Mentoring Success Factors
by Drs. G. Brian Jones & Linda Phillips-Jones
     
 

Previous articles addressed issues surrounding your church or parachurch organization’s decision to implement a Christian mentoring initiative (see the items listed in the Archive to review these issues). They presented key questions to ask yourself and your leaders and discussed various approaches to mentoring to help you determine which strategy is right for your situation.

Let’s assume you’ve concluded that a mentoring effort makes sense for your organization. As you plan your initiative, here are some key success factors to keep in mind.

  • Start small. You want to be successful in all respects, so focus a pilot effort on a group within your organization that is likely to do well. You might consider newly hired staff, new leaders, seminary students, or members/attendees who want to develop new skills.

  • Consider postponing a formal program (with matched pairs or groups) in favor of what Faith-Centered Mentoring & More calls “Enhanced Informal Mentoring.” Conduct orientations on what effective mentoring looks like, make mentoring self-study materials available, provide some informal coaching for people seeking mentors and to be mentors, circulate anonymous examples of effective mentoring activities, and watch the progress of this less formal effort for a time.

  • Plan ahead. Take at least six months to plan your initiative and get “buy in.”

  • Link goals to the mission and values of your church or parachurch organization. As organizational and mentoring expert Dr. Kathy Kram has emphasized, mentoring efforts that aren’t linked to goals will not be taken seriously and will fail.

  • Don’t do everything yourself. Create a dynamic task force that’s excited about mentoring. Be sure everyone has a key role and set of tasks.

  • Don’t re-invent the wheel. Good materials for designing programs and for training mentors and mentees exist. Check out listings on the Web. Consider bringing in one or more consultants to help you think through your strategy, train everyone, and evaluate the impact of the mentoring effort.

  • If you opt for a program with mentor-mentee pairs (or mentoring circles), plan a great deal of structure. Have a formal application process, clear roles for participants, competencies on which mentees will focus, forms to turn in, formalized training, materials, scheduled ongoing activities, etc. You can always loosen up, but it’s harder to tighten up if a formal program begins with a too-casual approach.

  • Evaluate everything you do. Don’t wait until the year is over and try to pull together some results to decide if you’ll do it again. Go beyond “feel good” data that say the training was enjoyable. Try to get some baseline data before you begin on mentees’ competencies, knowledge, attendance, satisfaction with the organization, etc. Then measure changes.

Mentoring initiatives (and formal programs) take much time and effort. They look deceptively simple, yet they’re not. Mentoring isn’t rocket science, and yet it’s far more than common sense. It provides one vehicle through which the Holy Spirit can work, enabling you and us to be thriving Christians as we follow Jesus, invest in the lives of others, and leave a legacy after we’re gone. Give your best efforts to doing it right.

For more ideas on planned mentoring, see our Archive and What We Offer.

     
   
 
 
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