What Should A Mentor Session Look Like?

You may be saying, “Ok Mikey, I’ve heard you talk about the big picture of mentoring and WHY someone should mentor, but HOW do we do it?”

What do I do when I have 4 people who are interested in growing deeper in their relationship with God, and they want me to mentor them?

What does it look like when we all sit down to talk? Do I just shoot from the hip each week? Do we meet weekly? Is it more ethereal and mystical, or should it be structured and regimented. Am I supposed to be some kind of Buddhist-monk-guru-like-guy? Or am I supposed to be a General Patton? A counselor? A hard-nosed coach? What does a win look like in a weekly session?

Well, a few years ago some of my apprentices and I flew out to the UGA Wesley in Athens, Georgia. There we picked up many things, but what may have been most valuable was the structure with which we do mentoring, what we call GROW now. We’d already naturally done most of the elements they showed us….most of the time. What this simple plan helped us with, was to name and define the parts of a Mentoring Session so we could be more intentional rather than hit and miss.

 

THE 5 ELEMENTS OF GROW

The 5 Elements of GROW are Real Talk, Truth and Accountability, Next Steps, Foundations, and Prayer. These are the “ingredients” for meetings that help students GROW in their relationship with Jesus. The 5 Elements work together to create a well-rounded, wholistic approach to help students gain a deeper knowledge of God, grow in their relationship with Him, deal with life issues, and engage in life-transforming Christian community.

REAL TALK

Real Talk is focused on the student sharing what’s going on in their life. This consists of briefly catching up from the week before and filling the mentor in on what has been going on since the last meeting. The majority of Real Talk should be centered on it’s name… real talk. The conversation should be meaningful and relevant, reflecting what is actually taking place in the student’s life currently. Though there is a place for surface level discussion in building a relationship, Real Talk is intended to push beyond that by asking good questions that help the apprentice to open up and think more deeply about what is going on in their life. Our goal is for apprentices to share about specific life events, struggles, joys, etc. The mentor’s role in Real Talk is to initiate the conversation by asking helpful, open-ended questions. The mentor should create a safe and inviting atmosphere where vulnerability is welcomed. They should listen to what is shared and to what lies beneath what is shared. This will enable the mentor to ask thoughtful follow-up questions and learn what the real issues are. It is important for mentors to be fully engaged in the conversation. Real Talk is a lot like the discovery phase of mentoring, where important life issues will continue to arise again and again until they no longer affect the student.

TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Truth and Accountability is the mentor’s response to Real Talk. The essence of this element is shepherding—taking care of those God has entrusted to us. We do this by speaking truth into the apprentice’s life issues, encouraging them through biblical instruction, and holding them accountable to what God calls us all to. During Real Talk, the student will share authentically about their life. While we would like for them to arrive at truth and answers themselves, it will often be our place to help them discover these things. The mentor’s role will be to assume a posture of humility, where care is taken to not communicate a sense of spiritual superiority or having it all worked out. From this place, you will be able to speak with grace as you address life issues that don’t line up with God’s truth. Always communicate to students that you truly care about them and are for them in this process. When that is established, you will usually be able to speak the truth in love without jeopardizing your relationship with the student. During Truth and Accountability, we want to extend grace as we call students to a higher standard.

NEXT STEPS

Next Steps is where we help our students move forward in their walk with Christ through very practical means. The mentor’s role is to discern what God is calling their student to do in response to what has been discussed. For real change and growth to take place, we need to help students learn how to walk out the truth, practice spiritual disciplines, and take steps to further their own relationships with Christ. A “next step” in mentoring is the appropriate action that should be taken in response to the current situation. It answers the question, “What should I do in response to the things we’ve talked about?” This can look a number of different ways—making amends with someone the student has wronged; thinking through how to change habits and patterns to avoid sin they’ve been struggling with; making an appointment with a counselor; developing a Bible reading plan; or meeting with a career counselor about vocational choice and creating a wise path to get there. Transformation happens when we take tangible steps and actions in response to our life issues.

FOUNDATIONS

Foundations are discussion-based-teachings on topics that are foundational to the Christian faith. Part of making disciples is teaching truths rooted in what the Bible says about the important aspects of life. Foundation topics include those things we especially believe we should teach our students in this season of life. The purpose is to help students learn and apply these foundational truths through Scripture verses, teaching points and group discussion. As the mentor, you will teach and guide a discussion based on a passage of scripture or particular book in the “module” you are teaching. “Foundations” cover one of all five parts of what author and pastor Peter Scazzero says makes up the whole human: Physical, Spiritual, Intellectual, Social, and Emotional. We need growth in all five of those parts, and that’s what Foundations aims to do. Each module tackles a different one of those five parts of being.

PRAYER

Prayer in Mentoring is asking God to help us as we live our lives for him. It is an occasion for the mentor to actively seek the Lord with, and on behalf of the student. Typically, you pray for the student before, during, and after a GROW Session. You will pray before to prepare for the meeting; pray silently during the meeting to ask the Lord for direction; and pray at the end of each meeting asking the Lord to bless and help the student, especially in those areas that have been discussed. Because God has called and positioned you as their mentor, the Lord will hear, honor, and respond to your prayerseven if you personally are at a place where your faith is weak or have been struggling with something in your own life. The power of your prayer isn’t rooted so much in the excellence of your verbiage or the strength of your faith, but in the Lord’s love, grace, and purpose for the student you are lifting up to Him. PRAYER

 

HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND ON EACH OF THE 5 ELEMENTS?

GROW SESSIONS usually last about 2 hours

Real Talk (30 minutes): You should spend some time letting your apprentices share what is going on in their life and what God is doing. In Group Sessions, you’ll have to be careful to spread that thirty minutes across all of your apprentices. It’s important that you don’t go in the same order every week so that the same people don’t get rushed at the end. One week, one of your apprentices may take up a majority of that thirty minutes, but it’s still important to move on to Foundations, even if it gets deep. If you aren’t able to finish up, plan a 1-on-1 for that week to discuss the issue more in-depth.

Caution: if this is the only thing you get to every week, the group will just turn into a self-help group, where we just look at problems, or it turns into a counseling session. Real Talk is very important, but it needs the other four elements to stay balanced.

Truth & Accountability (15 minutes): Adequate time should be spent making sure the student leaves with an understanding of truth and what it looks like to follow Jesus in their current situations. Again, this 15 minutes will be spread out over all of your apprentices during Group sessions.

Caution: Without Real Talk, this can sound a lot like the mentor just spouting off what they think the apprentice should do before proper listening has taken place. Also know that “Truth and Accountability” can flow back and forth with Real Talk as you unwrap an issue in your apprentice. You don’t have to wait till they are finished with their “Real Talk” segment before you jump in. Without this element, they just keep wandering into the same obstacles over and over again. I think people are comfortable with Real Talk, but this is where we have to be ever so gentle in instructing them in righteousness and holding them accountable to what they say they want in their Spiritual Goals. This sometimes means tough love, but not careless tough love.

Prayer (5 minutes): This may seem like a lot of time or not enough. If it seems like a lot, remember that transformation is only going to happen if we invite God into the process and He empowers the change. If it seems like not enough, remember that you should be praying for your apprentice throughout the week, not just when you meet. But, this may be the only time you will get to spend with them, listening to and sharing with them.

Caution: This one can easily get neglected. If that happens, the session is not much different then the old guys who meet at the donut stop or coffee shop every morning…which I think is a cool group, but not what mentoring is about. Pray in public. Go on prayer walks as a group. Pray in places where you can tear loose and really go for it. Jesus said, “My house will be a house of prayer,” and if you can teach them to pray…I mean really break through in prayer, that can take care of most everything else. But if that’s all your group does, it may be anemic. It also needs the other 4 elements.

Next Steps (10 minutes): Coming up with goals and a plan for accomplishing them is just as important as talking about what is going on in life and sharing truth. Giving this element plenty of time in GROW Session is very important if life change is going to happen moving forward. It is important that the mentor guides the apprentice to come up with their own next steps so that it’s not as if the mentor is dominating or forcing them. This is where it is good for the mentor to ask good questions to make sure their Next Steps are SMART. Write down whatever next steps they come up with to discuss the next week.

We have a Discipleship GOALS card that we fill out at the beginning of every semester where we have 5 goals that we try to tackle every semester, in one of each of the 5 parts of being: Physical, Intellectual, Social, Emotional, and Spiritual Goals. They should be SMART:

Specific:
These are not things God wants to do in them today, tomorrow, or this week.
 These are typically things God wants to do in them over the course of a whole semester or longer. Ex: Growing in humility, patience, etc. Being set free from anger, lust, greed, or worry. Therefore, the more specific, the better, because this makes the goal more focused.

Measurable:
Equally important as setting a goal, is coming up with a way to determine if you have actually accomplished it. Ask them the question: How are you going to track your growth?

Attainable:
Growth takes time. God is often going to work in your life over many years, growing you bit by bit. Set
 goals that are achievable. “I don’t ever want to sin again” is not realistic. “I want to eliminate this specific sin from my life for the next month” is a great goal.

Relevant:
Is it a goal that is real to your life now? The difference in Attainable and Relevant is that relevant has more to do with what’s actually needed right now in your life rather than a “side-issue.” This is the part of the goal that forces priorities. Make sure the goal matters to you, and impacts your life

Time Based:
Any goal should have proposed deadline or the odds of it actually happening are very slim. Weekly check-ins on the goal help to keep it to the forefront of the apprentice’s mind, and therefore a priority. This part also plays into the “attainable” part.

I have a copy of their goals that they have come up with and so do they. So each week, we go around and talk about how they did with their goals in taking the one more step down the road.

Foundations (30 minutes to an hour): The key to The Foundations is balance. If not enough time is given to them, the group won’t get out of them what is intended. Spend too much on them and the group won’t have time for anything else. 30 minutes to an hour will give the group enough time to go through The Foundations together, reading the Scripture(s) and main points as well as engaging in discussion. It also leaves adequate time for the group to incorporate the other 4 Elements into their meeting.

Caution: Don’t let the whole time be spent here or it will become a book club….which is cool…but not what mentoring is all about. Don’t let it devolve into a lecture, a Sunday School class, or a book club. Mentoring is about helping them grow in all 5 of the ways spoken of earlier. Each module should take them one more step in the direction of growing in one of those ways. The mentor has a clear trajectory of where they’d like to see the apprentice overcome by the end. Each module gets them one step closer to that.

1-on-1s With Apprentices (1 hour):

When you meet 1-on-1 with your apprentice for lunch each month, go through the same elements, minus Foundations. Save that for group sessions. What’s interesting is that these elements will naturally flow in your time together after a few weeks. It will becomes so natural that you won’t even know you’re doing them.

THE 5 ELEMENTS SIMPLIFIED

REAL TALK
Open, honest, and authentic conversation about real life.

  • Create safety and build trust

    • Discovery phase – asking good questions

    • Not “one sided”; shared experience of vulnerability

TRUTH & ACCOUNTABILITY
The mentor’s response that provides Biblical truth, wisdom and encouragement.

  • Speak truth

    • Replace lies
    
• Share from personal experience
    
• Encouragement and Exhortation
    
• Upholding God’s standard for their life

NEXT STEPS
Practical ways of living that produce growth and transformation.

  • Spiritual disciplines

    • Short term goals that are SMART:
    • Specific, Measurable
, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based
    
• Effective (Produce actual growth)
    • Applicable

PRAYER
Communication with God that partners with what He is doing.

• Intercessory

• Thanksgiving

• About real-life events

• Talking and listening

• To God; On behalf of and with one another

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