Many people feel unequipped to be a mentor. They feel like they have nothing to offer. They don’t think anybody would want to be mentored by them. They don’t think they are smart enough, spiritual enough, cool enough, “trendy” enough. So, they never begin. As a result, we have a whole generation who don’t understand what mentoring looks like.
But I want to free you from the burden of feeling unequipped. If you are a Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit, you are equipped to be a mentor. You have been given all of the tools you need to walk alongside another brother or sister in Christ as they seek Jesus. How can I make such a claim? As a Christian you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, which means you will produce the Fruit of the Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV). As I read through the Fruit of the Spirit, I see the perfect character traits of a mentor.
Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, ESV).
This is the absolute foundation for a mentoring relationship. Without love there is no mentoring. Love must be the the driving, motivational force in this relationship. Love will give you strength to walk with someone through the dark valleys. Love will give you courage to have difficult conversations. Love will cause you to find answers to someone's deepest questions and struggles. Love will give you strength to continue walking alongside someone when it isn’t easy. Love never fails.
Mentoring someone means living life with someone. It means walking alongside someone as they seek Christ. It means walking with someone through the highs and the lows of life. It means being there with them when they get an A on a test and it means being there with them when a parent leaves.
It also means your mentee will be walking with you during your highs and lows. They will see you at your best and at your worst. What will they see in those situations? Will they be able to see joy in the midst of sorrow? Will they be able to see kindness in response to evil? Will they be able to see goodness when you are wronged?
You have developed these traits by living life and relying on God. Your mentee will develop these traits the same way. They will also be helped in the process as they watch you live your life following Christ. They will watch how you respond to various situations and they will learn how to respond in various situations. When they watch you do it right, they will learn the proper way to respond. When they watch you do it wrong, you have an opportunity to confess and explain what you should have done differently. Either way they will learn these traits as you walk together.
Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6, ESV). Understanding this principle gives us the ability to have peace, patience, and faithfulness in the midst of a mentoring relationship. It’s important for us to understand that we are not the ones who change people. God changes people. No doubt he uses us in the process, but ultimately it is God who gives the growth.
There will be times you will be frustrated as you mentor someone. You will feel like nothing you have done is helping. This person is not growing as quickly as you would like. Your peace and your patience begin to wear thin. At times you may even feel like giving up. Then you remember that it’s not your job to give the growth. It’s your job to keep planting and keep watering, trusting the growth to a faithful God.
As we walk alongside people, desiring to see life-change, it is important for us to realize that change takes a long time. People don’t change overnight. Our old self doesn’t die easily. That’s why peace, patience, and faithfulness are required. We need to have peace in the midst of setbacks in a person’s life. We need to have patience as we wait for growth. We need to have faithfulness as we continue faithfully planting and watering seeds in a person’s life.
In 2 Timothy 2, Paul says that the Lord’s servant must be able to correct “his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:25, ESV). Although our mentees are not “opponents,” the principle still rings true. A major part of a mentoring relationship is correction. A mentor is called to guide someone in the paths of righteousness. Sometimes that means showing them they are wandering down the wrong path.
When correction becomes necessary, we need to make that correction with the right level of gentleness. I have mentored people with very soft and tender hearts and I have mentored people with very hard hearts. Gentleness looks very different in each case. A mentor will do their best to offer correction with the appropriate level of gentleness to the situation.
In a mentoring relationship, self control requires wisdom. As you begin to walk alongside someone in their journey toward Christ, you will have plenty of opportunities for correction. Self control means picking your battles. You will also hear many things that are distorted or wrong. Self control means knowing when to speak and when to be quiet.
Self control means controlling yourself for the benefit of the other. We no longer speak or act on our own behalf, but speak and act in a way that benefits the growth of the person we are mentoring.
There are some who will read through this list of character traits and feel defeated. You will see all of the ways you fall short. Remember that you have been given the Spirit and will begin to bear fruit accordingly. As a Christian you have been empowered by the Spirit to live and mentor in each of these characteristics. You have all the tools you need to mentor someone. Step out in faith and find someone to invest in. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Fully rely on the Spirit to equip you on this journey. And then watch God do something bigger than you had imagined.