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How to be a True Mentor in Christ

Older man mentoring a younger an.
I’ve been discouraged. I’ve been baffled. I’ve been attacked. I’ve been wrong. But I’ve never been sorry to be a mentor. This is Jesus’ work!

In ancient Greek literature, Odysseus was away from home fighting and journeying for 20 years. He left when his son, Telemachus, was a babe in arms. Odysseus asked Mentor, an old and trusted friend, to be a positive influence for his son.

We “old and trusted” individuals have the opportunity to be a “positive influence” in the lives of others. This is much more up-close and personal than mentoring through Bible studies or sermons. (And maybe more effective?)

C. S. Lewis said, “True friendship begins when one person says to another, ‘You, too?’”

True mentoring begins when my mentee says to me, “You, too?”

The Prerequisites of Mentoring

Do we dare be there in that way with our mentee? Do we dare imitate Paul when he invited the new-born Corinthians, “Imitate me?” There are certain prerequisites

First, we must own who we are. Paul clearly remembered getting bowled over by forgiving grace. He also remembered trying to destroy the church.

  1. Like Paul, we have guilt. We live with regret. Temptation is constant. Our batting average varies, but we have been forgiven.
  2. Our sharing must be appropriate. We’re not privy to where Paul’s tendency to coveting led him. We must be an example of what growing in Christ is like. Coming across as a bewildered fellow loser is not helpful.
  3. We must have mutual respect. Paul couldn’t wait to bring his spiritual gift to the Romans so they could encourage each other. What are our presuppositions in agreeing to walk with someone: ahead, behind, above, or side-by-side?
  4. One more – we must have compassion. Paul had “unceasing anguish” for his mentees. What we call “caring,” the Gospels call “compassion.” Caring can be skin-deep. Compassion grabs the inner regions. Whenever we read compassion in the Gospels it involves a connected action.
  5. It goes without saying, but it must be said: giving direction and effectiveness to everything involved in being mentors is the Bible. The Bible is true. Anything and everything contrary to the Bible is false.

When I think of my privilege and of my responsibility of being a mentor, I have come to think of our time together for the person to be in “a safe place.”


  1. If Jesus said He’d be praying for Peter as Satan sifted him, how much more should we prepare by praying for our mentee partner.

2. Pray for “one another” as you are together, mentioning specific items that have come up.

3. Make a list of items to be prayed about before the next meeting and pray over those for “one another.” Don’t forget to check back with “one another” on items prayed about.

4. Pray about anything and everything. Don’t make God either too big or too small. Praying is where the action is.


  1. Probably the best gift we can give is to listen to “one another.”
  2. Proverbs 18 makes two sharp observations. Verse 2: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” Verse 13: “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.”
  3. Always listen carefully to the meaning beneath the words, as well as the actual words. As you know your mentee, what is she or he really saying?
  4. Most of the time we ourselves have our answers somewhere inside of us. We need a helpful sounding board to be able to get where we must go.
  5. Don’t be super quick with solutions. Try not to form answers while the other person is speaking.
  6. Listen to body language. Gestures, reddening eyes, tight lips, inappropriate laughter, uncomfortable shifting—there are many ways we speak besides vocally.
  7. Silence is threatening to most people. Yet we can learn to be comfortable with it.
  8. A safe PLACE partner always listens in the strictest confidence. Check with one another to make sure you both have a clear understanding on what may be mentioned elsewhere when appropriate.


  1. The early Christians had to learn: Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” (Romans 15:7) Christ accepts each of us “just as I am.” We are partners; not judges, juries, prosecutors.

2. We can be accepting even though we don’t agree. “I can see how you feel that way. It’s not my way. Perhaps….”

3. Relationships are made, not born. It will take time to learn to trust one another. We all long for a little of the human touch. Mentees can smell acceptance or rejection.

4. Remember what the purpose of the relationship is: a person who flourishes. It is more than the dictionary’s “explanatory statement of conduct.” We all experience various degrees of rejection. We need a safe PLACE. It’s OK to be yourself here.


1. Paul urged Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God that is in you.” (II, 1:6) When Peter was drifting, Paul “opposed him to his face.” (Galatians 2:11) Peter felt “it is right to refresh your memory.” (II, 1:12)

2. We all can be sincere, but at times sincerely wrong. We all can be selectively blind and deaf. A true relationship includes saying things that at times our partner doesn’t hear or doesn’t want to hear. When you have prayed about listening and acceptance, challenge is healthy.

3. If either partner feels anger at the time of challenge, the matter at hand should be laid aside and the cause for the feeling of anger explored before the conversation continues. Anger can come from feelings of rejection or threat or fear on either side.

4. Challenge is acceptable when the person being challenged is feeling her/his partner has her/his best interests in mind. (Caring or compassion?)

5. The relationship will only benefit if feelings are openly and promptly discussed. We can only bury feelings alive.


1. Jesus told Peter, “After you get through it, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32) Paul wrote to one of his churches and said, “Everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.” (II Corinthians 12:19)

2. “En-courage” means to “put heart into” someone. This can be done through words, gestures, presence, compliments, gifts and cards, a look—many different ways. Is everyone in this world lonely?

3. Who has more genuine encouragement to give than the followers of Jesus Christ? Search out the promises and insights of the Bible and gift one another with them. Many times I have written down an appropriate verse and have given it to someone. It’s always appreciated and many times mentioned at a later date.

4. Carefully working to understand what was talked about and carefully remembering it and carefully following up on it is a source of tremendous encouragement, because a person begins to feel as though you have compassion for him or her.

I’ve been discouraged. I’ve been baffled. I’ve been attacked. I’ve been wrong. But I’ve never been sorry to be a mentor. This is Jesus’ work!

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