Building Leadership Through Mentoring - Part 1

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, and a kick in the pants.” Richard Tyre used this definition, describing mentoring through the eyes of a mentor. 1

A layman from the church which I pastored was helping me fix a broken water pump for our air conditioner. Jim turned on the electricity and water shot out, squirting all over me. His face showed shock.

What would I say or do? I began to laugh, wiping my face and shaking water off!

He then relaxed. Later Jim told me that that experience with the water was the first time he had felt close to me. We can't build leaders long-distance.

Jesus' private time with His disciples — away from the crowds (the pulpit and public times) — was the critical mentoring foundation for all that he did publicly. Pastors, too, need to get out of the pulpit to do mentoring. They must network into the life and fabric of the ones they mentor.

The term “mentor” is linked with a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. It was used about Odysseus's trusted counselor, in ancient Greek Mythology, where Athena became the guardian and teacher of Telemachus. Most major businesses, our armed forces officer's training, plus Christian groups and churches now use “mentor” to represent a special relational process.


  • “It is a dynamic relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in his/her life and service.” — John Mallison 2
  • “Mentoring is a relationship through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.” — Robert Clinton 3
  • “An agreed-upon exchange between two men, a more experienced man and a less experienced man, developing the less experienced to his maximum potential in Christ and empowering him with abilities to meet a need, achieve a goal, or to grow through a situation.” — Murray and Owen. 4

The Bible is chock-full of excellent examples of mentoring relationships. See Moses learning from his father-in-law, Jethro ( Exodus 18 ). Follow Moses mentoring Joshua ( Deuteronomy 3:28 ). It's amazing to see spiritually hungry Elisha run past the other prophets to get to Elijah's side ( 2 Kings 2:1-16 ), passionate about being mentored. Follow David's growth as his mentor-peer, Jonathan, introduces him to political leadership. Other kings were mentored by their religious teachers.

In the New Testament our supreme model, Jesus Christ, mentored the Twelve and the Three. One of the three, Peter, in turn had some type of mentoring relationship with Barnabas ( Galatians 2:11-13 ). Barnabas then imitated the method that he'd benefited from, by mentoring Mark and Paul. Through Paul, God erected a chain of Spirit-filled, world-changing mentors and church planters.

Let's look at five important mentoring elements involved in building a spiritual leader from scratch. It will cost you some personal time. We shoot for biblical “koinonia.” The Greek word “koinonia,” translated fellowship, means “to share or to partner, to invest in.” Amazingly, in the heart of an apprentice your time, words, attitudes, and actions are etched on their memory. They will quote you for years! Little is much when God is in it.

We will use these ideas: Principles & Promises, Progress, Problems, Prayer, and Practical ministry. These five elements are present in most meeting times or weeks that I'm investing in an individual. But their order may vary. For instance, perhaps someone needs help with a problem, or is yearning to pray over a need. That would be my first (but perhaps not my only) priority for our time together. Other times the mentoree has a Bible question, and one goes from there. Let's take a more in-depth look at these five mentoring elements, and how they allow us “to share and invest in” others.

(Colossians 2:2b, 3; Colossians 3:16; 2 Peter 1:4)

Ultimately the mentor and mentoree must have a structured time together in God's Word. We need a base and a focal point of agreement. John communicates Jesus' coming in this way: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14). Jesus perfectly lived out the Word. He fully revealed God's will through His life and words. Answers to questions, solutions to problems, standards for living — these all flow from Scripture. The foundation of any growing mentoring relationship will involve sharing and living the Word of God.

Joe was an appliance repairman for General Electric. I was leading a men's group at 6 a.m., teaching laymen how to feed their souls doing inductive Bible study. We invited Joe to join us. As Joe gingerly took “baby steps,” writing insights on 10 verses of Scripture, he grew to studying entire books of the New Testament. Joe's mind was stimulated, regulated to think, evaluate, and discern.

Everything improved in Joe's personal life. He was promoted at his job, then promoted again — and again! Calling me from a new executive position in New York, Joe, the ex-refrigerator repair guy, excitedly told me that when he learned to study the Bible for himself, everything began to change. It was the reason he'd been promoted to corporate leadership. Through Scripture memory, inductive Bible study, and meditation, anyone may jump from pew-sitting to “flight training.” He enters a new dimension, where he experiences God in every layer of his life. God's word applied had changed Joe's whole life!

I once asked a question of author-professor Dr. Howard Hendricks. “What is the first thing you try to do with the new convert?” Howard answered, “First thing I do, crack out of the box, is get a man into Bible study.” The Bible is a book of principles to live by, and promises to believe and claim. Through Scripture, God's fingers will touch every part of our lives. The mentor needs to model what he wants the mentoree to do and be. In the area of “Principles” we are to be pacesetters, leading the mentoree into Bible study.

When I meet for mentoring with a guy, I always want to know where he is in the Scriptures. Can he feed himself? Is he memorizing the Word? Does he know how to hear from God every day as he reads and studies the Bible? One characteristic that separates a baby from a teen-ager is the ability to feed oneself.

An easier method for an apprentice is to use a simple, question-answer type Bible study. Among the practical studies available is First Steps, which centers on John's Gospel. Then, you might move to the more demanding Living God's Word. 5 Another simple discipline involves teaching the mentee to take and review Sunday's sermon notes. In addition, when you pass on a few fun methods of Bible reading, it will push the mentee into new discovery and delight as he/she reads the Word. A good mentor helps plug his friend immediately into the Holy Spirit's master life-changer, the Scripture.

(Hebrews 3:13; Ecclesiastes 8:11)

People do what we inspect, rather than what we expect. All of us need to be accountable. There is no biblical “lone wolf” Christianity! Howard Hendricks cautions, “A person trying to make it on his own is an accident waiting to happen.” John Wesley said, “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion — watch over one another in love.” 6 Do not attempt your Christian journey alone. “Find companions who see you as a pilgrim, even a straggler, and not as a guide. The Old Testament tells the story of the people of God. Jesus' parables unveil the kingdom; the epistles went primarily to communities of faith. We have little guidance on how to live as a follower alone, because God never intended it.” 7 We are to care enough to lovingly challenge the mentoree and help him be faithful to his commitment to the spiritual disciplines. One must show more patience, however, with a new convert. And with each person, I suggest lovingly, using much patience and encouragement.

When I met men early in the morning for an agreed-on Bible study, I asked each man, “Did you do the study?” Our rule was, those who hadn't written down the study couldn't comment on the passage. I recall the shocked faces of the men who had done nothing, surprised to be checked on their “homework” for the first time ever! Sadly, at church they had never before been held accountable for anything!

Some kind of discipline is at the root of all mentoring; that is, if the mentoring process has true disciple-building as it's goal. God commands us to “Exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened from the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13). To lovingly confront and ask for faithfulness in biblically-based and agreed-upon assignments — that lifts a sagging relationship, without focus, to one of strong growth-potential. On the other hand, a “no check-up” relationship blunts people from conviction and spiritual reproduction.

Other forms of mentoring, however, may require less focus, for short-time help. My goal is not only to help the person where he is. If he is open, I want to share ALL that I can that will challenge him to a greater love for Jesus, and a willingness to follow Christ anywhere. 


1 Richard Tyre. 
2 John Mallison, Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, Scripture Union, NSW, Australia, p. 34. 
3 Clinton, Robert, Connecting, NavPress. 
4 Murray and Owen. 
5 Moore, Waylon B., Living God's Word, LifeWay Publishers (Nashville, TN), 1998. First Steps and Living God's Word may both be ordered from Order page to come. Email: for more information.
6 Mallison, John, Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, p. 34. 
7 Philip Yancey, “My to-be list: What I Learned from a 50-Year Spiritual Check-Up,” Ministry, September, 2000, (Napa, CA: Pacific Press), p. 11.