By Ryan Shaw
No person is an island! There has never been a “self-made” man or woman of God. All of us need multiple people throughout our lifetimes to help us become all that God has called us to become. Every believer who has been successful in life and ministry has had valuable mentors in their lives.
Believers who prove to be most effective in growing in & serving Christ have learned the importance of finding mentors at each step of the way. Sometimes they are in our lives for a long season while at other times they will come and go quickly, depositing something very specific with divine purpose.
Mentoring has been defined as a relational experience where one person empowers another person through a transfer of resources, be it new habits, knowledge, skills, desires, values, connections to relationships, equipping, etc.
How do understand the concept of mentoring? What does such a person do? No one mentor can meet all our needs. Every individual mentor specializes in some skill or purpose we need. But they cannot by themselves provide for the widespread mentoring functions required at different points of our lives.
Hence, God gives us different types of mentors at different seasons to be able to meet the variety of functions He is seeking to provide for us. Bobby Clinton, professor of Leadership at Fuller Seminary has identified nine key functions we need throughout our lifetimes.
Some of these functions might overlap in the same person, but often they will not. To receive from a diversity of people and specialties, God usually uses many different people to help us along the way.
We deliberately seek others who meet these mentor functions. Each function plays a unique role in our development as effective followers of Christ, serving Him in the Great Commission.
1) DISCIPLER– This leader equips us in basic habits of the Christian life, dealing specifically with hearing the voice of God, studying his word, living in fellowship with other believers, possessing a basic understanding of our giftedness, growing in character, etc
2) SPIRITUAL GUIDE – This person helps us evaluate our spiritual depth and maturity and develop a game plan for carefully moving forward with growth in these areas.
3) COACH – A “coach” helps us develop specific skills which the “coach” themselves excel in. This becomes a direct transfer of skills and expertise in a particular type of ministry or area of life.
4) COUNSELOR – This leader provides timely and necessary advice which provides perspective on issues or problems which the person is facing at the time.
5) TEACHER – This person gives us relevant knowledge that can be used for personal growth or ministry or other such need.
6) SPONSOR – These provide protective guidance and a linking to key resources so that a believer can reach their full potential in serving God. They help promote us in various areas of life and ministry.
7) CONTEMPORARY MODEL – These impart values to us which we observe through their lives. These values can be transferred and used in our own lives. We may never meet such a contemporary model, yet their lives could still deeply impact our own.
8) HISTORICAL MODEL – This is someone we definitely will never meet. They are found in history and we get to know them through biographies. We grasp the values they lived by and are inspired by their lives. This encourages ongoing development in our own lives to accomplish what God has ordained for us.
9) DIVINE CONTACT – This is timely guidance from God at a critical point through some human source. This is usually a chance meeting that God uses to guide or direct us in some specific direction. They may speak something into our lives or pray something specific for us, etc.