"Be conscientious about yourself and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers."
The two main ways we influence other people is through teaching and example. These are the four ways I try to put this verse into practice as a mentor:
1. Fun and Relaxation Time - It's important when mentoring someone to have time where you can just relax and have fun in everyday settings, doing things like: playing video games, going out to eat, hanging out, going to the park, spending time with your family, fishing, or whatever else you like to do for fun. This is important for two reasons: (1) It's important that people don't feel like they're projects. When you're just hanging out they'll feel more like friends and less like a student. They'll know they really matter to you. (2) It's important that people see how you, as a Christ-follower, live in ordinary life. They can see how you react to tough situations, treat other people, have fun, and even fail as a Christian.
- Example: Before having a Bible study I like to do something fun with someone I'm mentoring like throw a football around, go see a movie, or just hang out around my other spiritual friends.
2. Structured Bible Study - One-on-one Bible studies might be the most effective of all of these principles. The Word is extremely powerful, and by ourselves we are completely unable to transform the lives of others. But the Word working through us can, as well as it exampled in our lives. I tend to start by going through an overall context of the New Testament, next to God's overall plan in the Gospel, and then on to how to become a Christian. After that, it really depends on where that person is in their faith. But I try to make this a weekly event, even if the other three aspects can't always be there.
- Example: Each week I try to get together at my house with the person I mentor for coffee and Bible study. Sometime I buy them a Bible, and we walk through it together taking notes and having interactive discussion.
3. Spiritual Conversations - I got this concept from John 4 with Jesus and the woman at the well. When he brought the conversation to the spiritual, she brought out a flurry of spiritual questions she had probably always wanted to ask. He simply gave her a context to ask them. Jesus also did this with His disciples, always using everyday situations as excuses to relate spiritual lessons to them. Much of ministry (in my experience) is the art of asking spiritual questions. You can always bring the conversation to the spiritual if you're genuine and do it on purpose. This doesn't have to be some weird gimmick or trick, but instead an honest effort to be focused on Christ in everyday life.
- Example: I like to ask questions like: Is it hard being a Chrisian at school? Do you have many Christian friends? How do you think Jesus would act if He were in your shoes? Do you pray much? Had any hard times lately? Questions like this usually lead to spiritual conversation where I can give some kind of advice from something God has taught me in my life.
4. Belief in Potential - If you're male, I highly suggest reading Wild at Heart. The author talks about how particularly men get their independence, identity, and courage from older men. Most men don't realize this, so they tend to cut down and make fun of younger men, which is debilitating for life. But mentors don't do this. They intentionally build up their mentoree instead of cutting them down, even if they're just messing around. They constantly point out situations where they believe in their potential to do something well. They also say out loud that they believe in them, and they always congratulate spiritual progress.
- Example: I try hard not to sarcastically cut down people, but especially someone I'm mentoring. Even when they do something stupid or mean (that I may have to confront) I always follow up with "but I still think you're a good guy, this isn't like you." Always be encouraging about successes, but don't cut them down for their failures.
Of course, these are just the principles I try to focus on. But if you're passionate about helping others grow in Christ you'll probably do these things whether you realize it or not. The hardest part about all of this is time. We all have such hectic schedules I know, but it's a matter of priority. Are you willing to adopt one or two younger Christians and help them along in the faith? Jesus did it with twelve, but even if you focus on one you're doing more than most Christians are willing to do.
The main thing assumed in all of this is love. People can tell when they're just projects. But when you really love them, they'll feel inspired to do absolutely anything. I love it when Paul writes, "we were well pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had becomes so dear to us." Isn't that beautiful? Paul didn't view people as programs or projects, but as dear friends. The most effective mentor is the one who genuinely cares for his mentoree.
This is part one, but the next two posts will be on how to find someone to mentor and how to mark your mentoree's spiritual progress.