Are you looking for a mentor, or considering being a mentor to someone else? People will often ask me about mentoring, recognizing the need for a mentor in their own lives and the people around them. I have realized over the years, that most people don’t know how to spot a good mentor.
Here is what I think are the top five characteristics of a good mentor:
- “Older” than you: A mentor does not have to be older in years, but certainly “older” in their spiritual walk with the Lord. There has to be a sense that they are ahead of you in their ability to trust the Lord and display the characteristics of Christ in their life. I remember appreciating the fact that an older believer knows what they are talking about when they say: “God will come through for you, I just know it!” For me, that statement was more believable because the person had “gone around the block” of believing, a few times. As it turns out, mentors are often ahead of us in their stage of life, often having experience, wisdom, and insight.
- Any mentor who is older, be it in years or wisdom, has one characteristic that will stand out above all others: evidence of God’s hand in their life. There is no “spiritual finishing line”, no one “has-it-all-together,” but God’s transforming power is working in their life. You hear about it in their day-to-day walk, their testimony, their statements of faith and their unwavering trust in Him through all circumstances. There is evidence of the fruits of the Spirit in their life and they are being changed. To determine evidence of God’s activity in their lives, it is best to observe a while, listen to what they talk about and what actions they take.
- A teachable Spirit: Any mentor, who is themselves not teachable, cannot teach and lead others. Paul himself said: “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). For people to follow you, you have to be leading: learning and growing in Christ? A mentor has both the character and the attitude of humility: realizing that God is not finished with them yet! They know His message, they know to pass it onto the next generation, but they also know that God will continue to teach them, revealing Himself to them. They stay teachable, willing to be molded and shaped for their tasks: the work that the Lord has prepared in advance for them to do. They are looking to improve, to grow, to equip themselves, to expand their abilities to learn something new.
- A commitment to people: In our world, committed people are rare. Commitment is based on convenience or personal benefit and entered into and ended based on expediency. Very few people keep their commitments. Living in relationship with others is complicated and not easy. The evidence of God’s community is in their love and commitment to each other (Mark 12:31). Commitment is sticking with them even when they are difficult; let you down; take long to make changes or just don’t change. Commitment is trusting the Lord to help you accept others and to seek to see Jesus in them. Not everyone is willing to commit to people when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable and of no personal benefit. Mentors decide to commit time, energy and resources into relationships. Look for someone who is committed to the people around them.
- A willingness to share that which God has entrusted to them. Good mentors know that God’s revelation is not just for personal benefit, but for the comfort and edification of others. They have a willingness to share with others the knowledge, understanding, comfort, and wisdom they have received. This is done without arrogance but with a humility that recognizes what has been given by God. There is also the balance to look beyond the spiritual to everything else that God has given: talents; time; health; abilities; money; a home. They share all knowledge, in all areas of their life with the next generation so that they too may be equipped to reach out to others and share the message of God. They also understand that they are to be faithful in sharing what has been entrusted to them, not taking on responsibility for what God is to do within the lives of others.
I hope this has helped you identify what to look for in a mentor. Please be aware that nobody is the perfect mentor, only Jesus is the perfect mentor. Looking for perfection in others is never a good start, neither is perfection in yourself.
When looking for a mentor, a good heart, a love for Jesus and a love for people is always a good base from which to start. Look for people that display characteristics that you would like to have in your life and most of all, pray about it.