The place of mentorship in success in life, ministry, and destiny cannot be overstated. In the story of every great man is the account of the meeting of someone who showed them possibilities, or showed them a secret, or held them accountable until they got to where they are.
Although mentorship is important, not all mentors will impact their mentors significantly. A mentor can only give what they have and if what they have is not what is needed for your destiny, mentorship will be the cause of your failure.
So choosing a great mentor is as important as the process of mentorship itself.
What Does the Bible Say About Mentorship?
Mentorship is a process of intentional transfer of knowledge, insight, and wisdom from someone with more results in a particular area (a mentor) to someone desiring the same result (a mentee) through a practical and experiential relationship.
To mentor someone is to serve as a model, advisor, counselor, guide, tutor, and example for them in order to produce one greater than yourself.
A classic example of mentorship in the Bible is the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. He brought them into his life, showed them His secrets, cultivated a relationship with them, taught them all He knew, and empowered them to do greater things than he did. (See John 15:15, John 16:12, John 14:12).
Notice that the purpose of mentorship is transformation, not duplication. A mentor does not seek to recreate himself in his mentees. Instead, he seeks to help them become the best of themselves.
Related: 12 Principles and Purpose of Mentorship by Dr. Myles Munroe
How To Choose a Great Mentor
1. Clarify your goal and purpose
The first step to choosing a mentor that will be best for you is to clarify your goal or purpose for your life.
Even if you don’t have a clear picture of your life’s purpose, you should at least be in touch with the desires of your heart and the direction you find yourself gravitating towards.
This is necessary because it’s where you want to go that determines who you should ask for direction. Asking a professional footballer with several awards to mentor you on becoming an academic scholar might be your first step to failure.
Not every successful person can mentor you toward success because success is not generic. Success is simply the attainment of a goal— whatever your goal is.
So your goal or desire must be established so you can find someone who has some level of success in that area.
2. Ask God for direction
I put prayer next because prayer can simply overcome the need for the remaining steps. God can direct you to a particular person to be your mentor but He won’t do that if you don’t ask.
Now, you don’t ask God by simply crying, “God give me a mentor!” You pray the prayer of inquiry.
The prayer of inquiry is a prayer where you ask God questions and EXPECT an answer. The goal of this prayer is not “praying” but receiving an answer. So your heart must be sensitive to God’s leading.
When I was first praying to God for a mentor, I had someone in mind but felt God was leading me to another person.
The person I had in mind was more in line with my purpose than the person God was asking me to meet. After much struggle, I followed God’s lead and it turned out to be the best decision.
A few months later, the person I wanted to meet relocated out of the city which would have affected me if I had chosen him.
On the other hand, my relationship with the other person God asked me to meet turned out to be more than mentorship. They adopted me as their son.
About a year later, I got ill with Tuberculosis and might have died if that relationship weren’t initiated. God saw beyond every metric.
If after praying God is still giving you the liberty to choose (that is something He does often), the following steps are proven to help.
3. Choose someone with results
For someone to be able to mentor you, they must have at least some level of result in the area you desire mentorship. It is not enough for them to be well-read and knowledgeable. They must be practitioners of the things they teach to truly transfer Life to you.
Jesus Christ told his mentees that the words He spoke to them are spirit and life (John 6:63). That was possible because they came as an overflow of what He was doing.
In Luke’s account, He acknowledged that he was recording, “all that Jesus began to DO and teach” (Acts 1:1). There was a doing before the teaching.
Receiving mentorship from someone who only teaches without doing, gives you a great load of information without transformation. Because “it is the spirit that quickeneth” and it takes practicing the works to give life and spirit to your words.
Apart from the transformative advantage of listening to a practitioner, there are some challenges that you will go through but aren’t written in books. It takes someone who has walked that path before, not just read about the path to know what to do at such a crossroads.
Read more about the four qualities that make people authorities in their field.
4. Choose a balanced mentor
Like I said in the beginning, what this post seeks to do is help you ensure that mentorship doesn’t bring about your failure rather than success.
Another mistake of mentorship that can bring people down is when their mentor is tilting them towards growth in one area at the expense of others.
For instance, if your mentor is only emphasizing prayer, fasting, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as the requirement for a great ministry, your growth will be lopsided.
Other important areas like leadership, organization, and human resource development cannot be left out, especially in the 21st century. That might be what worked for your mentor but times are changing.
You must ensure that you are built into someone relevant to their generation.
In a case where you cannot find one who is balanced in all areas, you can supplement by modeling other persons who have the areas your mentor is lacking.
If your mentor has a successful career but his family and children are suffering, you should model someone else who has a great family and balance it with the career lessons you pick from your mentor.
Remember the goal is not to duplicate your mentor but be transformed to do better than them.
5. Choose someone you can honor and listen to
It is only the one who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet that will receive a prophet’s reward (Matthew 10:14). If you don’t honor your mentor and see him or her as someone who can bless your life, their mentorship will not produce any positive effect in your life.
Honor is the first is first in the heart before it is acted out.
From your heart you must hold them in high esteem and communicate the same to them in your words and actions.
You also honor them when you treat their words as instructions, not mere advice. You do not need a mentor if you only have them in your life to “hear what they have to say” and you go back to do what you want.
You must submit yourself to their instruction and remain accountable to them. If you’re about to choose someone as your mentor and you know they are someone you can’t submit to, you are better off not initiating the relationship.
6. Choose someone with your interest at heart
A great mentor seeks the progress of his mentees, not his own progress. You should be on the lookout and be sure that your mentor genuinely wants you to grow and doesn’t just want to take advantage of you.
I know a guy who went to a businessman with his idea for mentorship and after the business grew. His mentor began to introduce advice that favored the mentor over the mentor. He couldn’t stand watching someone he trained make so much money and not have a share of it.
After all, he trained him.
That is not a great mentor. Although you should appreciate your mentor materially from time to time, a great mentor’s reward is seeing you prosper. He is more satisfied by seeing you do great things than by any great thing you do for him.
This is why Jesus Christ had to take the painful decision of leaving the earth because his absence was what was best for his mentees (John 16:7).
7. Choose a mentor who is open to growth and change
The last characteristic of a great mentor I’ll be considering is that they are open to change and growth
Your mentor has indeed gotten some level of result and that is why you are following them. However, all they have gotten is not all there is.
Also, some of the things they have learned and taught might not be a complete truth, if they are rigid and not open to change, they will deprive you of new perspectives that are more effective than the part you’re currently walking.
A great mentor can openly acknowledge they are wrong and take a new course they find better.
Here are five other qualities of effective thought leaders that will help you choose a great mentor and be a great thought leader yourself.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.