SPIRITUAL MENTOR -ING: What does a spiritual mentor do? How can a mentor help you? Donna Hart, PhD, encourages you to have a mentor and be a mentor. Often you’ll find a mentor at church. Her article appeared first here at her website and is used with permission.
If we were to search for a spiritual mentor, what kind of a person would we be looking for? Most all faith traditions have teacher-student relationships. Spiritual mentors are people who give visible evidence of a certain maturity. They are classically understood as the relationship between a student and teacher in the area of practicing the spiritual life.
Jesus is always the best place to look as we seek to understand a frame work for spiritual mentorship. Jesus gathered disciples and taught them daily in both a private and public setting. Of course, what Jesus taught had spiritual significance because of who he was. He embodied what he taught. The early stages of his relationship with the disciples could be likened to that of parent-child or perhaps master-servant, but without authoritarian qualities. As the relationship progressed, it developed more toward the traits of a mutual friendship (John 15:12-17; 21:15-17).
What Is Spiritual Mentorship
Spiritual mentorship is the guidance one believer gives to another to help that person “grow up in every way…into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Sometimes a spiritual mentor can help us see and name our own experience of God. In the simplest terms, the spiritual mentor is simultaneously a learner and a teacher of discernment.
Responsibilities of a Spiritual Mentor
They offer hospitable space for us to speak and be heard. We often do not fully know our thoughts, experiences, questions, or unresolved issues until we have had a chance to put them into words before an attentive and receptive ear. A spiritual mentor can listen until they have clarity, then help us to articulate our thoughts, feelings, questions, and experiences in relation to God.
2. Helps you hear God
The ways of the Spirit in our lives can be subtle and not always self-evident to us. They can get hidden in the midst of ordinary life events and relationships. A spiritual mentor can help us to see and pay attention to signs of grace and to listen to God’s “still small voice.” A mentor can also direct our attention to the dynamics of the heart so we can become more aware of how God speaks to us through it.
3. Helps you respond to God with increasing freedom.
When we notice that God is present with us by his guidance, provision, and challenge, we are faced with decisions and choices about how we will respond. God’s presence and provision provide comfort which elicits our praise and gratitude. At the same time, God faces us with the deep realities in our lives, calling us to change. Out of these encounters God calls us to a new sense of purpose and mission in life, and a spiritual mentor can help us to respond in loving obedience.
4. Points you to practical disciplines of spiritual growth
Most of us could use some guidance on ways of prayer that attune us to God’s presence. We may need suggestions on what to study in the Bible and tips on keeping a journal. A mentor can also help to keep us accountable to the disciplines we have committed ourselves to.
5. Loves you and prays for you
The love a spiritual mentor has for us is always mediated by the love of Christ in prayer.
6. Must be trustworthy
A spiritual mentor must be trustworthy and attuned to the presence and movement of the Holy Spirit rather than to mere personal wisdom. Kenneth Leech says, “The greatest spiritual guides have been men and women of prayer and quiet, people possessed by an inner stillness of soul, people who are able to guide others because of their own closeness to God.”
Character of a Spiritual Mentor
When looking for a spiritual mentor, seek out these characteristics: a Christian with a certain maturity of faith, who knows they are not perfect, but is always seeking to walk in repentant faith.
Look for a person who is patient and listens well. We need guides who are not easily shocked, who can hear and acknowledge the reality and variety of human feelings and behaviors without issuing condemnation.
A good spiritual mentor can listen and be attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit at the same time. Look for a person who invites trust and can hold a confidence so that you can speak freely. Make sure this person places their trust, first and foremost, in the grace of God.
Questions for You
Who has mentored you? How have you been impacted? Is God calling you to be a mentor to someone?