Summary: Every Christian needs a mentor in the faith who will help them grow in Christ. In this post, I discuss the qualifications for a mentor and what to expect in your relationship.
In my last post on Conformed to Christ, I talked about getting involved in the church you find that fits you. But once you get involved in a church, you need to find a mentor in the faith who will guide you and help you grow in Christ.
I say you should find one mentor in the faith. But as I have grown up in the church, I have had several mentors. From the age of seven I have known I would be a minister. I sought out the ministers of the churches I attended and asked them to mentor me.
My longest running relationship with a mentor is Pastor Marvin who was my pastor when I was a young teenager. He and I talk almost every week today. Even though he lives in Florida we have a very close relationship.
Another mentor was in the second church I attended as a teenager and young adult. Pastor Grabill prayed over me when I was ordained as a minister. He passed away in 2011 from a rare cancer and I miss him dearly.
I bring up a couple of my mentors to show that mentoring in the Church is essential to your growth in Jesus. But how do you find a mentor? How do you know you have one that will help you grow? These are some questions I hope to answer in this post for you.
You Need a Mentor
The myth of the cowboy Christian who pulls himself up by his bootstraps and figures everything out in Christianity for himself is bunk. No person can figure everything out on their own. We are not the ultimate source for our growth.
We all have heroes in the faith. We look up to these saints all our lives. You want to be like them. You want them to be proud of you as you grow in Christ. But how do you get to the place they are in?
It’s not complicated. Just walk up to them and ask them to be your spiritual mentor. Since the beginning of Christianity, younger Christians have looked up to older Christians. Paul had Timothy, his son in the faith.
In the monasteries, younger monks looked up to older monks. It has nothing to do with chronological age. A parent in the faith has been where you are and gone beyond where you are. They have suffered your trials and grown from them. And you want to do the same. But before you try to get any mentor, you need to find one that will help you grow the most.
As much as you would like to think any mentor will do, that’s not true. You need to find a mentor who fits you. When I was looking for a mentor, I looked for one that would help me do what they were doing. Since I was called to be a minister, I wanted ministers to be my mentors.
You don’t have to be that specific about your mentor. But you need to find someone who fits who you are and where you want to go. The best way to find a mentor is to start with someone who is already where you want to be.
Perhaps you notice a Christian who is a strong prayer warrior and you want to be a prayer warrior and intercessor for others. This would be a good person to ask to help you learn how to pray as they do. Maybe you see someone who knows how to worship the Lord, and you want to do the same.
There are some qualifications you need to walk through before you make your choice. I have talked about accountability partners in other posts. The qualifications for a mentor are very similar. But they don’t have to be as specific.
A mentor can also be an accountability partner. That is part of their portfolio. But mentors are much more than accountability partners. An accountability partner helps you with your temptations. A mentor is more encompassing than that.
Mentors are first and foremost guides on the path to spiritual growth. They help you in your spiritual formation to be like Jesus. But they are not the end-all of your formation. You must listen to the Holy Spirit most of all.
I suggest you find a mentor of the same gender. That would be ideal. But sometimes you can have a Christian of the opposite gender for a mentor. For instance, if you find someone who is a great prayer warrior, and you want to be like that person, they can be your mentor for a time as you grow in that area of your spiritual formation.
A spiritual mentor must be more mature than you in the faith. This does not mean they are older than you. Each of us is on a different part of the path to spiritual maturity. You can have a 30-year-old who has been a Christian for one year. There could be a 30-year-old who has been a Christian for 25 years. Take into account the maturity of your mentor and make sure it is more than your own.
Your mentor needs to be more mature in Christ than you so they can guide you to a higher place in your own maturity. You cannot teach others what you have not learned. You cannot give what you do not have. So your mentor must be able to guide and train you in matters they have already had experience in.
You can ask a mentor to mentor you in a specific area of your spiritual formation. You can have more than one mentor. I suggest you work with one mentor at a time. Work on that one area, or maybe find a general mentor who guides you overall.
Whoever you find, don’t limit the relationship to a certain time period. You will have some mentors for a long time, and others for a shorter time. Some will help you with a specific area of your spiritual growth, while others you will return to over and over for more wisdom and counsel.
What to Expect
What should you get out of your experience with a spiritual mentor? You will get a close relationship. The knowledge and wisdom you share will stretch both of you. Most mentorships become close friendships as you share parts of yourself with one another and become more vulnerable as you gain trust.
If you choose a mentor for general growth in the faith, you will find these mentors are in your life longer than those you choose for specific growth areas. Growing in a specific area lasts for a shorter time as you grow in that area. But growing overall in your walk with Christ requires wisdom and counsel from a more mature Christian more often.
General mentors continue to be more mature than you, offering a longer lasting relationship. It’s not that mentors for specific areas don’t grow more than you as they mentor you. But as you grow more proficient in that area, you will learn to grow on your own with their guidance.
You want to have regular contact with your mentor. Growing doesn’t happen overnight. So you need to keep in closer contact with a mentor than with your other relationships. You should check in regularly with your mentor to assess your progress.
These meetings don’t have to be long. Some of the best mentorships happen when you grow in “on the job training.” I have had internships in my college and seminary careers with my mentors. They have helped me become a better minister as I work alongside them.
One of my mentors for a brief time was a pastor in the church I attended while I was in college. I chose him as my mentor during that time. During my internship he taught me how to water baptize people. It’s not as natural as you think. He showed me how to do it the best way for me.
The best way to learn is by doing. A good mentor in the faith doesn’t just tell you how to do something. He or she shows you along the way. Jesus did this. He taught the disciples by example and word how to do what He did. Then He unleashed them to do the same ministry.
Becoming a Mentor
We will discuss why it’s important for you to graduate from student to teacher when we talk about discipleship. It’s imperative that you grow enough that you become a mentor to someone else. As you grow to maturity, part of your continued growth is to take someone else under your wing.
You transition from a student to a teacher. And you will work with your mentoree the same way your mentor taught you. One problem in the Church today is that we don’t have a transition from one generation to the next in mentoring.
Think of David. He had a thriving relationship with the Lord personally, but he had a hard time transferring that same relationship to his children. The kingdom of Israel paid for his inability to pass on his spiritual legacy to his children.
The apostles had disciples, and those disciples discipled others, and so on. Don’t take from your mentor without giving to the one you are mentoring. Share with your mentoree the same things you have learned from your mentor. And when you discover something, share it with your mentor and your mentoree. No one benefits from keeping wisdom and knowledge to themselves. As they say in the world, “Pay it forward.”
Do you have a mentor? Are you mentoring someone with less maturity in Christ than you? Look for these relationships in your church. They will stretch you as you grow in Christ. First, find a mentor in the faith. And as you grow, find someone you can mentor.
We’ve talked about how necessary it is to have a mentor in the faith to grow in Christ. Next, we will discuss worship and how we can worship the Lord regularly.