Jesus shared His knowledge and values in a number of ways. Sometimes it was through teaching like we witness in the Sermon on the Mount. But quite often, it was through relationships. People discovered Jesus’ priorities and principles through His actions and reactions.
For example, during the last supper, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. He then tells them that they should follow this example. It’s one thing to tell them to serve one another, but it’s even more impactful when they can see what service actually looks like.
That’s the power of mentoring. It allows you to teach and demonstrate. Through the mentoring relationship people get to experience the kingdom at work in the lives of others who have been walking with the Lord for some time. And through the power of example, they develop a unique understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.
Here are five tips for being a productive mentor.
1. Recognize that you’re a role model
When it comes to mentoring others, it’s easy to focus on offering advice or information. But the most important aspect of mentoring is about setting an example. What does it look like to put one’s faith in Jesus? How do you navigate difficult situations and conversations? These are the kinds of issues you can help others navigate just by inviting them into your life and becoming an example to them.
2. Share your experiences-especially the tragic ones
Your mentee is going to make mistakes and misjudgments. They need to know that there is grace in those moments and they can come back from those missteps. One of the best ways to encourage them is to be honest about your errors, slips, and blunders.
There’s a temptation for a lot of mentors to set themselves up as shining examples of perfect discipleship. Sometimes that’s pride and sometimes it’s because of a fear that being honest about our trials might encourage or condone bad behavior. But the goal isn’t to put the emphasis on our failure. It’s to focus on God’s mercy and restoration.
3. Invite mentees into your life
The disciples were part of a rather intense mentorship program. They left everything and spent three years with Jesus. And while the Gospels are full of the Lord’s teaching, many of their life-changing experiences came from watching Jesus respond to situations and random encounters.
While there is value in going through a regimented curriculum, it’s no substitute for allowing people to see you navigate daily life. For example, how does your faith influence how you interact with retail workers? Your family? How do you share the gospel with people around you? What do you do when you’re frustrated or confused? These are the kinds of things you can only impart when people see you in your daily life.
So invite your mentee out to run errands with you. Encourage them to come to your home for a meal or game night. There is no substitute for allowing them to witness your faith in action.
4. Be flexible in your mentoring process
Sometimes mentors have a great first experience and then find their next mentoring relationship very difficult. That’s often because they try the exact same method that seemed to work the first time. But each person is in a different place in their faith and has unique strengths and challenges. If you don’t take that into account, you’re going to struggle.
This means that there are some questions you need to answer in every mentoring relationship:
- Where is this person in their faith?
- What expectations do they have about being mentored?
- What are this person’s gifts and strengths? What are their challenges?
- How will you know when this relationship is bearing fruit?
- What’s the best use of our one-on-one time?
The better you’re able to craft a mentoring relationship that’s suited to your specific mentee, the more successful it will be.
5. Encourage them to mentor others
There are very few things more powerful and transformative than having someone take a genuine interest in your growth and wellbeing. Everyone deserves to have people in their life who played a role in equipping and encouraging them. But in order for more people to have this experience, there needs to be mentors willing to invest their time and attention into the people around them.
On top of that, mentoring others can be a critical part of the discipleship process. Helping others draw closer to Jesus helps us continue to grow, too. So it’s helpful to have the ultimate goal of turning mentees into mentors.