Mentoring by Christians
by Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones

Formal or planned mentoring in the Church is moving slowly, but at least it’s moving and in the right direction.

By our estimates (based on our secular division’s contacts), 90% of large businesses have some kind of recognized, formal, or semi-formal mentoring in place. Universities, schools, hospitals, professional organizations, the military, and even small businesses have embraced mentoring as a practical, cost-effective, and inspiring way to prepare their people to mentor and be mentored.

Arranged pairings (and groups) of mentors and mentees are proving valuable to most participants and to their organizations. Individuals are gaining new skills, knowledge, attitudes, and perspectives through their mentoring relationships. While Faith-Centered Mentoring and More has found no statistics on religious/spiritual makeup of these mentors and mentees in the marketplace, we guess that Christians are active members of these relationships and are perhaps even initiating a large number of them.

Notable Examples in Churches and Parachurch Organizations

Churches, while doing formal discipling and informal mentoring for centuries, are finally starting mentoring initiatives. Rather than speculate here on why this is finally happening, Faith-Centered Mentoring and More is excited about the progress, believing that churches should be even more active than the marketplace in utilizing mentoring to help individuals excel.

Gradually the terms “mentor” and “mentoring” are making their way into churches. Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and author of Courageous Leadership, has been a pacesetter by talking about his own mentors and urging leaders to find and become mentors themselves. His church has spawned two mentoring programs, one for in-depth spiritual mentoring led by Sybil Towner, and a second, broader men’s mentoring program led by Bob Allen.

Others, such as Saddleback Community Church, have tested and expanded a women’s mentoring program and model developed by Janet Thompson. Mentoring initiatives are underway at numerous other churches in the U.S. and Canada. Parachurch organizations such as Arrow Leadership, the Salvation Army, and The Navigators are also implementing planned mentoring.

Practical Suggestions for You and Your Setting

If you’re a Christian in the marketplace, consider starting or joining a mentoring program in your organization. You can find numerous resources at God may be nudging you to apply His principles to your relationships at work and through those relationships let others know what’s important to you.

If you’re interested in helping your church or parachurch organization improve the “natural” mentoring that’s already going on, here are some ideas being used by other Christians.

1. Listen and look carefully for the Holy Spirit’s prompting in your church/organization and in you. He may be saying “Go for it”...or perhaps telling you that the time or you aren’t right.

2. If you feel led to proceed, find one or more “mentoring champions,” and create an ad hoc mentoring team. Mentoring won’t succeed without idea 1 and without a group of enthusiastic, passionate mentoring champions who are willing to spend several months planning and implementing a pilot mentoring effort.

3. Interview leaders and followers at every level, starting with the senior pastor/executive and staff. Talk to formal and informal leaders about their visions for helping people develop in this setting. Discuss what’s likely to happen with current strategies and what might happen with strong mentoring.

4. Choose an initial target group of mentees. These could be teens, new leaders, existing staff, seekers, people seeking career changes, single parents, almost anyone who wants a Christ-centered approach to personal and/or professional development. The key is that the group wants mentoring, has time to devote to it, and is willing to use a Christ-centered approach.

5. Be on the lookout for potential mentors, people who aren’t necessarily experts but who love the Lord and who have experiences, knowledge, skills, and time they’re willing to share. Continue to build your “mentor pool,” and personally invite people to be a part of it.

6. Put together a draft plan for a mentoring pilot program/initiative, and seek input on it from many people including your target mentors and mentees plus others who have successfully implemented mentoring programs. See this website’s Archive for suggestions.

7. Hang in there. Pray for patience and perseverance, for you’ll meet challenges. Just to name a few possibilities: Many people won’t understand that mentoring can have many purposes in additional to spiritual development. Some will resist setting a length for formal relationships and requiring that they end. You’ll be challenged to create an ongoing supply of willing mentors without burning out some favorites. Some individuals may resist attending training. A few mentors and mentees won’t follow through on their commitments. You and your team will be amazed at all the details required.

Our team here at Faith-Mentoring and More would love to help you with your mentoring questions and plans. We answer emails from all over the world and hope we hear soon from you! For more ideas on mentoring, see What We Offer.

CCC/Faith-Centered Mentoring and More
Christian Mentoring and Life Skills Resources
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