Matt Summerfield : Mentoring in the 21st Century

It was Dallas Theological Seminar professor, Howard Hendricks, who once said ‘A person trying to make it on their own is an accident waiting to happen’.mattsummerfield

We were never created to do life alone. In Genesis 1-2, God creates a beautiful world and declares that it is good! And then, in Genesis 2:18, we get to see the first ‘not good’ in the Bible. And what’s not good? It’s not good that Adam is alone!

But Adam isn’t alone. He’s got God, and surely God is all He needs; don’t we sing songs that say this at church? But God says – “This is not enough for Adam. He needs a close relationship with me, but He also needs a close walk with others.”

And so in Genesis 2:18 God says that he will make a helper for Adam. But the word ‘helper’ here doesn’t mean slave or servant. Eve is created to help Adam reach his full potential – and Adam is created to do the same for Eve. If this was true for life before sin entered the world, then how much more do we need people who will help us embrace God’s best for our lives.

 I want to suggest that we will never reach our full potential in Christ unless we have at least one person in our lives to whom we grow in accountability. You can call them a discipler – spiritual director – or mentor. It doesn’t matter! What matters is that you lead by example in this and then encourage your young people to embrace this too.

Jesus intentionally invested the three years of his ministry in a handful of young men. Thousands of people flocked to see Jesus all the time, but he poured his life in to just a few disciples because He understood that you will always make the greatest Kingdom impact by investing in the smallest number of lives. The Apostle Paul understood this too, which is why he gave more time and attention to cultivate the faith and leadership of Timothy.

So what are the characteristics of a good mentor? The Dictionary defines a Mentor as ‘an experienced and trusted advisor’:

  • ’Experienced’ implies someone who is a little bit further down the road of life. Someone you humbly recognize is further ahead in the journey of faith and life, so that you can draw on their wisdom and life experience.
  • ‘Trusted’ implies someone who has won the respect and confidence of the Trainee. Someone with whom you can be totally honest, totally vulnerable and totally open, trusting that you’re secret sins won’t be published in their next internet blog.
  • Advisor’ implies someone who is able to advise you and help you make good decisions. They don’t live your life but help you to live yours.

Once we know what we’re looking for, how do we go about finding this person? Here’s a P.L.A.N…

  • Pray – pray that God will help you find this person
  • Look – have your eyes open for who might do this
  • Ask – ask them if they’d be willing to disciple / mentor you
  • Never give up – if they say no, ask if they can think of someone who might BUT keep praying and looking in the meantime.

You can use the same approach to choose a young person to mentor OR to encourage them to find their own mentor.

Commit to lead by example today by actively embracing mentoring for yourself as a lifestyle, and then inspire your young people to make the same commitment. BIG in the Kingdom of God is always about changing the future, one life at a time.


 Matt Summerfield, CEO of Urban Saints

Norman Lynas : Why Mentoring Matters

Maybe it’s just an Irish idea, but if someone helps you and so makes it possible for you to take the next step up the ladder in any area of life, whether that be in education, business or the Christian journey, it seems the most natural thing in the world to do the same for others. And so I guess that was how I started encouraging others and spending time with them helping to grow and mature their faith. Part of the problem in my case was very simple – the fact that, having been brought up in a fairly strict church and Sunday school, my faith began as a way of escaping hell.

normanLater on I discovered that this way of thinking leaves out a vital part of the message: that Christ not only died to save me but chose to live His life through me. Having come to this realisation, I greatly appreciated having someone to walk with me in this journey, someone who mentored me. Being honest, I thought it was quite natural once I knew this, to share it with other young Christians so that they didn’t make the same mistakes I made. So, when a friend came to Christ, I started meeting with him in his home each Sunday night on a 10-week Operation Timothy programme after church. This began a change in his lifestyle and also his family, as his wife would sit in the corner knitting as we spoke. Before the 10 weeks were up, she got converted and in the next year both his teenagers got saved. Almost 30 years later, this man led his Dad to Christ a few weeks before he died.

I guess in those days, as now, I was learning to help people realise the wonder of the Good News and trust God to use me to help them. As we encourage our mentees into the discipline of spending time daily in the morning with God, reading His Word, praying and hearing from Him, I have found that the Holy Spirit then takes over and we leave the results to Him. My job is simply to share Jesus and walk with them – the results are with God.

If I were challenging potential mentors I would ask them these two questions. Firstly do you have a biblical message that continues to be real in your life and so challenges you, that you want to share it with others? Secondly are you willing to invest time in the lives of others consistently even when progress is slow? (I guess the biggest investment in mentoring is your time – this will demand sacrifice on your part.)

Mentoring can take many forms and what follows are a few lessons I have learned over the years:

1. Consider it an honour and not a duty to invest in another. Helping a young person to grow in their faith and walk with God is time well spent!

2. Set goals early in the journey together so that both parties see there is change/development happening. This also helps with commitment from the mentee.

3. Using a manual or book can be very helpful and will bring structure to your meetings. However, one of the keys also has got to be developing a hunger for reading the Bible and building a personal value system based on the Scripture.

4. I find it is helpful after a few meetings, to encourage the mentee to begin a prayer diary and learns to pray out loud with you. This can be a great breakthrough for mentees.

5. Encourage the mentee to keep a personal journal, maybe just a few lines each day or every few days, to note what they are learning and what God is saying to them.

6. Encourage spending time with the Lord each morning. From my experience those who do a morning quiet time survive much better and grow deeper.

I think one of the immense joys of mentoring is to take a long term perspective. As I look back over the last 40 years and see some of the young men and women who I have invited into my life I am thrilled to see the change that has happened in their lives and how they have in turn passed it on to others. Yes, sometimes there are disappointments, but as we discover ‘failure is never final’ in the Christian life. Sometimes prodigals can turn out to be our most exciting mentees as we see God break through in their lives. Our job is to keep loving and praying, it is God’s job to change hearts.

Mentoring is not the most glamorous of roles but I have found it to be very fruitful and rewarding. I’m glad the Lord gave me a passion to be involved, for 40 plus years, as I fulfilled my calling as a mentor in faith and business.

Norman Lynas,

Chairman of Lynas Food Service