|Every month we receive
hundreds of e-mail and phone inquires related to mentoring and other
people-helping strategies. Here are some of the most frequently
asked questions and our responses. Notice that they are grouped
under Mentoring, Other People-Helping Strategies, and General Questions.
|What's a mentor?
|The term mentor comes from Greek mythology.
When Odysseus was about to leave on his long journey, he assigned
his good friend Mentor to be his son’s guardian and tutor.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines mentor as
a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. Our broad definition
is this: an experienced person who goes out of his/her way to
help another person set important life goals and build skills to
A Christ-centered mentor is a follower of Christ who helps another
person reach important spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical,
and/or social goals. Christ-centered mentoring is similar to the
broad Discipling (with a capital D)
that Jesus provided His followers during His time on earth. Its
ultimate goal is to help mentees please God and become more like
Christ in every area of their lives.
|What’s the difference
between formal and informal mentoring?
|An informal mentor provides coaching,
listening, advice, sounding board reactions, or other help in an
unstructured, casual manner. A formal mentor agrees to an
ongoing, planned partnership that focuses on helping someone reach
specific goals and objectives over a specified period. Relationships
and programs can vary in amount of structure along a continuum of
|What do mentors actually
do for mentees?
|Mentors can help in several ways. Perhaps
the greatest is to encourage—convey a sincere belief
in their mentees’ ability to succeed. They also can give inspiration,
advice, and guidance on spiritual and other growth, corrective feedback,
introductions to other people who can help, and opportunities for
mentees to demonstrate skills. Sometimes without even realizing
it, they can serve as their mentees’ career and lifestyle
role models—a reflection of how Christ wants them to live.
|Does a person need a mentor
in order to succeed?
|It’s possible for an individual to be
successful without the help of an old-fashioned, long-term mentoring
relationship. In fact, those traditional mentoring partnerships
are now rare and aren’t always useful. But in today’s
competitive environment, people need other people—mentors
who believe in them—to teach them the ropes, open doors, save
them time, and prevent them from making critical mistakes. Books,
courses, and trial-and-error learning can’t provide this wisdom
as effectively. Modern Christ-centered mentoring relationships can
be short term, or they can be long lasting. When handled well, they
enhance mentees’ success—not in terms of how the world
defines success, but rather based on how mentees meet God’s
standards for their lives.
|How can I acquire a mentor?
|Before looking for a mentor, individuals should
think first of their goals and what they need to reach them. Is
it encouragement, advice on a specific idea, growth in a particular
area, entry into a particular group of people, a chance to observe
a professional in action? Once they define their needs, they can
identify prospective mentors who can provide some of what they need.
(At the same time, they should be prepared if prospective mentors
show interest in them first.) Prospective mentees should try to
find a way to work alongside or for potential mentors so the prospective
mentors can observe the potential mentees in action. (If need be,
mentees should volunteer their time.)
Individuals can ask prospective mentors to meet to give reactions
to specific ideas and plans. Some assertive mentees directly ask
people to be their mentors. Using the word mentor is risky
since the word is still a loaded one and will be misunderstood
by many prospective mentors. Whatever process mentees use, they
should always thank the mentors afterward and indicate how the
assistance was used.
|What, if anything, do mentors
get from the relationship?
|Mentors have a chance, through these partnerships,
to “put something back into the mix,” i.e., to pay back
their past mentors for the help they provided. On the practical
side, they might get some of their routine work done by their mentees.
They could get recognition for having a good eye for talent and
for developing promising people. They’ll probably learn new
knowledge and skills from their mentees, who may be closer to new
information than they are.
Most of all, they’ll be obeying the Bible’s imperative
to live for Christ and serve others: “And He died for
all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves
but for Him who died for them and was raised again’’
(2 Corinthians 5:15).
|How do churches and parachurch
organizations benefit from mentoring?
|They can benefit in several ways. Mentees’
learning curves are shortened; they quickly learn rules, procedures,
and skills from their mentors. Mentoring initiatives tend to be
enjoyable and cost-effective efforts to develop believers in Christ.
Mentees usually appreciate the attention of their mentors; that
appreciation can produce increased loyalty to the church or other
organization. As a result, member and nonmember turnover, orientation,
and assimilation costs are reduced.
Mentors generally enjoy their roles, often increase their organizational
commitment, and find renewed enthusiasm for their participation
and membership. Churches and parachurch organizations with effective
mentoring have an edge in attracting and keeping new staff and
|What do mentors and mentees
|Here are several of the common activities:
talking together (e.g., about the mentee’s past experiences,
goals, plans, and skills; the mentor’s spiritual growth or
career path; useful problem-solving strategies); attending meetings,
conferences, and other events together and discussing these later;
working together on activities or projects; having the mentee observe
the mentor handling challenging situations; role-playing situations
faced by the mentee; collaborating in Bible studies; exchanging
and discussing written materials (such as a Christian book, a document
written by the mentee, or an article valued by the mentor); co-authoring
a publication; interacting with other people (including persons
who could be of help to the mentee and other mentor-mentee pairs).
|Who should manage the relationships?
There’s been a big shift on this
important point in adult-to-adult mentoring. In the past, mentors
initiated and managed the process. Mentees followed the mentors’
lead. Now, mentees are starting to manage the partnerships. Since
it’s the mentees’ lives and careers, what’s
accomplished is directly more important to them than to their
mentors. What’s more, mentors are usually very busy and
have limited time.
As a result of this shift, prospective mentees generally initiate
the relationships, negotiate the arrangements (e.g., goals to
work on, how long the partnerships will exist, when the pairs
will meet, confidentiality, expectations, and the like), and monitor
and adjust progress as their partnerships go along. Ideally, they’ll
also end the mentoring aspect of the relationships at the agreed-upon
time and on a positive note.
While this is a modern shift of the mentoring arrangement, primarily
in the U.S. and Canada, not all mentees are comfortable managing
these relationships, especially in the beginning. Mentors and
mentees should be sensitive to each other’s needs, schedules,
and cues as well as cultural differences. Eventually, mentees
should assume more of the management role while still showing
respect to their mentors.
For adult mentors who are mentoring youth, the main responsibility
still belongs to the mentor, although youth should start to learn
how to seek and manage mentoring relationships with adults.
|What are some of the problems
that can occur in mentoring relationships?
|Here are a few: not enough time and energy
to spend on the mentoring relationship due to other priorities;
resentment on the part of individuals not chosen to be mentees;
unclear or unreasonable expectations of each other; one member taking
unfair advantage of the other; lack of mentoring skills on the part
of either or both partners.
|How long should a mentoring
|Informal relationships can last indefinitely.
Normally, mentees eventually move out of the learner role and could
even mentor their mentors. Formal mentoring partnerships are most
effective when they last somewhere between six months and a year.
(Shorter relationships, such as mentoring as part of a summer internship,
can have benefits, if goals are clear and mentees receive needed
focus.) Seldom should adult-to-adult mentoring relationships last
more than a year. It’s important that mentors don’t
burn out, and for mentees to have mentoring—and new viewpoints—from
|How often do mentors and
mentees have to get together in order for the relationship to work?
|The minimum seems to be one to two hours a
month. This can be all at once or spread out over the four weeks.
Pairs can supplement in-person meetings with phone calls, e-mails,
and other communication. In formal mentoring initiatives, contact
should be at least weekly at first, becoming less frequent as relationships
solidify and needs of mentees change.
|Do formal mentoring initiatives
|Yes, provided several factors are in place.
For example, the timing and purpose must be right and participation
must be voluntary. Church or parachurch leaders have to support
the initiative verbally, perhaps with their own time, and materially.
One or more coordinators must organize and manage the activities.
The participants should be trained and coached on their responsibilities.
|Does distance mentoring
Remote, distance “telementoring”
is more difficult, and yet it can and does work. If the key ingredients
are present (mutual respect, specific help which is valuable to
the mentees, the right timing, and at least some meaningful contact),
mentees will certainly benefit. In many cases, valuable mentors
can only be accessed from a distance. Organizations and mentees
don’t want to miss out on the mentors’ contributions,
so they figure out ways to enhance it.
Successful distance mentoring is more challenging in terms of
logistics. In order to make these long-distance partnerships successful,
the two should treat phone meetings and e-mail correspondence
as seriously as in-person contacts. They should schedule such
meetings well in advance, start on time, and have a written agenda.
They can exchange frequent messages by fax, e-mail, mail, and
through “couriers” (associates who drop off items
on their visits to the others’ locales).
Relationships will be much more effective if mentors and mentees
can meet in person at least a few times during their partnerships.
Sometimes it makes sense for mentees to have local mentors in
addition to their remote mentors.
|What's "and More"?
||Although we do a great deal of work with mentoring,
we also help people use other strategies and tools. For example,
we offer assistance with specific people skills, such as communication,
resolving conflicts, forgiving, and developing intimacy.
|What does "helping
others thrive" mean?
||Many individuals have low expectations for
themselves. They may be trying to survive hardships or setbacks.
Perhaps no one has ever encouraged them to move beyond just surviving.
While we acknowledge the reality of difficult circumstances, we
encourage people to look ahead to a time of striving for
something better... and for a time of thriving.
To this end, we’re dedicated to helping people gain the knowledge,
skills, attitudes, and opportunities they need to excel in one or
more areas of their lives. We also teach others how to help people
|Am I qualified to help
No matter if your intent is to assist
one person or several, we recommend you closely assess yourself
against prerequisites conducive to effective helping. By doing
a self-assessment, you can determine if you’re ready to
be a people helper. If you don’t currently meet some of
these standards but still want to become a helper, you can take
steps to qualify in the near future. On the other hand, you might
decide you can’t now meet those standards and don’t
want to work on them. In such a case, you could choose to postpone,
perhaps indefinitely, pursuing a helping ministry.
Here’s a sample list of criteria for Christ-centered people
helpers. While you don’t have to meet all of these,
the more you have the better.
- You’ve successfully helped people who contacted you
in the past.
- You’re highly motivated to help others meet at least
some of their needs.
- You have the time and energy to prepare for, conduct, and
follow up meetings with one or more helpees.
- You’re willing to improve your current helping competencies:
knowledge, attitudes and performance skills.
- You have the time, energy and motivation to receive further
- A leader asked you to consider getting involved with a helping
- You’re willing to be accountable to a Program Coordinator
who will oversee and evaluate your helping activities.
- You can report that you’re thriving—or at least
are at an advanced striving level—in each area of your
personal and professional work life.
- People who know you well report that you have proven character
in your personal and work life. They say that your life shows
signs of each of the nine fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control (Galatians 5: 22, 23). These people also acknowledge
that your character indicates that you “do justice…love
kindness, and…walk humbly with your God” (Micah
- You’ve accepted Christ as your personal Savior.
- You pursue holiness in your spiritual development and walk.
- You’ve had at least one positive and satisfying experience
helping another person with his/her surviving, striving, or
|May I see a sample of
||We’ve made the decision not to send
samples. We’ve kept our products very affordable to make it
possible for customers to purchase a single copy for examination.
If you’re planning a mentoring initiative, we recommend you
consider purchasing a copy of The Christ-Centered Mentoring
Coordinator’s Handbook. Whether or not you decide
to use our other materials, the Coordinator’s Handbook will
be a valuable resource for you and your team. If you’re looking
for materials to use with your participants, you’ll want to
consider the mentoring booklets, or for a men’s group, our
mentor and mentee handbooks. Other versions of our mentor’s
and mentee’s handbooks as well as our series of workbooks,
HELPING OTHERS THRIVE, will be available soon. Read descriptions
of these and other products here.
Watch this website for announcements concerning the availability
of additional publications and tools. Contact us by e-mail or
phone if you have questions about what resources are a good fit
for your situation.
|Do you give discounts?
||Yes, our booklets are discounted in quantity.
See our product descriptions (What We Offer)
|Do you offer anything
|Yes, we can help you with training, program
design, evaluation, research, and other needs. Click here
to see all we offer.