When you hear the word “mentor” what comes to mind? Maybe it brings to mind a school teacher who stayed after school with you to help you learn your math. Maybe it is a coach who spent countless hours with you perfecting your curve ball in high school. Maybe, like me, you think of a man or woman from you church who you simply liked spending time with and watching how they did life. I think too often we look at a mentoring relationship as some big glorified thing that we wish we had with someone but don’t really know how it works . . . so we never end up doing it. I had a professor in Bible College one time say that “everyone needs a Timothy, Barnabas, and Paul in their life.” A Timothy is someone who you are usually older than (for sure more spiritually mature) that you are purposefully investing in. A Barnabas is someone who is more along the same spiritual maturity level who you walk with, try to encourage, and hold each other accountable (Proverbs 27:17). A spiritual Paul is someone who is older and wiser than you who is, in essence, mentoring you. Paul writes about this very type of relationship in his letter to Titus. He writes in the second chapter that older men are to teach younger men . . . and older women are to teach younger women . . . “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach . . .”
There is so much value in having and being a mentor. There is no exact science to it. It is not laid out in scripture like the 10 commandments, but the foundation is there for us to build upon. If you are already mentoring someone, praise the Lord; maybe this will encourage you to keep on. If you are not mentoring or being mentored by someone, maybe this will encourage you to consider the great value in it. Here are four areas to consider as you mentor someone or are being mentored.
Meeting with them:
This may seem obvious, but if you do not plan to meet, you will not. We are all very busy in life and planning a set time allows for putting it down on a calendar. Set a time to meet (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) and make every effort to be there. This can be in a formal setting where you meet at church or a more informal time where you meet at a coffee shop, or your own home. The point is this . . . that you are face-to-face. There is no real substitute for the physical face-to-face meeting. Plan a time. Get together.
Read with them:
Before you meet for the first time you should discuss what you would like to study together. If you mentor someone for more than a year I suggest mixing it up between a book (or theme) of scripture and a good practical book on theology. It is God’s word (through the power of the Holy Spirit, mind you) that changes people. Choose a verse to memorize together over a week or month. Read and discuss a chapter of scripture each week (or when you gather). Keep this part short (10-20 min). You can also get a great book that is applicable to where they are. Read a chapter, hit the highlights, and discuss how it can be applied. The point is that you are mining the depth of God together, and you are helping them to understand how it works in their daily life.
Pray with them:
D. L. Moody was making a visit to Scotland in the 1800’s and he opened one of his talks at a local grade school with the rhetorical question, “What is prayer?” Hundreds of children raised their hands. He decided to call on one of the young men to answer. The young boy said, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” This was the answer to question #98 in the Westminster Catechism. Moody responded by saying, “Be thankful, son, that you were born in Scotland.” Prayer is something that is so simple, yet so profound and powerful. Every time you meet, you should start and end in prayer. Jesus prayed for and with his disciples. Paul prayed with the groups of people that he mentored and taught. Pray through scripture. Pray for each other. Make it a priority. Make it genuine.
Enjoy life with them:
One of the best, and informal, parts of being a mentor is simply doing life together. By this I mean just hanging out and/or having fun. Going fishing together or going on a hike together can bring wonderful bonding time. There is so much to be taught and learned simply by living life together. Some of the most important lessons I have learned have come from this type of informal setting. When a person is a Christian, it should come out in every area of their life. I am sure that John and the other disciples learned much from Jesus that was never written down (John 21:25). Part of being a mentor is simply spending time, asking questions, and investing in someone’s daily life. The formal is needed (Bible study and prayer), but do not neglect the informal. This is where real life application of scripture is shown and not just the passing of knowledge.
Mentor-ship comes in a variety of different ways. Young children need mentors. Teens need mentors. Your 20-somethings need mentors. New Christians need mentors. Newly married couples need mentoring couples. So, here is the question: where are you on this list? Are you in need of a mentor? If so, then pray about finding an older man or woman in your church to walk with you. Are you retired and looking for a place to invest in the kingdom? Find a younger man or woman . . . or even young married couple and invest in their lives. Find your spiritual Timothy, Barnabas, and Paul and get to work for the glory and honor of God.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell