Discipleship and spiritual formation curriculum for new believers, new Christians

Role of the Mentor

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

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A mentor helps a new Christian begin the journey with Christ.

The JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey series of lessons for new believers is designed around the relationship between the new Christian and a mentor. By mentor I don't mean some highly formal relationship, but, as the dictionary defines the term: "a trusted counselor or guide; tutor, coach."1

It is often best if the mentor is nearly the same age as the new believer, or perhaps a few years older. The most important aspect is that the mentor is a healthy, growing Christian himself or herself. The best growth for a new believer is going to be in tandem with a Christian who is a bit more mature in the Lord, one who can lead the way and show the path.

Qualifications of Mentors

Here's what we are looking for in a mentor. See if this fits you.

1. Growing in Christ. No one expects you to be perfect. But it is important that you are growing in Christ. That when the Holy Spirit convicts you of a sin, you quickly repent and ask for forgiveness and cleansing.

2. Obedient. You need to be a person who is seeking to be obedient to Christ yourself. That way you can help model obedience.

3. Quiet time. It is vital that you take time every day to spend with the Lord, missing only an occasional day. Since this kind of quiet time will be one of the most important factors in helping your new believer grow, you will need to be able to share how this works for you.

4. Active in a local congregation. You need to be an active part of a local Christian church. This both enriches your own spiritual life and it enables you to invite and involve your new Christian in the life of the church.

5. Loving. As you work with new believers, you will find that there will be significant areas in their lives that are seriously out of line with a Christian lifestyle. You won't approve -- I hope! That is to be expected. But if you come across as harsh and judgmental, that won't help, but rather hurt. You need to model the kind of patience, love, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ himself. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit who is responsible to change your new believer's life, not you. James instructs us:

"And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:15-16)

Pray diligently and then trust God to work in your new believer's life. God is faithful!

6. Accountable to your pastor. It is important that you are in regular touch with your pastor or someone your pastor appoints to oversee your ministry of mentoring and discipling your new believer. This will help you gain wisdom, avoid pitfalls, and grow in your own spiritual gifts.

7. Discreet. It is vital that your new believer can trust you with the confidential matters of his or her life, without feeling that you will be telling someone else. So you need to keep such matters strictly confidential. If you think, however, that there's a crisis that your new believer needs help with that is beyond you, then get some help from your pastor or a person appointed to help you. Your relationship with your new believer is all about trust.

8. Same gender. It is best -- unless you are married to your new believer -- that the mentor is of the same sex as the new believer. Since the mentor - new believer relationship will be a close one, you don't want the dynamics of sexual attraction getting in the way. Be wise.

9. Committed. You will need to be willing to commit yourself to this ministry each week for at least 12 weeks. Do not begin this unless you are willing to do what it takes to finish. Your new Christian is depending upon you.

10. Watchful and in prayer. Since you are embarking on a front-line ministry to help someone who has previously been under the enemy's influence, you will be a renewed target for temptation yourself. Be watchful and in prayer.

You Don't Have to Know Everything

You may be wondering: What if the new Christian asks me a question that I don't know how to answer? You may think you don't know enough about the Bible to do this.

Let me encourage you. The new believer won't expect you to know everything. Just say, "I'll find out about that and then get back to you." Then ask your pastor to help you answer the question and share the answer the next week. You'll learn a lot as you take on this ministry. And you'll know the Bible better when you finish than when you began. It's okay.

If you set yourself up as someone who knows everything, you'll fail. Present yourself as a fellow traveler along the same road, just one who knows the way a little better. You are a guide, but one who looks to the Great Shepherd yourself, just like you are teaching the new believer to do.

What Is a Mentoring Session Like?

There is no one "right" way to mentor someone. Every situation and personality is different. But the JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey series is designed to fit a weekly meeting between you and your new Christian that takes an hour or perhaps a bit longer.

Here is how a typical one hour and fifteen minute mentoring session might take place:

15 min.

Catching up. Spend some time talking about how things are going. No rush to get into the lesson. You are building a relationship through which the love of Christ is flowing.

15 min.

Watch the video. If you are not able to watch the video (either online or on a DVD), the lessons are available in audio format (MP3) as well as in written form. The lesson material is designed to be watched or read in about 15 minutes.

30 min.

Discuss the questions and discussion points. At the end of each lesson is a list of questions and discussion points for you and your new Christian to discuss, also available online for free reprinting: Participant Handouts. Please print these out before the session -- or refer to them in the book version (available at a modest cost).

Don't do all the talking yourself or answer all the questions. Rather, seek to draw out your new believer and get him or her talking. As he or she struggles to find the answer, major learning is going on. Do not short-circuit that process by prompting or giving an answer too early. Only if he or she can't seem to grasp the point, should you be more direct about the answer.

These questions and discussion points are designed -- with the lesson itself -- to stimulate Christian growth in your new Christian. There are points for review, for questions about how he or she is doing applying previous lessons, and questions to help your new Christian grasp the new lessons. The discussion points are designed to help your new Christian grasp truth and then apply it in his or her daily life.

5 min.

Scripture memory. Spend time with your new Christian seeking to learn the memory verse for the current lesson and reviewing past verses. It is best that you learn these verses, too. Learn them using the Bible translation most often used in your church.

10 min.

Prayer. This is a time for you to pray for your new Christian's needs. But just as important, the new Christian will learn to pray for his or her own needs and for yours. Do not be afraid of praying aloud. Christians have been praying each other aloud for thousands of years.

1 min.

Appointment. Set a time and place for your meeting together next week.

Where Should You Meet?

Anywhere is fine, so long as you will be able to talk freely:

  1. Coffee shop or restaurant
  2. Apartment, home, room
  3. Park or square
  4. Internet café or library. You could watch the video there, then go outside to talk.

If you will be watching the online video together (recommended), then try to find a location that has Internet access. Other alternatives are to use the DVD (available for purchase) or to download the video onto a computer for later viewing. Or you can download and play the audio (MP3) version or read the lesson together. There's lots of flexibility.

What Do You Need for the Session?

  • Computer (optional). If you're meeting in a place that has Internet access, you can watch the video (or listen to the audio) on a computer at that location or a laptop that you might bring with you.
  • Bible. Bring your Bible with you to each session. If your new Christian doesn't have a Bible yet, bring an extra one for him or her. Later your new Christian may want to purchase a study Bible in a new translation.
  • Memory Verse, Questions, and Discussion Points. If you and your new Christian each have a copy of the JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey book, then bring that to each session. If not, you may want to print out the online lesson or, at the very least, the two-page handout for that lesson for each of you. This can found online:  "Participant Handouts: Memory Verses, Questions, and Discussion Points."
  • Cards on which to write the memory verses.
  • Pen or Pencil to take notes and write down prayer requests.

The Importance of Bible Memory

One component of this discipleship curriculum is Scripture memory. This may be familiar to you -- or perhaps you have never attempted it. In either case, I want to encourage you to be faithful to work with your new believer to memorize the verses indicated. Why don't you and he or she decide to memorize them together?

I have given the memory verses in the New International Version, but feel free to substitute whatever Bible translation is most used in your congregation. If English is a second language for your new believer, consider learning the verse in his or her native language -- the "language of the heart."

Here's what I have found best for Bible memory:

  1. Write out the verse on a 3" x 5" card (any size will do).
  2. Read the verse out loud about five times. Do this together with your new believer. It will help you too.
  3. Say it from memory several times, only looking at the card when you can't remember a word or phrase.
  4. Place the card where you can see it often. On a mirror, desk, car dashboard, etc.
  5. Review this memory verse and previous verses regularly.

Scripture memory is work, no doubt about it. But it will pay rewards for a lifetime. The Psalmist said:

"I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11)

It is pretty clear that Jesus and the apostles had committed many Scriptures to memory.

  JesusWalk - Beginning the Journey book cover
Printed books, e-books, and a DVD set are available

At the end of your session each week, have your new Christian take out his or her memory cards and review the previous weeks' verses, plus trying to learn the new verse. Do this each week and you will be surprised how well you will have learned Scripture.

The Importance of Your Mentoring Ministry

This mentoring role is an extremely significant ministry. You will be an assistant to the Holy Spirit in beginning to get a new believer started in a healthy way on the journey.

You will find that the relationship you will develop with your new Christian will be precious to you. Years from now you will look back on these twelve weeks and smile from the memories. You will be carrying out your ministry faithfully -- and will be blessed immeasurably in the process.

What a privilege you have before you, to be a mentor, a friend, and a fellow traveler on this journey with Christ.

24. Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary.

JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
New Christian, New Believer Discipleship Training and Spiritual Formation

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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