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
- 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.