The modern tendency is to want to shape our mentee into a miniature version of ourselves, their mentor. Alternatively, to take what we see as the mold for a good mentee and try to squeeze them into that mold, a replica of something we have seen, a one-size-fits-all approach.
In fact, for a young believer, there may be many people trying to fit them into several different molds of what they think the young believer should look like, and often they become overwhelmed by the expectations of those modeling the Christian life for them.
In essence, people are different and grow at different paces spiritually.
They face different struggles and different temptations, and there is no way that a standard approach will work for everybody. Therefore it is essential to adapt the mentoring model according to the people you are working with or the mentoring goals that you wish to achieve.
- The model that most of us are familiar with when we consider mentoring is the one-on-one model of a single mentor and an individual mentee, as seen in the biblical model of Elijah and Elisha. This is most effective if a relationship has already been established, has set boundaries and an expected duration. This one on one mentoring usually has clear goals agreed upon between the mentor and mentee.
- Another model that works well is the one-on-two model, as seen in the biblical model of Moses, teaching Caleb and Joshua. Both received instruction from Moses, but over time, God made it clear who was to succeed Moses as the leader. Caleb did not fail, but God called Calib to a vision, faith, character, and role in the community that was his own direction from God. (Joshua 14:6-14). Both men received the same mentoring and instruction, but God used them for differing purposes. The greatest danger in this model is to allow the mentees to compete for succession, rather than focusing on God’s calling for their individual lives.
- Group mentoring is seen in the biblical model of Jesus and His disciples. When Jesus selected the disciples, he worked with all of them, mentoring, teaching, sharing skills, spiritual authority, etc. Over time, some were focused on for more intentional leadership development. Jesus, however, actively worked on the development of the character of each disciple. After Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus focused more on Peter, James and John and called them away from the other disciples for more focused teaching.
In group mentoring, group dynamics make the process of mentoring more challenging and often bring you to a point where you want to quit altogether. To manage group dynamics, not only does relationships between the mentor-mentee need to be developed but also mentee-mentee relationships. Tensions need to be dealt with, and communication and leadership in group functioning are key. It is natural for pairings or groups to occur (Peter, James, and John) or for really special and close relationships to develop (Jesus and John). One even finds people who work well together, but do not bond naturally in a social setting.
In the group, some will grow and develop beyond your expectations, and others will not respond to mentoring and put limitations on themselves. With group mentoring, we do not know who will step up into maturity quickly and who will not (who would have picked Simon Peter?) The group mentorship process is no guarantee but is a model for facilitating growth and learning for all participants.
The most significant benefit is that leadership can be shared with other mature leaders to foster growth and learning for participants without the leader having to be the “guru” on everything and feel the pressure of leadership. It allows the mentoring of a number of people in a short period of time and enables them to interact with each other on a personal basis.
- The unique individual model can be seen in the biblical example of Jesus and Peter. Peter was a unique individual with unique mentoring needs and talents. His heart was right, but his responses were not always correct in all situations, he would jump out of boats and chop off ears with a sword. He rarely understood the implications of his actions, but Jesus could see what he would become. The same is true for the relationship between Barnabas and Paul in Acts, Paul did not initially demonstrate the characteristics we know him for, but Barnabus took him under his wing and trained him for a year.
- The timid or reluctant person model can be seen in the biblical example of Paul and Timothy, who was timid and had to be encouraged to step into the maturity and the calling on his life. He did not have what it takes to start with, and one did not see his leadership qualities upfront, but over time key elements of his leadership developed (2 Tim 1:3-8). Such mentorship may take longer, but the mentee’s finish well and strong. We also see this model in the relationship between Barnabas and Mark, who even though Paul did not approve of Mark in the beginning, thinking him to be unreliable, Mark flourished under the mentorship of Barnabus to become a reliable assistant to Paul and write the gospel of Mark.
We can see that the mentoring model can and should be adjusted according to the personalities we are dealing with, the circumstances we find ourselves in, and the goals of our mentoring.
In every mentoring model, the end desire is to grow and mature the image of Christ in your mentee.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30)