It’s not hard to see the biblical discipleship model of mentoring that is so prevalent in Scripture. Jesus is the master mentor as He provides “along-the-way discipleship” to his disciples. We find the great apostle Paul modeling discipleship through mentoring with Timothy. Also consider Moses and Aaron, Eli and Samuel, Naomi and Ruth, and Elijah and Elisha, just to name some. We read words like “come follow me and be my disciple” (Matt. 9:9) and “you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). We can say the same if we decide to disciple others through mentoring relationships: “come walk with me as I walk with Christ.”
The following six steps will help you as you prepare your heart and life to doing biblical discipleship through mentoring relationships. I’ve learned these from my mentor, Chuck Lawless, and they can be found in his book Mentoring: How Along-the-Way Discipleship will Change your Life.
- Look for intentional relationships. Lawless says to look for a respected, growing, praying, positive Christian of the same gender who shares common interests and can be both challenging and encouraging. He suggests beginning your search for a mentor at your local church.
- Be clear with expectations. A common problem in mentoring relationships is unmet expectations. Decide whether the relationship will be formal or informal, when you will meet and how often, what the goals of the relationship will be, and how often you will evaluate the relationship. Lawless says that, “talking about expectations at the start can protect the relationship from hurt feelings and awkwardness later.”
- Grow in Christ together. Both mentors and mentees must be open to honesty in their walks, forgiveness in their weaknesses, and growth in their relationships with Christ. Lawless says, “the mentor needs to recognize places where the other person needs to grow. Sometimes this recognition comes through formal meetings and direct questioning, but more often it’s discovered in the course of doing life together.”
- Prepare for spiritual battle. The Enemy is threatened by strong, healthy disciples. Mentors are crucial, because undiscipled believers are an easy target. Mentors can help guard and protect their mentees while they train them to stand against the Enemy. Lawless explains, “God outfits us for the spiritual battle we’re engaged in, but knowing how to use that gear requires training. God’s plan is for more mature believers to teach younger believers how to use the equipment and protection He provides.”
- Recognize potential potholes. First, mentors aren’t simply tutors who give answers and teach information. Rather, mentors are to have life-centered teaching that helps mentees figure out life’s answers.
Second, mentors must not refuse to be confrontational, but be willing to confront a mentee when necessary.
Third, mentors and mentees need to be aware of developing jealousy. Lawless points out, “We mentors sometimes struggle with our own egos when mentees surpass us in some area”, and “mentees can also become jealous of one another.”
Fourth, mentors must not forget the goal of multiplication. He warns against choosing not to multiply and reminds the reader that “the final stage of effective mentoring results in a new mentor/mentee relationship.”
- Expect great rewards. While mentoring requires time and great effort, Lawless encourages readers that mentoring brings the possibilities of expanding your influence, appreciating and offering grace, receiving blessings and prayers, and finding authentic, rich relationships.
In the end, God is glorified through along-the-way discipleship that transforms lives toward Christ-likeness.