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Mentor Mayhem: Advisors, Coaches, and Mentors

by Chuck Wood

I’m feeling a little guilty. I’ve been allowing people to call me their mentor when really I was more of a coach or advisor.

What’s the difference?


An advisor gives advice. It’s periodic. There’s no requirement for the advisor to understand much beyond the particular problem presented by the advisee. We need advisors but let’s not confuse them with mentors.


A coach is someone who helps a disciple with a particular set of skills. And just like a baseball coach, they focus on the skills we need to succeed. After practice or a game, they go their separate ways to live their separate lives. Needed? Yes! Mentor? No!


A mentor, on the other hand, is quite a different animal. Yes, they are a combination of advisor and coach but he or she is a whole lot more. They are spiritual leaders who watch over your soul (Heb 13.17). They concern themselves with the whole of your life. It’s one of the heaviest and most rewarding responsibilities a disciple maker can ever be given. I have a lot to say when it comes to describing a mentor, but the bottom line is that they love you intensely, know you thoroughly, and can effectively help you become more like Jesus. This is quite a bit more than giving advice or teaching ministry skills.

But here’s the problem. As much as we need mentors of this caliber in our lives, they are rare. Part of the reason they are so few is that a lot of disciples have never had a mentor themselves and don’t even know where to begin. Another issue is that mentors often take on too many mentees and lose their potency (guilty!). No one wants to be the guy to hold someone back in their development, so saying no is gut-wrenching. On the other hand, if you don’t say no, you rob those you are already leading. Smart mentors limit the number of people they work with in order to be effective.

Some of you may be wondering, “With the bar so high, how can I ever be a mentor?” Everyone has to start somewhere, and mentoring is a learned skill just like anything else. Hopefully, you have a good mentor, and you can follow their example. But many of you don’t and will have to do a little OJT (On the Job Training). Realistically, I only have the capacity to mentor 5-8 people. So, I’m going to put on my advisor’s hat and write for a while on what it means to be a mentor. Hopefully, this advisor can get a few more mentors in the fight.

*My definitions.

Call to Action: Make a list of people you think you can mentor. Begin praying through how you will begin the relationship. If you can’t think of anyone, begin praying that God will give you someone.

Blast from the Past: My First Mentor

Barna Quote:

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