Home    David Mays   November 2009


Whole Life Mentoring

David Mays


The following is my personal growth goal for 2010:

I am consistently adding value to another man as a life mentor.


Consequently I have reviewed my notes on several books on mentoring and selected the following excerpts for guidance.  


Definition and Purpose

A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor who empowers another in a relational experience by helping the mentoring partner discover and interpret God's activity in his life and conform his life to God's direction and desires.  The mentor provides a good model, asks probing questions, and offers encouragement.  Mentoring is relationship oriented, holistic, and long-term. 



"Our only expectation should be for their personal growth, but even then we can't control how they grow." (58)  Stoddard


Selecting and Approaching a Mentoring Partner  

Pray about whom God would have you mentor.  Initiate a breakfast to get acquainted.  Ask for their life story.  Listen to what interests them.  Look for common interests, receptivity to new ideas, and desire for spiritual growth.  Follow up with additional meetings for those where there is a spark of common interest and spiritual desire.  Show him your written mentoring goal and see whether there is any interest.  Suggest being one of his life mentors and mentoring partners.  Plan to meet at least monthly. 


“I’d like to be one of your life mentors (life mentoring partners).     

        I’d like to put you on my prayer list.

        I’d like to be there when you enjoy success and when you go through hard times.

        Every time we meet, I’d like to ask the two mentoring questions.  What are your priorities? And How can I help?

Bottom line: I’d like to help you realize your full God-given potential over a lifetime.”  Biehl


Characteristics the Mentor must Cultivate

        Belief in people and an ability to see their potential

        Positive outlook

        Rejoice in others' growth



        Encouragement and edification

        Transparency - Willingness to share your knowledge and your life

        A role model worthy of emulation

        A life of holiness, spiritual maturity, biblical knowledge and wisdom

        Spiritual disciplines, including prayer

        The hard labor of attentive, reflective listening

        Spiritual discernment of God’s already present action

        Ability to foster an atmosphere of trust, acceptance and space

        Disciplines of grace and accountability

        Humility, the substance of character, the resolve to put others first.   


Elements of a Mentoring Relationship

        The Word  



        Grounded in the Ordinary

        Coming Alongside



        Discernment and adaptability




Characteristics Necessary in a Mentoring Partner

        A teachable spirit

        Vulnerability in sharing intimate issues of life

        Desire for spiritual growth and maturity and a longing to serve god

        A respectful and loving attitude toward the mentor

        Faithfulness to the mentoring relationship as well as other life responsibilities

        Easy to like and spend time with naturally


        Is willing to take direction, can accept help

        Listens to what others say

        Follows through


Process Ideas

Use questions that will invite reflection on the mentoree’s life.  Careful reflective thinking is a regular part of effective spiritual mentoring – looking back, looking through, looking forward, looking around.  Use your memory as an “instant replay” to look again at moments that seemed particularly rich.  What connections do you see and what sense that God was speaking to you?  What are the connections between the events, people and thoughts or feelings you have had?  Is there a persistent theme?  Use your imagination to see future directions.  What ideas, themes or decisions seem to be indicated?  How might your life look different because of God’s leading of persistent ideas, images, or thoughts?  Look around to see resources for shared ministry.  (132-35)  Anderson


Use critical reason questions, analytical memory questions and creative imagination questions.   


Ask two basic mentoring questions:

1        What are your priorities?

2       How can I help?


Engage in dialogue where we can learn, search, and investigate together.  Share each other's spiritual story.


The protégé should come to each meeting prepared to discuss:

        Pressing decisions – for perspective

        Problems in reaching priorities – for advice

        Plans  - for review

        Progress – for updating and praise

        Prayer requests – for prayer

        Personal roadblock, blind spots and other concerns   46-7, Biehl



People learn what they need to learn, not what someone else thinks they need to learn.  Giving advice may be easy, but it's not always helpful.  Be patient, willing to wait for growth to occur without getting frustrated.  "Persistence is constantly encouraging and even constructively reproving your mentoring partner on issues that take a long time to change." (52)  Stoddard


Mistakes to avoid (for mentors):  211, Stanley

        Don’t be too dominant

        Don’t give too many tasks too early

        Watch for midway relational ‘sag.’  Make sure there is bite-sized progress.

        Select mentorees carefully.  Check motivation, responsiveness, and right timing.

        Be careful of ‘weak closure' and sloppy accountability.


Pay attention for the presence of God in everything.  Pay attention to our stories and recognize there the already present action of God.  (40)  “The mentor … assists the mentoree to see ever more deeply the development of the story of his or her own life.” (41), Anderson


The primary question of spiritual mentoring:  “So, what’s your story?”   We can look for the already present action of God in the stories of our lives.  (76), Anderson


Mentoring relationships are based on character, heart, experience, wisdom and discernment.  Learning is sharing of stories, questions, insights, confusion, suffering, paradox and joy.  Wisdom is not imposed but portrayed.  Character is not taught but evoked.  (87), Anderson


“Accountability should not be the focus of a mentoring relationships.  The focus should be supporting, strengthening, and encouraging.”  43, Biehl


“It helps to substitute the word clarify for confront.  Instead of confronting anyone ever again, simply clarify issues.” 53, Biehl


.  "…meet them where they are, not where we think they're supposed to be." (63)  Relating what you are going through, your difficulties and struggles, creates an environment that is safe, open, and honest.  Don't preach from above: walk alongside. "Embrace the role of serving and exalting [your] mentoring partners."  Value their interests more than your own.  (66)  Stoddard


"Listen with your heart, not just your head." (74)  Ask good questions and avoid quick fixes. Avoid theoretical answers and focus on relevant principles that have worked in your life.  Help them with their passion, their pain, and their priorities. (74-77)  Stoddard


Foster self-discovery by asking questions.  Sample:  "If you lived in a perfect world and money was not an issue, what would you really love to give your life to?"  (91)  Stoddard


"Acknowledging pain and attempting to address it in a meaningful way is a key component of the mentoring process." (101)  Serve as confident and comforter. Share the load.  Extend compassion, listen, serve, be available.  Share your sources of comfort and hope and what you learned in adversity.  Help people try to find meaning in their pain.   Stoddard


"…help mentoring partners establish and maintain priorities.  Frankly, many people have never taken the time to think through what is most important to them.  They simply react…."  What would qualify as priceless in their minds?  Values act as a filter that determines priorities.  They also provide balance and a sense of order and control that make us happier and more productive.  (23)  "The challenge is to articulate and affirm what our values are, then take steps to honor these values in a practical sense…." (123)  Stoddard



        Be honest and direct

        Demonstrate unconditional love

        Be specific

        Demonstrate empathy

        Build on strengths and character through encouragements

        Affirm in public, correct in private

        Build an allegiance to relationships, not issues  (71-78), Davis




“The way to nurture our lives of faith most deeply is by spending time with experienced and wise mentors who can help us discover the way, to read stories of the great men and women of faith who preceded us in the body of Christ.”  (20)  Anderson


“Mentoring is not about telling.  It is about listening – to the Holy Spirit and to the life of the other.  …mentoring is a servant’s role.  …mentoring is primarily about discernment and learning to recognize where God is already present and active in the heart of the other.”  (28)  Anderson


“Spiritual mentoring … is the ministry of participating in what God is already doing in the life of the mentoree.”  “The heart of mentoring is the attentive, discerning mentor who, sometimes intuitively, knows how to listen to the Spirit of God.  When I am listened to, probed, encouraged, challenged and helped to hear God’s voice, then the mentor has come alongside.”  (50-1)  Anderson


“Discernment is the ability to see deeply into the truth of a person’s life or situation.  There are many who can see analytically or critically, but rare are those with the gift of discernment.”  “To discern is to see with the vision of God.”  (52-3)  Anderson


"Our job as mentors is not to produce great men and women, but rather to energize ordinary men and women to be greatly motivated for the cause of Jesus Christ." (37)   Davis



Mentoring: The Strategy of the Master, Ron Lee Davis, Thomas Nelson, 1991

The Fine Art of Mentoring: Passing on to others what God has given you, Ted W. Engstrom, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1989

Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life, Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton, Navpress, 1992

Mentoring: A Success Guide for Mentors and Proteges, Floyd Wickman & Terri Sjodin, McGraw-Hill, 1997, 

Spiritual Mentoring: A Guide for Seeking and Giving Direction, Keith R. Anderson & Randy D. Reese, InterVarsity Press, 1999

Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor and Becoming One, Bobb Biehl, Broadman Press, 1996

The Heart of Mentoring: Ten Proven Principles for Developing People to Their Fullest Potential, David A. Stoddard with Robert J. Tamasy, NavPress, 2009

"Mentoring in Motion," Jim Feiker, private communication



*Email me for book notes on the above books.