Mentorship continues to be a topic I get asked questions about regularly. How do I find a mentor? How can I be a mentor to someone? Am I even qualified to mentor? Where do I start?
Over the next few months, we hope to dive into some of these questions and more to help you feel confident that, yes, you have what it takes to be a mentor to someone, and above that, you are called to do it for a purpose.
But what exactly is mentorship? Is it the same thing as discipleship? What is the purpose of mentorship?
What is a “Mentor”?
The term “mentor” originated thousands of years ago in ancient Greece, during Old Testament times, with Homer’s Odyssey. The character Mentor provided wisdom, guidance, and advice to Odysseus’s son Telemachus.
We see biblical examples of mentorship even before that through men like Jethro with Moses, Moses with Joshua and Caleb, and Elijah with Elisha. In the New Testament, we see Paul with Timothy and Titus. And we have the most outstanding example of mentorship in Jesus Christ. He only had three years of ministry on this earth, yet He poured himself into twelve men who could carry on the work He began. He lived, worked, and traveled with them, teaching them along the way.
“Men were to be his method of winning the world to God.”
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
Through these examples, we see both the passion and the purpose of mentorship.
Why Mentorship Matters
Many younger guys would love wisdom, discernment, and connection. Many older guys who have life skills and time and want to reach younger men are an untapped resource, an undeployed army of men who could be investing in them if we can make these connections.
The more significant reason we care about mentorship is not just to help guys advance in their careers or become better at working on cars. Why is mentorship such a big deal?
“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4
Mentorship is a portal into others’ lives. If men were Jesus’ method, then they must be ours too. Not all mentorship is discipleship, but all discipleship is mentorship in what truly matters. When we open the doorway of our lives to them, it gives us an entry point to share the Gospel and model how to live according to God’s Word.
Do I Have to Be a Guru?
The idea of mentoring can be intimidating because we feel like we’ve got to be the guru, the authority on a variety of topics. We think we have to have all the answers and be a continuous fountain of wisdom. Or maybe we recognize our own failures and feel disqualified from helping others. Guys, that’s just not what it means to be a mentor.
Simply put, a mentor is someone who has a passion for something and a desire to help someone grow in that area.
He is someone who is at least one step ahead of you in some area of life. Ideally, we would all have multiple mentors throughout life who excel in different areas. The same man who might be an inspiration in your career might not be when it comes to your family life, and the same man who walks with you through your teenage years probably won’t be the same one who walks with you through raising your own teenagers.
Guys, you have wisdom and life experience to offer. Don’t let the feeling of not being an expert in all areas of life hold you back from sharing what you are passionate about and what you have to offer to someone a few steps behind you in life.
When it comes to past failures, being honest about your scars and the truth you learned through them is one of the most powerful tools you have in influencing the next generation. Younger men want to see an authentic pursuit of Christ, not a veneer of perfection in your life. You can share wisdom with them that can help them avoid pitfalls you may have faced.
Should it be Formal or Informal?
The short answer is yes; mentorship should be formal and informal.
If there is intentionality behind it, mentorship relationships can develop formally or informally. Perhaps you’ve been part of a mentoring relationship that was so informal that you didn’t quite recognize it as a mentorship relationship until well into it. These relationships often form because of similar interests or backgrounds.
In order to create opportunities for these relationships to form, I encourage guys to start with a strategic plan. If you begin with something formal like a book or a study, it gives purpose and framework to your time. It creates an environment that allows intergenerational relationships to form. It also provides a stopping point to your time, allowing both parties to determine how and when they move forward.
Starting with a formal plan will lead to intergenerational friendships that bring value to both parties. A mentorship relationship will really take off when it goes two ways.
“Both sides have to add value to each other or it never works out… We both give, and we both receive.”
An Uncommon Guide to Retirement by Jeff Haanen
I’ve shared before how I was drawn into a mentorship relationship with a former pastor of mine, Carey Bates, who invited me to go through MasterLife by Avery Willis. I often will invite guys to go through Point Man by Steve Farrar. Tools like these give us a track to get started on and create opportunity for those who want to form deeper bonds.
Take the pressure off yourself to be perfect, have a perfect plan, and know all the answers. Mentorship is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal to get started. Ask yourself, what do I have to offer? Is it knowledge in a specific area? Is it a life experience? Is it spare time? Maybe it’s just a willing heart. God has given each of us talents. Don’t discount what you’ve got in your tool bag. Check out some of these resources we’ve mentioned and determine one thing you can do today to open the door to mentoring. It can start with Just One Conversation.
Mentoring in the Church video by Mike Young
Just One Conversation by Chuck Lawless
The Noble Man Invests in Faithful Men – Noble Man Podcast Episode 30 with Carey Bates
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Dr. Robert Coleman
Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family by Steve Farrar
MasterLife: A Biblical Process for Growing Disciples by Avery Willis
An Uncommon Guide to Retirement by Jeff Haanen
Letters to an Apprentice by J. Taliaferro
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