The Practical ABC's of Mentoring
Here are some practical tips on how you can effectively disciple others.
I have been taking some time off in August, and during my break I have been reading about the life of David in 1 and 2 Samuel. I am gleaning so much about leadership—and about the importance of mentoring—from David’s journey to the thone.
We all know David killed Goliath. We love to read about David’s rugged heroism. But the Bible also says Goliath had four sons who were giants, and four of David's best warriors killed them (see 2 Sam. 21:22). These warriors---Abishai, Sibbecai, Elhanan and Jonathan--get credit for their bravery (v. 15-22). The best leaders don't just act like rock star warriors ---they train others who can surpass them in battle!
There are many "giants" in the world today---giants of injustice, racism, deception, greed, immorality, corruption, poverty, ignorance and occultism. We need the courage of David to attack them using the power of the gospel. But like David we must train younger warriors to finish the job we can't do alone.
Don't just focus on what you can do for God. Invest in others so they can do greater things for God. The result will be multiplied impact. I don't want to just kill a giant. I want my disciples to kill many giants!
I am often asked what is the best way to mentor someone. I don’t think there is just one method to do it, but I will offer these simple guidelines from my own experience:
1. Make yourself available.
If I commit to helping someone, they have to be able to reach me. Offer your phone number, email address, Facebook page or Skype address so they can contact you. When I first offered to be available to help my friend Felipe Amorim in Orlando, he was surprised that I gave him his phone number! The guys you are mentoring should know that you have given them access to your life.
2. Try to set up regular or semi-regular meetings.
If the person you are mentoring is local, consider a weekly or monthly Bible study or mentoring group. If you have more than one disciple locally, consider meeting together as a group. You can study a book of the Bible, or read another Christian book together. Always set a beginning and ending time (such as 8 weeks) so that the group doesn’t get stale. After you finish one 8-week course you can consider meeting for another 8 weeks to study another book or topic.
3. Invite questions.
Jesus didn’t just lecture His disciples. He gave His disciples chances to ask questions, such as, “Teach us how to pray” (Luke 11:1). I like to ask the guys I'm discipling to ask questions. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I can share honestly from my experience.
4. Include your disciple in ministry opportunities.
Invite him to travel with you, or simply invite him to go with you to a hospital to pray for someone. Get in the habit of taking this person with you when you minister so he can watch you. A lot of ministry skills are better "caught" than taught. Your disciple needs to see how you preach, but also how you treat people, how you pray for people, how you handle stressful situations and how you resolve conflicts.
Mentoring is not just about you teaching your disciple what you know. Jesus asked his disciples questions. He wanted to hear from them! Show special interest in your disciple’s life and try to hear his heart. He needs to open up and talk to you. But you must develop the ability to hear—and empathize with his needs. You may also need to probe if your disciple is insecure and hiding behind a mask. When Jesus was ministering to the Samaritan woman, he asked her a very nosy question to get to the core of her pain! Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions!
6. Have fun.
Mentoring is about building a relationship. Don’t focus all your time on teaching. Enjoy spending time together. Go to a coffee shop together, eat lunch, play sports, go to the gym or just hang out.
7. Commit yourself to pray for them.
No matter what kind of counseling you offer this person, or how much you train them, the best thing you can do for them is intercede. It is the Holy Spirit who causes a person to grow in Christ. Spend time praying for them. Ask them periodically what prayer needs they have, and pray for those needs specifically.
My greatest dream is that the men I disciple will in turn make many more disciples, surpass me in spiritual impact and slay a lot more giants than I ever could. I hope you feel the same way!