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I’ve written before about how to take discipleship out of the coffee shop and into our everyday lives. While this is helpful and encouraging when you are the one doing the discipling, what do you do when you are the one desperately searching for a mentor and you keep getting told that they don’t have the time, that they aren’t sure they would be the right mentor for you, or [insert whatever other lame excuse you have been given]?
This is a tough situation most millennials who have sought after discipleship have wrestled with: lack of potential mentors or potential mentors that are not accessible. While I pray this serves as a guidepost to help you find the mentor you are looking for, mentors can sometimes be like mythological beasts, your search for one may be different than the “map” suggests and an element of supernatural guidance is certain to be involved. You may even find that your journey down one path leads you to new territory where new paths are blazed for others to follow.
Seven Paths to Finding a Mentor:
Path 1: Trick them into it
The “I don’t have time to disciple anyone” excuse has been popular for years. It is not an air-tight excuse however, and there are rarely people who have no time to give at all. Many potential mentors see discipleship as something that takes time out of their busy schedule, if you can’t get them to read my post about taking discipleship out of the coffee shop, or they’ve read it and still don’t feel they have time, show them that they have time. Rather than coming across as trying to take time they don’t feel they have to give, make yourself available and useful to them. Ask them if there is something they are doing this week that you can help with. Offer to babysit. Invite yourself over for dinner by asking if you can come cook for them.
Path 2: Volunteer in their Ministry
Another option in this situation is to find opportunities to serve in your church and do everything you can to be available and helpful to whoever leads that aspect of ministry. The more you contribute to making their jobs easier, the more they will find that they have time to pour into you, and they will even begin to seek you out to see how they can help you. You’ll also learn a lot by just being around good leaders and serving alongside them.
Path 3: Borrow a Friend’s
If neither of the above options work: see if you have any friends that are being discipled, and ask if their mentor would be willing to do a discipleship huddle with you and your friend. Huddles allow for more people to be discipled in the same amount of time. And while some mentors may say they don’t have time to meet one-on-one outside of a huddle, once you make that connection and build the relationship most mentors will realize they have some time for one-on-ones.
Path 4: Import one from Afar
Sometimes a local mentor is just nowhere to be found. Sadly this just is the reality of some seasons and some geography. Fortunately, with technology in our day, one option here is to seek out a mentor who may not be geographically near, but has the time to connect through email, skype, or phone calls. Maybe that pastor who’s podcast you follow, or that blogger who’s posts you read, a mentor you used to live near, or a leader in a friend’s church is willing to disciple you even from afar. You will never know if you never ask. Send them an email briefly describing your situation and your struggle to find a local mentor, and why you feel you could benefit from being discipled by them, even from afar.
Path 5: Time Travel
One option you always have is a historical mentor. These mentors don’t have the chance to turn you down. They can’t stop you from reading their books and they won’t complain about not having enough time. While I have had a couple wonderful women disciple me in person, my most consistent mentors have been Elisabeth Elliot and Evelyn Christenson. These wonderful women aren’t from my church, they don’t live anywhere near me, and we’ve never corresponded by letter, yet every book of theirs that I have read has challenged me, has made me ask hard questions of myself, and has inspired my faith to be bigger.
When selecting a historical mentor think about the types of mentors you wish were available in person, the areas of ministry you are drawn to, and the personal struggles you need to grow through the most. Look for historical mentors who worked in those areas of ministry, who had similar struggles, or you are just drawn to in general for one reason or another. Historical mentors who are not currently active in ministry and have written lots of books, or have had biographies written about them often make the best historical mentors because there is plenty of information to learn from and their struggles are not hidden for the sake of current ministry.
Famous missionaries or pastors are often a good place to start your search for a historical mentor. A historical mentor can be great to have even when you have a real mentor; the 24/7 access you have with a historical mentor makes it well worth finding someone to learn from in this manner. It is important to note however, that while a historical mentor can be really helpful, they are supplemental, not a substitute for a real live mentor that can call you out on your areas of growth.
Path 6: Be the Mentor
Whether there are mentors a plenty or scarcely a mentor to be found, we need to not only focus on finding discipleship for ourselves, but how we can disciple those younger than us. Even if you are a student, there are younger students to be discipled. Discipleship should never just be something we consume. It should always be something we receive and simultaneously pass on.
Path 7: Pay a Professional
Ideally we could all find personal mentors that are willing to let us into their lives and invest in ours. Unfortunately these kind of mentors just are not available, or do not provide the structure you need in that season of life. Working with a life coach on personal development is similar to having a mentor but is much more structured than often informal mentoring relationships. Your life coach with ask you tough questions and provide exercises and homework to work on that a typical mentor usually will not.
This post was originally shared on the 3DM Discipling Culture blog in 2015.
3DM seeks to train leaders in discipleship and missional community models. They are active across the US and the world with locations in Europe, South America, and Australia. Leaders such as Jo Saxton and Mike Breen have been a driving force behind the 3DM movement. Learn more at their website.