Think back to when you were in mid school, high school or college.
When you think about the one person who impacted you the most, who first comes to mind? A teacher? A coach? A principal? A coach? A youth pastor? A friend?
More than likely, there’s at least one person who pops into your mind. Now think about what that person did for you and why you can remember their name.
For me, that person was Adam Winn.
Adam was an intern for the youth ministry I attended starting freshman year in high school. He took time to hang out with me and a few other guys on a consistent basis.
I drove around with him in his white car we lovingly nicknamed “Apollo 13”, helped him put on events, and was even one of the two students who attended his wedding several states away.
At the time, I thought I was simply one of the guys he enjoyed being around since he was a kid at heart.
Maybe that was also true, but in hindsight, I’m now confident that I was intentionally selected by Adam and my time with him wasn’t just a fluke, an accident, or because he was bored and had nobody else to hang out with. He had been intentional with me.
My conversations with Adam nowadays are few and far between, but he will forever hold a sweet spot in my heart because he helped shape who I am today.
You have the ability to be an Adam.
You have the potential to forever change someone’s future for the better. These types of relationships don’t typically happen by chance, but by intentionally seeking out, selecting, and identifying a person in whom you can invest your time, attention and experience.
Becoming a mentor does not require a ton of time or resources. It does require you to challenge yourself by choosing to be a servant by giving away your most valuable resource… your time. However, it is well worth your time investment considering you will be building a legacy that long outlives your life.
“Remember that mentor leadership is all about serving. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).” ― Tony Dungy
If you think you might be ready to take the challenge of mentoring someone else, check out the 24 steps below that will help you start your journey as a life-changing mentor.
24 STEPS TO BECOMING A MENTOR
1) Know your “why”
- Your mentorship is an opportunity to serve the other person. By giving them the gift of your time, you cannot expect anything in return. This isn’t to say you won’t benefit from mentoring someone. You may feel a sense of purpose, joy, or even energized as you become a mentor. However, don’t enter into a mentorship with the expectation that it will mutually benefit you both in the same ways. I won’t, nor should it. Your role is to lead, guide and serve the other person. You will your own benefits, but be clear that you are investing your time in them. If you don’t have a servant’s heart and mind, you may feel discouraged that they didn’t ask about your life or seem to care about what is going on in your world.
- Remember that a mentorship is different than a friendship.
- When your mentee is successful, you are successful.
2) Get permission
- Call or text the parent if the person is under 18 and ask permission to meet with their teen in a mentorship role.
- Let the parent know your intentions and your reasons for meeting.
- Give the parent your contact information so they can reach out to you in the future with any questions they may have.
3) Be above reproach
- Schedule meetings in public places.
- Have students meet you at the meeting location rather than picking them up.
- If you must drive students, invite a few students to meet with you instead of meeting with just one.
4) Be an active listener
- Turn off, silent, or turn your phone over to minimize distractions.
- Make eye contact when you and they are speaking.
5) Ask open-ended questions
- It can be difficult to get new mentees to open up, so structure your questions in a way where they can’t respond to your questions with just one word. Here are a few examples:
- Tell me a story.
- Tell me your story.
- What is the one thing you fear most?
- What is your favorite part of church/school/sport?
- Who are your closest friends? What do you like most about them?
- What do you feel is your greatest strength?
- What do you feel is your greatest weakness?
- Where would you love to be in 5 years?
- Describe your future spouse.
- Let’s fast-forward to your 10-year high school reunion. Everyone is excited to see you and asking for your autograph. Why?
6) Discover FORM common denominators
- FORM stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Motivation. By discussing these areas in their life, you may discover areas that you have in common (interests, city where you born, names of family members, passions, etc).
- Even if your primary interests are vastly different, hone in on areas that you have in common. Maybe it is a mutual love of a similar music genre, type of food, or even model of phone.
- Finding something in common is crucial for the mentee to realize since they may otherwise feel as though you cannot relate to their life whatsoever. Commonalities between the two of you let them realize that what you have to share may relate to their life.
7) Dig into their interests
- You will break down walls if you can get them talking about their interests and passions. Ask them how they discovered their interests and what they are currently doing with their interests.
- Ask about food, sports, art, music, tv shows, favorite movies, etc.
8) Limit talking about yourself
- While you do want to find commonalities, avoid dominating the conversation. Remember, you are serving the other person, so the focus should not be on how much you get to talk about your own life. This doesn’t mean you can’t draw from personal experience or share occasional stories from your life, but resist the temptation to take over the conversation by making it primarily about you.
- If you spend too much time talking about yourself, you communicate to your mentee that your life is more important than theirs, and they will lose interest in the conversation.
- Don’t “one up” their story. If they share a story, don’t immediately tell your story because you feel it is more interesting or better than theirs. Ask questions about their story and get more details. This time is for them to share and for you to lead and guide them. After you have asked more questions about their story, maybe your similar story is relevant if you learned a lesson during your experience that relates to their situation.
9) Move from meaningless conversation to meaningful
- Most conversations start with surface level chit-chat about weather, recent events, etc. If you stay in the shallow end, you won’t have the chance to help direct their life-changing choices in the deep end.
- Spend time building rapport with your shallow conversation, but don’t forget or shy away from moving toward deeper conversation that matters most.
10) Ask them about their passions, dreams and desires
- An easy way to get them thinking about goals for their life is to have them talk about their passions, dreams and desires.
- Ask them what makes them stay awake at night.
- If money were of no concern, ask them what they would do with their life. Their answer will give you great insight into what they feel is most important.
11) Ask them about their strengths
- Try to find out what they are good at.
- Keep in mind their strengths lists may not always be the same as their passions list.
- Some students have a difficult time discussing things they are good at. Help them understand it’s okay to be humble, but it’s also okay to share what gifts they believe they have.
12) Help them discover their sweet spot
- Their sweet spot is where their passions and strengths intersect.
- While they may have 20 different passions and 10 different strength areas, they may only have 2-3 that overlap one another. Those 2-3 areas make up their sweet spot.
13) Help them define “success”
- The biblical description of success is not about acquiring wealth or money. While wealth is not a bad thing, what is a bad thing is when the acquisition of money or material possessions becomes the end goal. Healthy wealth is a by-product of godly success.
- Success is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Success is relative to each person.
- Success is achieved when a person utilizes their own sweet spot for the primary purposes of loving God and loving others.
- Help them brainstorm opportunities where they can use their sweet spot in ways that they aren’t yet using it.
14) Help define goals that lead to success
- While you may have helped determine their sweet spot and how to successfully use it for God and others, it still may seem too daunting for them to take action.
- Help them break down their unique path to success into smaller bite-sized goals that lead the direction they want to go. Be sure to write these goals down, because you will likely be the one holding them accountable for their next steps.
15) Help define their next step
- Once you have a list of goals that lead them toward their own success, help them determine what single action step they can take after your meeting.
16) Look for ways to add value
- Whatever their next step may be, try to think of ways you can help them achieve it.
- Maybe you can introduce them to someone who needs their skill set.
- Maybe you can help them get a job.
- Maybe you can write a letter of recommendation on their behalf.
- Maybe you can introduce them to new friends.
- Maybe you can work on a project together.
- Maybe you just need to encourage them.
- Try to find ways you can value to them so they are incredibly grateful that they spent their time with you.
17) Ask what you can pray for
- This question will help you determine where they feel stuck in life.
- The value you add may be related to their prayer request rather than just helping them with their next step.
18) Ask permission to share advice
- Before you give advice, ask them if they would like feedback from your perspective and life experience. Gaining permission opens their heart to be more receptive to what you have to say.
19) Provide biblical advice
- As you give feedback and advice, make sure the advice you’re giving is biblical. While you don’t have to memorize verses you’re using for advice, make sure that you can back up your advice with scripture.
- Remember that our feelings can be deceptive, so don’t just give advice based on what you feel.
- Encourage students to make choices based upon principle rather than emotion.
20) Pray with them before you leave
- Pray for the requests they made, but also for their goals, next steps and passions.
21) Schedule your next mentorship meeting
- If you don’t schedule your next meeting, there likely won’t be a next meeting.
- You can determine the frequency of meeting times, but I suggest meeting a maximum of once a week and a minimum of every 90 days.
- You may, however, predetermine the number of mentorship meetings if you want. You could mentor a person with 3-4 meetings to help get them on their path, and then move on to mentor another person. Of course, you can still allow previous mentees to reach out with questions as they arise.
- You can continue the same mentorship for life if you want.
22) Hold them accountable
- While many people get excited about new opportunities, their excitement can fizzle after a day or two. Hold them accountable by keeping in touch with them and asking how things are going. Ask about the progress they’re making.
23) Give them permission to reach out
- Oftentimes a mentorship role can be intimidating and the mentee doesn’t want to pester or annoy their mentor.
- While you should have boundaries for your personal time, you should also give your mentee permission to contact you based on your availability. This encourages your mentee to take ownership of their own mentorship journey.
24) Optimize their followup
- Give them the following list of questions they can ask you during your next meeting or when they contact you.
- Is there anything in my life you see that I might be blind to?
- What is most important to you in your life?
- How do you prioritize your time?
- What do you do in your down time?
- What would you do in this situation if you were me?
- How can I help you?
- How can I pray for you?
- Is this where you thought you would end up?
- What used to be your biggest weaknesses?
- What mistakes have you made and what did you learn?
- Who else would you recommend I connect with?
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Have you mentored or been mentored by someone else? What other steps can mentors take to making lifelong impacts on their mentees? Add your thoughts in the comment section below.