Mentoring is easier than you think. Yes, you’ll face complex mentee stories that will break your heart and tempt you to say, “I can’t fix this. I don’t know enough. I’m no counselor!” The truth is, you’re not a counselor and you can’t fix it. Nor should you even try. Here are a few tips to make your mentoring easier and more effective:
Finding your P.L.A.C.E. as a mentor
Pray: Don’t underestimate the amazing strength gained through this simple act. God’s Spirit comes alongside us in prayer (Romans 8:26). Good mentors do the same for their mentees. It also lets them learn from you how they too can relate to God as friend (Exodus 33:11; John 15:15).
Listen: It doesn’t sound like much, but listening is crucial because most people long to be heard. They want someone who will hear what they say and what they mean.
Ask: The Hebrew word for teaching actually means “to cause to learn.” Likewise, good mentors ask well-worded questions that foster conversation and allow God to “cause the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). Check The Mentor Guide for examples of well-worded questions.
Consider: Think slowly and biblically about the mentee’s story. Don’t get in a hurry. Humbly introduce Scripture and other FamilyLife resources for both you and the mentee to discuss together. Eagerly receive what’s being said, but diligently examine the Scriptures daily to find truth (Acts 17:11). This will add richness to your mentoring experience.
Encourage: Whatever you offer your mentee, whether it’s a compassionate tone, a practical life tip, or an exhortation from God’s word, make sure to uplift rather than beat down. Be mindful of the roles of a mentor: Confidante, Translator, Experienced One, Coach, and Change Agent. Visit Roles of a Mentor for more information.
Avoiding common mistakes
Avoid fixing. Your instinct as a mentor will be to help, but this can easily shift into “fix it” mode, which will be unwelcome and counterproductive. Treat mentees like people not projects. Think more in terms of possible next steps. They’ll feel the difference and respond better.
Avoid preaching. Walk alongside your mentees, don’t talk down to them.
Avoid carrying. Show concern for mentees but don’t take responsibility for their lives. Unreasonable expectations of yourself or the mentee will weigh you down and make you want to quit. Good mentors can “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) without carrying too heavy a load (verse 5).
Avoid blaming. Mentees will often want to blame themselves or others for problems. Your part as a mentor is not to resolve those questions, but to help mentees discover where they can change by God’s grace without condemnation.
Avoid rescuing. Remind yourself that you’re not a savior; you’re just one piece of the puzzle God is assembling in this person’s life. Be satisfied playing your part and trust the true Savior with the rest.
Download a PDF copy of Keys to Good Mentoring.