God has given us many things to help us to grow as Christians. One of these is other believers. There are many pictures in the Bible of this mutual encouragement. One of my favourites is that of a body as Paul outlines to the church in Ephesus:
He makes the whole body grow and build itself up in love. Under the control of Christ, each part of the body does its work. It supports the other parts. In that way, the body is joined and held together. (Ephesians 4:16 NIRV)
There is real benefit in learning from people who have been Christians for longer and who are willing to help us to develop and to grow. You may have several people like that in your life who are a good example to you in what they say and in how they live out what they believe. In that sense they function as mentors to you.
In Christian circles the word ‘mentoring’ has come to be almost synonymous with discipling and carries with it the connotation of a relationship between two people with the specific goal of spiritual growth and maturity. In most cases, the process begins with someone who seeks out a mentor who is already a role model and who can encourage and challenge them to grow in their spiritual journey.
In asking someone to be your mentor for a certain period of time you are making this process of learning from others into a more formal arrangement. You are committing yourself to meet with and learn from that person. You are giving them permission to ask you about how you are growing and living life and in that way you are making yourself accountable to them.
Things to think about in choosing a mentor:
- Start by praying, asking God to guide you as to whom you could ask.
- Think of someone you respect and feel you can learn from, but not someone that you would not be able to be honest with. You are looking for someone who will encourage you in your relationship with God and with whom you can share your joys and your struggles.
- It may be someone from your church, but that is not essential.
- The person needs to be willing and able to give the time and energy that is necessary. Make sure they know that it is for an agreed period of time. You will also need to agree how often to meet and for how long. That establishes helpful boundaries for both of you.
- Don’t be put off if the first person you ask says no. Not everyone will have the time and energy to allow them to be a mentor. Trust God to guide you through the response of others
Quotes from IBI students who had a mentor as part of our Ministry and Personal Development module:
“My mentor’s maturity wisdom and life experience were invaluable to me as she continued to support and guide me along my journey (in IBI). She had great insight and practical advice; she really helped me to stay focused and keep things in perspective”.
“I found the mentor relationship to be very beneficial; having someone ‘keeping an eye on me’ was helpful to keep me focused.”
“The mentor relationship was a brilliant time to sit and get godly advice on the things I was struggling with. Also to have someone praying for me was great”
“The mentoring relationship encouraged me in my Christian walk”.
Guest writer, Joan Singleton, is passionate about how each of us can help each other to grow and develop more than we realise. Currently she is teaching Pastoral Caring in IBI and coordinating the Ministry and Personal Development course for first years.