Looking for Mentors

“What advice would you give to someone who is looking for older godly mentors but has none at home and few at college, if any?”

[This excellent question is another from our college retreat’s Stump the Pastors session.]

This question simultaneously excites and discourages me. Anytime a young Christian desires a spiritual mentor, something good is happening. That desire signals a humble willingness to learn, a realization of the need for growth in Christ, and an acceptance of God’s provision of such growth in the form of mentors. However, the question should also alert us that someone is having a hard time finding such a mentor–that despite the clear instructions in God’s Word, many in the church aren’t making themselves available for those younger in the faith. 

To those looking for a mentor, here is my advice:

  • Pray. Our heavenly Father is the giver of all good gifts, especially those coming in the form of other people.
  • Look & ask. Take a hard look at the church family God where God has put you. It’s likely there’s someone there who would fit the bill. Realize a great mentor doesn’t have to be someone who shares your personality or career or sense of humor. Be bold and ask them to meet with you for encouragement and help.
  • Ask again. Talk to your pastor or another elder. Hopefully they will have a good sense of who is able and willing to be a mentor.
  • Branch out. While we would expect and hope that each congregation has received from God everything necessary for raising up believers, including good mentors, sometimes a struggling congregation may not have the good mentors available. In such a case, perhaps you and your pastor could reach out to other local congregations to find such a mentor.
  • Be ready to serve. Someone seeking a mentor is also someone likely to grow leaps and bounds in the Christian life…which means that you’ll likely be called on to be a mentor far sooner than you realize. In fact, you may be ready now to come alongside a younger Christian and offer fellowship and encouragement!

To those able to mentor, here are a few necessary words of encouragement:

  • It is Scripture’s clear call that mature Christians play active roles in training younger Christians in doctrine and life (Titus 2:1-6). This is not just the job of your pastors or elders.
  • Out of obedience to God and love for the church, do what’s necessary to make yourself available to help another Christian. Perhaps you need to make a little room in your schedule (it could be as simple as a lunch meeting every other week!) or to brush up on your own theology and disciplines.
  • Look and ask. Some young Christians don’t know that having a mentor is even an option. Be bold to invite them into your life, offer encouragement in any way you can.
  • Make your availability known. Let the elders know you’d like to be used to help someone else grow in discipleship. Chances are good they’ll have someone already in mind!

There are many types of blessed relationships in Jesus’ church. Having or being a mentor is one of the ways He’s designed us to live and minister like Him.

4 Comments

  1. Michael March 15, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    If discipleship by teaching and baptism was primarily committed to the Apostles as the officers of the church (Matthew 28:19-20), then is it satisfactory for an individual to be in submission to his/her elders and not have an additional person be a “spiritual mentor”?

    • Jared Olivetti March 16, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

      Hi Michael – from your question, I suspect we may have some more fundamental disagreements about ministry and the church, but let me answer the question at face value: yes and no. Yes, it is “satisfactory” in the sense that it’s not a sin for a Christian to never receive any mentoring. No, in that never receiving any mentoring means not benefiting fully from the beautiful way Christ organized and orchestrates His church. Regardless of how we interpret Matthew 28, to never receive mentoring or to be unwilling to be a mentor means not appreciating the New Testament’s testimony to the myriad of ways in which believers are enabled by the Spirit to encourage and strengthen each other in their Christian growth.

  2. Elizabeth Magill March 18, 2017 at 5:31 am #

    How should mentees initiate in mentoring relationships? What’s reasonable to expect or look for from a mentor in terms of their initiation?

    I struggled a lot with the initiation side of mentoring throughout college. I was part of one student ministry for freshman year and then another for the other three years of college. In both cases the ministry was either starting or rebuilding almost from scratch. This meant few older students around to mentor younger ones and one core staff couple to invest in students. While I was involved and sought out mentoring, I placed significant effort into activities outside campus ministry as well and found that other students were more highly prioritized for mentoring. I sought out regular mentoring with specific individuals both inside and outside campus ministry during various periods, but felt I often needed to drive the relationship almost exclusively. I felt as though I bore responsibility to approach the mentor and schedule meetings, without them putting in much effort to contact regularly or schedule. Mentoring definitely needs to become a two-way street and I find it discouraging, when it feels like the responsibility lies on the mentee’s shoulders and not shared. The situation is different now as I work and belong to a church with someone specifically available for women’s ministry, but I still would appreciate perspective on this question.

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