If you’ve ever been on a first date, can you remember the feeling of asking that person out, or of being asked out, for the first time? For some of us, it’s may have been a while, and even though the exact memory may not be so vivid, we still remember the basic paralysis that came from it. It’s terrifying, but why?
Inviting someone into a new relationship, opening yourself up and offering to allow that person access to new areas of your life that have been closed before that day, is a fear inducing decision. What if I’ve chosen the wrong person? What if they’re not interested? What if they like my roommate better? Are they going to laugh at me? What do I have to offer them anyway? Did I brush my teeth today?
All of this translates straight across in our lives into the area of us taking Jesus seriously and making disciples. Today, we often call it mentoring, instead of discipling. They can both mean the same thing and be used interchangeably, if we know what exactly we are discussing. We’re talking about the process of investing ourselves in someone else so that they might fall more in love with Jesus, and live that love out each day.
It’s an amazing thing to be used by God to mentor someone else, and it’s the #1 method God uses for growing the Kingdom. So, as a leader, where do we start? The same place we begin almost everything else: prayer. Ask God for who He wants you to pour into. Seriously. Until He answers you, you stay at this phase. He will answer eventually. Once He does, and only after you have peace that He’s in charge of the process, do we move to step two; the ask.
How do we ask someone into this kind of relationship? Here are seven steps:
- Have a one time meeting – Sit down once to pray together, and discuss what the relationship might look like, and what each of you hope to see happen from the time spent. Define what the relationship will be, what it’s not, and how much time each of you are willing to give to it. Agree to pray about it, and then set a time for a call / text / message / meeting /etc. to follow up. No expectations beyond that.
- Follow up – Touch base and see where each of you are. If the other person hasn’t spent time praying, then kindly walk away, and let them know they probably are not in a good season for this type of relationship. If both of you have peace, then schedule your next meeting.
At your next meeting:
- Create a schedule – There’s no magical amount of time. Some mentoring relationships are highly intentional about spending time in large chunks multiple times a week. Others only meet once a week or once a month. You both get to define it. There’s no set answer to this one.
- Be honest on what you’re offering – Many people confuse mentoring with counseling or being a best friend for life. Mentoring has small elements of counseling and friendship, but the purpose is to help someone grow in their faith. The goal is growth over the other two. It’s a partnership where each party is giving into the partnership.
- Decide on what you want to invest in – Some mentoring relationships spend time reading and discussing a book or study. Others are focused on prayer. Service projects are an option for other people. BUT, have a plan, or the relationship will devolve to you being the other person’s counselor. Do not default to “God will just lead us each time.” He is leading you ahead of time. Get a plan
- Set an end date – How many times will you meet. I recommend 6-8. You can always extend it longer after your last meeting, but this keeps either of you from being trapped.
- Focus on the Bible and prayer – Use all of the other resources you can, but always come down to Scripture and prayer in your mentee’s life. The time they spend there will be the foundation for anything else you do or study. Be clear with them that this will be the foundation of everything you do.
This is enough to get you to meeting three, and that’s where things will begin to happen. It’s okay to take a while. Don’t feel pressured to jump too deeply too soon. When we have a basic process like this that gives us plenty of room to listen to God, and plenty of outs if needed, we can reduce the anxiety. God will use you, I promise. It’s what we’re called to do.