As a church leader, you will run up against limits in your life and ministry.
You’ll encounter a new problem.
You’ll come face-to-face with a unique situation.
And at times, you’ll just get stuck.
Over the years, you’ll fall into a routine, and after a while, you'll feel as if you can’t break free from your circumstances.
One proven way you can continue to grow as a Christian, spouse, parent, friend, and church leader is through mentoring. Not in the sense that you have to mentor someone. But in the sense that someone should mentor you.
Mentoring isn’t something reserved for “church members” or “new” pastors, and it’s not something church leaders should avoid. Mentoring can be an ongoing, beneficial activity as long as you’re open to someone speaking into your life.
Even though mentoring isn’t as common as it once was, in this post, I want to encourage you to consider pursuing being mentored.
To help you along, I’m going to cover:
- Mentorship defined
- 5 common misconceptions about mentoring
- 4 steps to finding a mentor
Let’s get started!
What Is Mentorship?
“Mentoring” isn’t a new concept and it’s not difficult to grasp.
Here’s what you need to know:
A mentor is someone who intentionally helps someone else (mentee) grow personally, spiritually, or professionally in a relational setting.
The idea of mentoring has been around for thousands of years.
You may not be able to find “mentoring” mentioned in the Bible. But you can spot several examples of mentors and mentees, including:
- Jethro (mentor) and Moses (mentee)
- Moses (mentor) and Joshua (mentee)
- Eli (mentor) and Samuel (mentee)
- Jesus (mentor) and his disciples (mentees)
- Paul (mentor) and Timothy (mentee), Titus (mentee), and Barnabas (mentee)
If you spend time studying just these few examples, there are four essential ingredients you’ll discover about mentoring. A mentor should:
- Follow Jesus
- Set an example
The first thing we discover about mentoring is that a mentor should follow Jesus. A mentor’s life should exemplify what it means to live and love like Jesus. His or her life should be marked by a love for the Bible, dependency upon God, and a desire to share his or her experience with you.
A mentor should also be able to teach you. He or she doesn’t necessarily need a Bible degree or even to serve as a pastor, elder, or deacon of a church. What he or she teaches isn’t confined to the Bible alone.
At some point in your life, you’ll need to learn how to overcome a challenge, learn new skills, or expand your leadership abilities. In every one of these scenarios, a good mentor can guide you through whatever you need to learn in that season.
One significant part of being a mentor is setting an example. Regardless of what you want to learn, it’s ideal that the mentor you approach has “been there and done that.” When a mentor has experience with whatever you’re going through, he or she will be able to apply his or her knowledge and experience to your situation.
What is more, mentoring isn’t just about transferring information—it’s about transformation. With this in mind, a mentor is someone who can give you tips and advice. A mentor is someone who’s willing to set an example for you to follow.
Consider how Jesus and Paul mentored people.
In general, Jesus’ call to every one of us is to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him (Matt 16:24). When it came to the twelve disciples, this is literally what they did. They physically followed Jesus, lived with him, and learned from the example he set.
As for Paul, he was super clear about setting an example individuals and the church could follow. Check out these passages:
- Acts 20:17–18
- 1 Corinthians 11:1
- Philippians 4:9
- 2 Thessalonians 3:7
I’ll get into this more below. But be sure your mentor is someone who is setting a good example, which leads me to the next point.
Your mentor should be someone who models what a life dedicated to following Jesus looks like, brokenness and all.
A mentor is not a perfect example, they are a living example.
Just like you.
Now that we know what a mentor is, let’s go ahead and talk about some common misconceptions.
5 common misconceptions about mentoring
Before you find a mentor, you first have to know what you’re not looking for.
In other words, there are some common misconceptions about mentors you need to know before you consider who you should pursue.
Here are five common misconceptions:
- Anyone will do
- I need a paid coach
- I have a teacher, so I don’t need a mentor
- Age matters
- A mentor has to be perfect
The first common misconception about mentoring is that you can reach out to anyone. On the surface, this sounds okay. For instance, after you watch a video, read a book, or observe someone you admire, you may feel inspired to reach out to him or her for help, which makes perfect sense.
In this situation, you’ve experienced a benefit or were encouraged, and it’s natural to think that he or she will be willing and able to help you further apply the lesson you learned.
But remember, mentoring is more about transformation—not information. To really benefit from a mentor, you have to be in a position to not only hear what they have to say. You have to be able to model what they exemplify.
Instead of reaching out to a stranger, prayerfully consider finding a mentor among the people you know and naturally interact with during the normal ebbs and flows of your life.
If there is someone who may be able to help you, but you don’t know this person, see if you are connected with him or her through someone you know. Getting connected with someone through a personal relationship can make a world of difference in getting started on the right foot.
I just hinted at another common misconception about mentoring, and that’s confusing a mentor with a paid coach.
As a church leader, there are times when you can benefit from paying a coach to help you answer a question or overcome a problem. But a paid coach is not a mentor.
As I mentioned above, a mentor is someone who intentionally helps someone else in a relational setting.
A mentor isn’t someone you pay or someone who will serve as your church consultant.
A mentor is someone who’s invested in you as a person.
A mentor will be able to teach and guide you, and they’ll also be able to provide help in certain situations. But all of this is done through a relationship, and their focus is more wholistic versus helping you with a task or project.
Confusing a mentor with a paid coach is similar to the next misconception: Confusing a mentor with a teacher. Said another way, a mentor is not someone who (necessarily) follows a strict course or curriculum. Basically, there’s not a specific 12-step program for mentees you need to take to graduate.
A mentor will be able to teach you, but not in the way a teacher or professor teaches. The lessons a mentor shares are from his or her experience and aimed toward transforming your life—not just teaching you a lesson. There’s a subtle, yet significant difference between the two.
When it comes to finding a mentor, you should find someone who’s several steps ahead of you. But they don’t necessarily have to be significantly older than you.
As you look for a mentor, your goal is to find someone who’s ahead of you in whatever area you’re trying to improve upon. In this scenario, a mentor may be significantly older than you are, they may be several years older, or they may be your age. A mentor’s age isn’t a prerequisite. You want to have your eyes more on his or her character, experience, and wisdom.
The fifth common misconception about mentors is that they have to be perfect. I’m not talking about someone who lives a perfect life per se. Instead, I’m talking about treating a mentor like a vending machine who provides answers to your questions when you key in what you want.
A mentor isn’t someone whose role is to answer all of your questions and tell you what to do. Instead, a mentor is someone who can ask the right questions, provide guidance, and help you discover the steps you need to take.
This is what Solomon was getting at in the Book of Proverbs:
“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Prov. 20:5).
Now that we’ve cleared up these misconceptions about mentors, let’s take a look at how you can find one.
4 steps to finding a mentor
Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be a Herculean task.
After you walk through the steps below, there’s a good chance you’ll identify several people who may be a mentor.
Before you go on this journey, hang tight.
There’s one point I’d like to stress:
Take your time.
Mentoring takes place in relationships.
Mentoring isn’t something you can force. It’s something that takes time, and you’ll need to exercise a great deal of patience and humility. This entire process is something that will happen organically over time.
Will you have meetings?
There will be times when you meet with your mentor. But more often than not, your meetings will not be structured or occur more than once a month.
Does this have to be formal?
Technically, you don’t have to approach someone and ask, “Hey, will you be my mentor?”
There’s nothing wrong at all with taking this approach, and at times, it’s a good idea. But at times, it can work out well just to ask someone to go to lunch, let them know you’ve observed them for some time, and that you’d like to learn more about how they do whatever it is you’d like to know or learn.
Mentoring is something that will naturally work out well for you and your mentor. So be prepared to let this process simmer on low—not on high like something you’re trying to boil.
Here we go!
Step 1: Figure out who (or what) you’re looking for
What are you looking for in a mentor?
There’s nothing wrong at all with having someone in your life who encourages you, challenges you, and prays for you. Honestly, having many of these people in your life is a good thing.
Now, when it comes to finding a mentor, you’re not necessarily looking for a generalist. You’re in search of someone who can help you do one of two things:
- Solve a problem
- Grow in a specific area
In life, you will come up against different problems at different times. After reading books or seeking out advice, you may feel stuck and in need of help to overcome whatever you’re facing.
When this happens, don’t take it personally.
Remember, you’ve been created by God to be dependent upon him and in community with other people. One big part of your community is being in a relationship with people (mentors) who can speak into your life and help you to solve problems.
Do you need help in your church with a specific problem?
Having a difficult time breaking through a growth barrier?
Not sure about your next steps?
In any one of these situations, a mentor is someone who can help you figure out what you need to do.
Another common reason why someone pursues a mentor is because they’re interested in growing in a specific area of their life.
Whether it’s growing as a pastor, parent, or marketer (or whatever field you work in), a mentor can help you to grow as an individual. He or she can ask questions, provide suggestions, and even point you in the right direction.
What are you looking for in a mentor?
Answer this question before taking the next step.
Step 2: Be observant
Mentoring takes place in a relationship.
When you take the time to prayerfully consider the people in your life or open your eyes to potential mentors, you’ll be surprised at how many people come to mind.
As you consider the problem you need to solve or the area you need to grow in, does the Lord bring to mind anyone in particular? Write his or her name down to prayerfully consider whether they’re a potential mentor.
Step 3: Look to your denomination or network for support
Is your church affiliated with a denomination or network? If so, then there’s a good chance you’ve met a variety of peers who may be a good mentor during meetings or at other times.
Is your church non-denominational?
Depending upon the location of your church, look into joining a local meet-up of pastors or starting one yourself to meet peers in similar situations.
Step 4: Attend conferences
Every year, there are many church conferences you can attend.
At these conferences, you have the opportunity to meet other church leaders, and I’m not talking about the speakers on stage either.
If you haven’t already, plan on attending a conference this year to recharge your batteries and network with peers. During this time, be observant to see if there’s someone you may be able to follow up with later to talk about life and ministry. You’ll be surprised at how many people may just say yes.
It’s time to find a mentor
Are you ready to find a mentor?
I hope so.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you think it should to find the right man or woman.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times:
Mentoring is something that takes place in a relationship.
It’s organic, and it will naturally grow as you follow the steps above.