What is Spiritual Mentoring?
Kath Henry - Senior Pastor Northridge Vineyard Church
In our fast paced individualistic lifestyle we may have a number of friendships that help us feel connected with humanity through common themes such as sport or life stage. However, we often lack friendships that are intentional in terms of spiritual mentoring.
Mentoring and life coaching have become professionalised in the workplace, providing structured relational opportunities for aspiring employees or students to develop and advance in their desired career goals. At the same time, the once natural Christian experience of sharing the lessons of faith in a family style community seems to be slipping away. The concept of being a disciple and in turn “discipling” others seems as foreign as empirical measurements in metric era.
So what has happened to the idea of discipleship /spiritual mentoring? Have the older generation felt they have little to offer the next generation. Perhaps there is a sense that they have been left behind and their insights are no longer valued by others. From another perspective, perhaps younger people feel unsure of how to approach someone they think they would appreciate spending time with. There may be uncertainty related to describing the relationship they are hoping will help them in their spiritual formation. Is it possible that both young and old have lost sight of what a spiritual mentoring relationship is?
What is Spiritual Mentoring?
The word Mentor comes from the story of a father Ulysses, who appointed someone to look after his son. This person was asked to make sure the boy was well educated and grew in character as a man. The name of this person was Mentor.
Thinking of this role in terms of spiritual growth, a Mentor is someone who comes alongside a Christian who is younger in faith and life experience. The aim is to listen, to encourage the mentee to grow in character and maturity in their faith journey, pointing them to the word of God, praying with them and for them while encouraging the mentee to discover a closer friendship with Jesus.
There is also the option for peer mentoring where people of the same age or life stage join together for the sake of mutual encouragement in the journey of faith.
I like this definition used by the Arrow Leadership Mentoring program
“Christian mentoring is a dynamic, intentional relationship of trust in which one person (mentor) enables another (mentee) to maximise the grace of God in their life through the Holy Spirit, in the service of God’s kingdom purposes, by sharing their life, experience and resources.”
More simply a mentor might be compared with a cross country runner who knows a course and how to help others pace themselves for the distance and terrain. The experienced runner comes alongside a runner who is unfamiliar with how to navigate the track to help them find a good pace for their stage of the journey. The mentor runs alongside giving encouragement for as long as it is needed, always acknowledging that each has their own race to run, the gift is the joy of giving another the courage to continue, to press on.
What are the benefits of Mentoring?
I have had the privilege of being mentored and mentoring others. As a mentee I have valued the faith wisdom shared with me. Extraordinary gems that were formed in the ordinary joys and sorrows of the women’s lives that have mentored me have been shared over cups of tea with open hearts. I have known what it means to have a mentor who has believed in me more than I may have believed in myself at times. One mentor gave me the gift of being invited into a network of other women leaders who I may not have connected with otherwise. I have been asked challenging questions about what I think and believe by one mentor and another calls me forward and is able to commit to pray for me when life dishes up painfully unravelling experiences. Each mentor leaves it to me to contact them and when we meet they always points me to Jesus.
Having valued these experiences I simply try and offer the same to others. I listen and try to give the mentee the space to consider what God is doing. I seek to encourage their gifts and who they are becoming. Where I am able, I enjoy connecting women with others and also providing opportunities for them to try something new, to stretch their spiritual wings and fly.
Mentoring in the Bible
We have a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on from heaven and we also have many who are living well the journey of faith (notice I didn’t say perfectly) who could become mentors. Let’s choose to carve out time for a relationship like this. Jesus thought it was important enough to call 12 into a special mentoring journey. Other Mentor/ Mentee relationships in the bible include Elijah/ Elisha, Moses/ Joshua, Deborah/ Barak, Paul/ Timothy, Elizabeth/ Mary, Naomi/ Ruth, Priscilla and Aquila / Apollos among others.
How to start
I suggest you start with an invitation to a coffee date. Talk about what a mentoring relationship might look like. Trial it for 3 months and review how it is working with the option to leave it for a while or continue for another 3 months. Finish with thankfulness and a celebration of the journey shared.