A 5 Step Process for Mentoring

Leaders and followers. The world is complete with both. We really cannot have one without the other. And to have followed makes you a better leader. So let’s look at leading. And a few buzz words that have morphed out of this concept of leading. Like discipleship, coaching, apprenticeship, job shadowing, and mentoring.

It can be semantics to try and define a uniqueness to each of these words. But, maybe the hardest part about the idea of mentoring is the definition. It has become the buzzword in corporate America and the church. According to University of Texas, San Antonio, Executive Coaching and Mentoring is the fastest growing MA in America. Every Fortune 500 executive seems to be hiring a personal life coach or mentor. But let’s look at a working definition for this post.

Here’s a personal definition for mentoring:

‘The intimate accountability of a teacher and a pupil.' It is 'the familial editing of a father (mother) to a son (daughter).' It is 'the close editing setting where lessons are taught and actions are corrected.' Mentoring is proximal. It is all about accountability and relationship. Mentoring requires closeness or ‘withness’.

As we detail mentoring further below in the post, consider an ideal definition of discipleship or coaching contained in the larger group setting. Oftentimes, people will interchange these terms with mentoring and yet they really are different. When I am teaching at the University level in the classroom, I am not mentoring. That will look more like coaching or discipleship or teaching. That is information and not accountability. There isn’t much exchange in that setting.

There is no way that I can have the needed proximity in a large group setting to do effective mentoring. That requires an interchange that can only be done in proximity.

I cannot pour my life into and have the reverse happen with 20 students effectively. But I can pour my life into and have the reverse happen with 3-4 students.

With the breakdown of the family, mentoring is so much more important. And as YTH leaders, we will be filling the role of parental surrogates far too often. You have heard me say that we cannot replace the critical relationship of parents and teens, but, we will be called upon to assist that relationship often.

So, here are some practical advice for mentoring as YTH leaders:

*The mentoring relationship is a proximal assurance of spiritual formation in teens

This is one of the growing strategies for personal growth. At every level and sector of society 'life coaches' or 'executive mentors' has become en vogue. As we have said, the fastest-growing Master's level program in the country is the Coaching/Executive Organizational degree.

Mentoring (coaching & discipleship aside) is ultimately relational. Although these terms are somewhat different in execution they are similar in approach. My definition of Mentoring is 'the intimate accountability of a teacher and a pupil.' It is 'the familial editing of a father (mother) to a son (daughter).' It is 'the close editing setting where lessons are taught and actions are corrected.' 

If we are going to produce proteges, it will require a small or intimate relational setting. Mentoring is not small groups of 12-15! Think of mentoring this way - it is dangerous. It is dangerous because it is intimate. It is painful because it is proximal. And it is hated because it is love. Many leaders have a difficult time with mentoring because it requires you ‘carrying’ a student. Or, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, ‘place-sharing’.

With that understanding, here are 5 processes to help you with mentoring:

1. A personal mission statement is key to the mentor and the mentee in order to keep them on course with objectives. This also helps so that you are not in relationship with people who do not have the same passion and interest as you do. There is a reason I do not mentor business majors. And why I mentor YTH Ministry majors. And this mission statement or packet can be a great guide to a successful mentoring relationship.

Creating a mission or vision packet with all of the necessary information to make mentoring productive is the first thing you should do. It will include personal information, spiritual assessment, and mentoring meeting information. Every one of my mentees gets this packet with all kinds of instruction. Including the following processes.

2. Communication of the entire process and goals will allow for definition of the objectives and defining the win for both of you. Do not enter into a mentoring relationship without the entire process in mind. Use this communication packet periodically to do mid-course correction and make sure you are accomplishing what you want to.

In the first meeting you will both go through this packet and make sure that the objectives are clearly defined so that progress can be identified and the end goal determined. A clearly defined process and goals will be the determining factor to your relationship success.

3. You should be pursued by the Protégé/Mentee and not have to worry about the interest of the person you are meeting with. If they do not show commitment, then mentoring is not for them. I do not chase my protege. If there is no hunger, the process will not work. There must be a sense of loyalty and interest from the them.

This can be determined by the following that I like to ask during the process:

  • Are they on time for the meetings? Or are they cancelling meetings?

  • How much conversation is happening?

  • The attitude of the protege or the mentee when you are correcting them?

  • Are assignments done if they are given?

  • Am I seeing progress in certain areas that we are talking about?

4. Know when to be finished with a mentoring relationship so it doesn’t produce co-dependency. I have rarely gone more than 6 months on a bi-weekly basis. And the norm is 4-5 months. You can accomplish plenty of growth in this amount of time. You really only need to address about 3-4 issues in that 4 months or so and that will be plenty of change to deal with.

If a protege would like to do a second term, I have done that. Especially if the relationship is healthy. But it is important that another person speak into their life also so I like to keep the mentoring meeting to under half a year. Every relationship can fall into a time of impasse if we are not careful, so gauge it along the way.

*I have done long-term mentoring with very few people. That is for sons and daughters or those that you have great chemistry with and a burden for. But you cannot manage too many of these relationships. That is why we need more people in the mentoring process.

5. Be creative with the meetings to gain an edge. The place, time, setting, and time-frame are all very important to the success of the relationship. Mix it up often to shock the meetings. A creative place to meet (lunch - ball game - mall – airport), cancel a meeting short-term, change the topic, bring in another mentor, or even watch a video or vlog together.

Here is what my meetings look like:

  • 30 minutes

  • Planned agenda mostly

  • Privacy for discussion of sensitive topics

  • Break up the location if you need to shock the meetings

  • Ask another mentor to join for a different perspective

Specific talk will happen in a specific place - and if the place isn’t exciting or creative, the discussion might follow that vibe.


The success of being a YTH leader will depend upon leadership development. And that is not only general leadership development of the leadership team, but also, the mentoring of a few key people who can become sharers of the burden and work of ministry. If you need any help with this, I have documents that I can share with you. Just email me from the contact page here on the site and I would be glad to send you those.

Jeff Grenell