16: Christian Mentoring
IN THIS CHAPTER
Mentors need mentees, and mentees need mentors. This two-way process of spurring one another on in Christian faith, specifically in the context of Christian and professional living, is Christian mentoring. This chapter gives ideas for starting, developing, and sustaining a mentoring relationship and for making transitions.
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DRAW NEAR, SPEND TIME
Luke 24:15-32 pictures a Christ-like mentorship from Christ Himself as He drew near to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, walked with them, asked questions, ate with them, and explained the fulfillment of Scripture. “While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them… And He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself… They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?’”
Similarly, mentors can draw near, walk with others, ask good questions, and help consider modern events in light of the Scriptures.
We all need someone to come alongside us, spend time with us, explain Scripture, and help us apply it to our lives. Christian mentoring grows us spiritually, relationally, and professionally. God has so arranged us within the body of the church that we are able to exercise our gifts and abilities for the good of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:14-26). We learn by spending time with experienced individuals, imitating and practicing what they do. We mature by hearing of God’s faithfulness throughout history and by applying the Scriptures to our lives.
We then act on what we learn, circling back around to receive feedback. We define Christian mentorship as the trusting relationship between a mentor and a mentee within the context of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s focus on spiritual maturity. Christian mentoring aims for spiritual maturity by integrating the truth of Scripture with professional and daily life.
Whether you still wear the uniform, or have taken it off, the Christian leader bears a responsibility to mentor and walk alongside someone else.
We should all engage in both discipling (growing believers and equipping workers) and in mentoring. OCF uses the term “Christian Mentoring” as a way to describe a blend of Christian discipleship and professional mentoring; how much of each will depend on the mentee’s need and the mentor’s experience and wisdom in each (see figure below). You might be surprised at how things that you think are routine are a great encouragement to someone who is at a different phase of life. Paul wasn’t bashful when he said, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
Others are blessed when you give your time to listen and encourage them in Christian growth, and you are blessed when someone does the same for you. Pray for the right person to mentor you and pray also for a person whom you can mentor. The hardest part of establishing a mentor-mentee relationship may simply be in taking the initiative to ask someone else to meet with you regularly.
Christian mentoring relationships will mature both the mentor and mentee—spiritually, professionally, relationally, and mentally. Godly relationships enable Christians to stay in the spiritual fight, to persevere in the face of challenges and suffering, and able to do good works within our community. The Apostle Peter exhorts us to, “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
Meeting with another person who will remind us of God’s good work in our lives should then stir us toward obedient action that demonstrates love for God and love for our neighbor.
BEGINNING THE RELATIONSHIP
Perseverance is required after you initiate and develop a mentoring relationship, and this is true for both the mentor and mentee. Establishing a rhythm that meshes two busy lives together is often hard. So keep calling, texting, or emailing until you have enough success in meeting that the relationship is less likely to fail. Tom Hemingway, former director of Spring Canyon, recommended we pray for our mentee daily, call or communicate with them weekly, and try to see them face-to-face at least monthly.
You sought out the person you want to meet with because you saw something in their experience, time of life, or spiritual maturity that drew you to speak to them about mentoring, so even if an appointment is forgotten, or if someone arrives late, show grace and patience. As far as it is in your power, work toward a deepening relationship.
DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN TRUST
Christian mentoring encompasses an interpersonal relationship that leads toward spiritual growth for both parties. This growth happens in an environment of increasing knowledge and trust of the other person. Chat about life. Learn the names of those who are important to the other person. Listen to their story of coming to faith in Christ Jesus and rejoice with them in God’s calling. Get to know them. Ask questions. Listen. Take notes. Avoid distractions. Keep the Scriptures front and center. The goal is to develop as obedient Christians.
That means allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you through the Scriptures to think like a Christian and then learning to act like a Christian. Pray regularly even as you are listening to your mentor or mentee—pray especially for wisdom to answer with spiritual wisdom and not your own. Begin and end mentoring moments in a time of prayer.
Mentors, ask the Holy Spirit to give insight into areas of life where the mentee is struggling, and honor the mentee’s time by being on time and ending on time.
With few exceptions, mentoring relationships among Christians will be men with men and women with women, guarding us from accusation or intimacy problems. Godly Christian mentoring begins with a personal pursuit of holiness before God, understanding the male and female roles God has given us (e.g., Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Timothy 3:2-13; 5:1-16; Titus 2:1-8), and steering clear of temptations that might arise in the setting of a long-term mentor-mentee relationship.
If you are married, and meeting with a couple is an option, consider the possibility of you and your spouse entering a mentoring relationship with both husband and wife. This has the advantage of developing a stronger marriage in the context of military life and ministry.
When should a mentoring relationship end? Have this conversation when you start the mentoring relationship and again in future months and years. It is possible that a PCS or TDY/TAD will put an end to regular engagement, but you could also decide to use long-distance technology to keep meeting. If it is healthy to do so, stay in touch and follow up occasionally to see how the other person is doing.
When praying for the other person, send them a text to tell them you are thinking of them. Simple touch points can maintain some level of connectivity with one another, especially when you are aware that the other person is wrestling with enduring sin challenges. If you prove yourself to be trustworthy and able to hold confidence, it should not surprise you that new people will seek you out as a mentor because of your reputation.
Finally, mentors must guard their hearts against pride and self-assurance. Since mentors do not have answers for every situation, sometimes the best thing in a mentoring relationship is the opportunity to work through a tough question together. As the mentor, admit that you do not have an immediate answer, assure the other person that you will help find one, and then do the research simultaneously.
Vulnerability regarding how you live life will deepen a solid mentoring relationship, so be willing to share successes and failures, joys and disappointments. Ask good questions to draw out the other person, but also be willing to give thoughtful answers when you are asked a question.
Men and women who enter the military often have a high need for affirmation and for action. Many of them are not aware of the craving they have to be recognized as competent or to have a good public reputation.
Within the military we are prone to develop leaders whose internal identity becomes rooted in their uniformed successes. This is one of the reasons military leaders do well to have Christian military mentors, and for OCFers who have already served to eagerly look for younger men and women to mentor. Experienced mentors should be able to help their mentees maintain spiritual integrity within the context of the profession.
GUIDED BY SCRIPTURE
Both mentor and mentee will do well to examine the Scriptures beginning with Genesis, working to remember God’s work throughout history. The finished work of Christ, and the hope of all that will be made right at His return, ought to provide the context for most mentoring conversations.
Challenge one another toward daily Scripture study, personal and corporate prayer, weekly worship with the gathered body, and toward developing the habits of self-discipline that will benefit the greater church body in later years. Encourage membership in a local church where one can be known and not hidden or unknown. Go to the “Local Church” chapter for further thoughts.
For more information regarding becoming a Mentor, a Mentee, or to host a local Mentoring Program, resources are available online at ocfusa.org/mentoring.