Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by Jim Feiker. This second pillar addresses the question of how to select mentees.

God is actively, and personally in the process of bringing people into our life to whom we might minister, and who, in turn, can minister to us. Significant relationships are one of His divine change agents for life transformation. Since God will uniquely bring people into our life, we need to be sensitive to the Spirit of God in identifying those divine mentoring connections.

Ways God might connect mentors and mentees

1. The mentor proactively selects the mentee

The mentor keeps their eyes attune to people in their natural relational network to whom God is obviously leading, and seeks them out. This was true of Barnabas to Paul, Paul to Timothy, and Jesus with the Twelve. We are often drawn to people who have similar giftedness, vision, or life experiences.

Major advantages to this approach:
  • The mentee feels valued, sought after, cared for and believed in by the mentor.
  • The mentor often knows the person, and there is usually a natural relational bond.
  • The mentee and mentor very quickly sense mutual respect and the safety to share and be honest.
  • The mentor declares his commitment to help the person develop and become effective.
Major disadvantages include:
  • The mentor can easily take responsibility for the growth for the learner rather than encouraging them early in the process to be responsible for their own growth. The mentor’s role is to be a facilitator of active participation by the learner.
  • The mentor can also easily project his giftedness and vision on the person, rather than letting them develop in their own unique God-given vision and gifts.
  • The mentor can also build dependence on himself rather than on God.

2. The person wanting to be mentored seeks a mentor

The person seeks out a suitable mentor (with whom they feel safe, and for whom they have deep respect) to help develop and teach them. For example, Paul sought out Peter and James in his early development to prepare him for his entry into the Apostles in Jerusalem, and into a ministry to the Gentile world (Galatians 1:18, 19).

As a high school student, I remember seeking out my youth pastor for help in growing and in reaching my friends for Christ. He was a person whom I knew loved me and cared for my growth. He also was approachable, and I deeply respected his walk with God. I learned later that at the same time he was praying that God would bring us together. That relationship has continued to this day.

Advantages of this approach:
  • The commitment of the learner has been demonstrated.
  • The learner gives the mentor immediate permission to help him and takes immediate responsibility for his own growth.
Disadvantages:
  • The relationships are sometimes unnatural.
  • The mentor might not have a God-given heart and love for the person.

3. Mentor Linking or Sponsoring

In this scenario, a person who knows both the potential mentor and the one wanting to be mentored connects the two. The potential mentor is encouraged to invest in the younger individual. Similarly, the person wanting to be mentored is encouraged to take the initiative in seeking out the mentor. They meet halfway in seeking to build a relationship and determine if they are the right fit. There is often no commitment from either until a natural relationship has been developed and the mentoring relationship is mutually agreed upon.

Proactive mentoring

All of these are creative ways God puts people together. In this document, I want to focus on proactive mentoring – when the mentor takes the initiative to select the mentee. Most of us who are actively involved in mentoring, or who are seeking out those who could be on our ministry team, need to cultivate this highly strategic skill. If you are like me, I am often asked to mentor people. However, need does not necessarily mean God is bringing us together. Need does not constitute God’s will. So, after much prayer and consideration, taking the initiative with those whom I believe God is giving me has made mentoring much more effective. I also believe this approach is more appropriate to the current generation of young men and women in the X and Millennial generations.

Paul selected Timothy as mentee

Consider Paul’s proactive mentoring of Timothy, a young emerging spiritual leader (Acts 16:1-5). Since Paul’s first missionary journey, he had his eye on Timothy. Timothy had a godly heritage from his mother and grandmother. Furthermore, he was known in the church of Lystra as a disciple with a respected testimony. He also had a Gentile heritage through his father. His Greek name, “Timothy,” meant, “one approved of God.” It was obvious to Paul that God’s hand was on Timothy and that God was preparing him for cross-cultural ministry. Timothy was valuable to Paul as an emerging leader in expanding the Gospel to the Gentile world.

Paul had learned from Barnabas (who had seen his potential and had come to Tarsus to get him) to spot potential leaders and proactively go after them. Paul wanted Timothy (vs. 3) to join him so that he could mentor him in the midst of ministry. Paul sponsored Timothy to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem and later released him to take the spiritual leadership in the church at Philippi. In time, Timothy grew to be Paul’s most beloved partner who could represent his mind and heart to other Gentile churches (Philippians 2: 19-23).

Why strategically focus on a few?

A demanding intense relationship

We cannot mentor very many people in an intensive relational way. Mentoring involves close, healthy relationships. Since our time is often limited, we need to select which people are the right ones to mentor. Mentoring involves opening the cracks of your life to another person – up close and personal. It is associating with each other in real life, not just spiritual encounters. This kind of mentoring is very demanding, and cannot be done with many people.

Intentional choice

Effective mentoring takes a deliberate choice to concentrate on this ministry. To focus means “to adjust fogginess into clarity of perspective and to sharpen to the point of concentration.” Mentoring must be an intentional choice. If we do not carefully select a few mentees, we will become overburdened and scattered in our efforts and will not effectively give ourselves to anyone. If these people are from God, He will give us a heart for one another. (2 Corinthians 8:16; Romans 1:12).

For transformational change

We focus on a few so that in-depth transformational change to occur. The greater the quality of relationship we have with a person, the greater will be the impact on that person. By selecting and focusing on a few mentees, people’s worldview and inner values will be impacted, something a broad ministry to many cannot accomplish.

Understanding yourself

Understanding ourselves will help us focus our mentoring on a few people. What are some things that we need to know about ourselves?

Your capacity

Know your capacity and limits – your mentor load (Mark 3:14). A mentor must discern his capacity or mentor load. How many people can he really mentor at one time and still be effective?

Of course, some mentoring relationships will not be as demanding time-wise as some other relationships. So, knowing the frequency of meeting in a mentoring relationship will help us in thinking through our mentor load.

Regular or primary mentoring relationships

A regular mentoring relationship is a strong commitment of the mentor to meet often with a person (2 – 4 times a month, daily intercession, frequent phone calls, and e-mails). This is the highest form of commitment by the mentor. Jesus called the Twelve to be “with Him” in close association and then available to be sent forth in ministry (Mark 3:14). These mentoring relationships are often for a longer duration.

Periodic mentoring relationships

Periodic mentees are people with whom you believe God has given you a relationship, but involvement may be limited to quarterly meetings or even once every six months, besides regular e-mail or phone calls. Often, they live at a distance from you and it is impossible to see them on a regular basis. But there is a mutual drawing together between you two. Since these are periodic relationships, one can mentor more of these people. With periodical mentoring, I will often give a person an assignment, and get together after they have finished it. This puts ownership of growth on the person and reveals their commitment to continue.

Occasional mentees

Occasional mentees are people who have asked you to mentor them, and whom you see once or twice a year. These could be people living in another part of the country or overseas. This level of mentoring can also be done with quite a number of people, for it is less intensive than other mentoring relationships.

Your preferred style

Know the best context from which you prefer to mentor. Do you best function meeting together in a home? Or would you rather be out doing ministry together with your mentee?

Know your mentor role. What roles do you best function in as a mentor? Are you a discipler, counselor, coach, spiritual guide, or sponsor?1These different roles in mentoring are explained in more detail in “Connecting: the Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life” by Paul Stanley and J. Robert Clinton.

Your gifting and calling

Know your giftedness, life messages, and calling from God. This will enable you to communicate with effectiveness and will give insight as to whom to mentor and how you can best help people.

Spotting God-given People

In John 17, Jesus is interceding to His Father for His disciples. This chapter reveals Jesus’ ministry objective, His strategic plan to multiply through the Twelve, and what and how He invested in them. His vision was to build a team that would be the foundation of many spiritual generations. So, it is not surprising that one phrase Jesus repeats often with His Father was “those you have given me.” He uses this statement six times to describe those he selected. These men were a gift from God and Christ treated them as that.

Some guidelines on selecting mentees

Selection best occurs after a period of close association with the person, observing them in real life and ministry, and building a friendship with them. Jesus spent an extended time around the disciples before He selected the Twelve. Potential mentoring relationships can often develop through things like small group Bible studies.

Pray about the choice

Ask God to reveal to you those people whom He is giving you. In Luke 6:12, we see Jesus spending all night in prayer for those God was giving Him to invest in. In the same way, invest prayer in this question right off the starting block. Intercession will continue to be the greatest thing you can do for a person.

Character traits to look for

Identify character traits as criteria for deciding which people on whom to select as mentees. Character qualities are far more important than skills and knowledge. Here are some of the quality traits that I look for in selecting mentoring relationships both with emerging and mature believers.

  • One who has demonstrated a heart for God, the Scriptures, and who has a healthy, growing relational network.
  • One who is faithful, available, teachable, and has God-given abilities to minister.
  • An emerging spiritual leader (pastor, business or mission leader) who is in process of becoming able to teach others, and who feels called by God to affect their sphere of influence (2 Timothy 2:2).
  • God’s hand is obvious on the person’s life (Isaiah 66:1-2).
  • If married, one who has a growing marriage and supportive family.

Mentoring selection can never be legislated. A natural love bond of relationship between two people is essential for lasting chemistry. Mentoring must flow from natural God-given relationships.

Linking mentors and mentees

Christian culture is lined with young men and women who want to be mentored, and with “would-be mentors.” A major issue in the local church and mission agencies is how to link suitable mentors with those available to be mentored, while avoiding structured mentor programs. If we are going to pass the baton onto the next generation of spiritual leaders, we must creatively link these two.

May I encourage you to proactively select mentees. Identify potential men and women whose God’s hand is upon, and whom God is giving to you, and go for it. It will pay great dividends for His Kingdom!