship, long spaces between meetings delay the formation of deeper friendship. I recommend initially meeting at least once a month or more often if possible. After you know one another better, you may be able to go longer periods without face-to-face time if necessary.
Q: What are good ways to keep in touch between meetings?
A: Supplement in-person meetings with texts and phone calls.
Out of sight should not be out of mind with your mentoring relationships. Encourage your friend every week with notes. Notes can range from Bible verses and prayers to pictures and laugh-out-loud memes. If you know there's a special event coming up, let your friend know you're praying before and follow up after. Share what's going on in your life too.
Q: How can I encourage my mentee?
A: Celebrate special occasions.
Use holidays, birthdays, weddings, and graduations to celebrate your friend. Cards and small gifts show you care about the milestones in their lives. Don't forget to recognize spiritual growth as well.
Q: What if I don't have all the answers?
A: Be transparent about your own struggles and triumphs.
Often mentors assume they need to have it all together—or at least appear to. But the beauty of a mentoring relationship is sharing, to the extent it's appropriate based on your mentee's age, the daily ups and downs. As you honestly discuss your challenges with circumstances and sin, your friend may be able to apply what she's learned from your experiences to her own life.
Q: What are good activities for meetings?
A: Choose activities that provide opportunities for private and confidential discussion of deeper issues.
The answer to this question allows for an extensive range of activities. Here are a few ideas to get started:
-Share a meal
-Go out for coffee
-Take a walk
-Study a Bible passage
-Make a craft
-Work on a car
-Enjoy a picnic lunch
-Watch a show and discuss it
-Tour a historic site
-Teach a hobby
-Do a service project
-Play a game
Q: What do you talk about at meetings?
A: You may discuss any topic, but deeper conversations lead to greater growth.
According to Paul, mentoring should produce growth in godly living through teaching and training. "Older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands" (Titus 2:4-5 NLT). Younger men should learn from older men about self-control, earning respect, wise living, strong faith, and demonstrating love and patience (Titus 2:2). All should be encouraged to demonstrate integrity in every aspect of life.
The following will give you some ideas for discussion that can lead to character qualities Paul hoped would be developed:
-Family and friend relationships
-School or work (paid or unpaid)
-Taking responsibilities in the home
-Parenting (if relevant)
-Dating (if relevant)
-Entertainment and media choices
-Commitments, goals, and dreams
-Spiritual disciplines—Bible reading and study, prayer, church attendance, service, sharing the gospel
-Relationship with God—new things learned, areas of spiritual growth or stagnation
-Struggles with sin—find Scripture to apply, pray together, be accountable to one another
Q: How do you keep track of details, so you remember how to pray for your friend?
A: Keep a journal with notes and prayers.
If you worry you may forget specifically how to pray for your friend, I suggest writing notes in a journal after—not during—each meeting. You can include special dates or events that might be coming up in the future, likes and dislikes, accountability concerns, and other important information. These notes help you remember to follow up on issues by text or at future meetings. If you also write prayers for your friend in the journal, you can record and remember how God answered.
Q: How do you overcome doubts about the mentoring relationship?
A: Trust God rather than your own abilities for growth and change.
My mentoring relationships should never become "Annie's Advice Podcast on Better Living." Guidance derived from my own wisdom is entirely insufficient. We need to wrap our mentoring relationship in constant prayer to tap into God's wisdom, which He gives liberally to all who ask (James 1:5).
In Titus, Paul indicates that mentors must sometimes correct false thinking or wrong behavior. "You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don't let anyone disregard what you say" (Titus 2:15b). When you suspect you may need to confront an issue, ask God for humility to examine yourself first and the courage to graciously speak the truth in love as He leads.
That young girl at camp so many summers ago came back to serve there each year, and we began to meet regularly and pray about her dream to serve God in Russia. Eventually, she traveled to Siberia with me to share the gospel. She has grown into a godly young woman who continues to seek God.
John wrote, "I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth" (3 John 1:4 NLT). He was not referring to his biological children. Instead, he was commending those younger in the faith whom he had encouraged to grow. In other words, people he mentored.
Like John, I have grown to love the young women I mentor as my own children. I smile in joy-filled satisfaction when I see them trusting God and following His ways. Will you embrace the blessing of spiritual kids by choosing to mentor them?
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/evgenyatamanenko
Annie Yorty writes and speaks to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. She has written From Ignorance to Bliss: God’s Heart Revealed through Down Syndrome. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.