Keeping Our Bearings

  • Don Payne
  • Oct 21, 1999

What makes a good mentor? There is a variety of good answers to that question. Answers often reflect the unique contributions particular mentors have made to our own lives. The question is still far-reaching and broad. As we seek to mentor others wisely and effectively, how should we aim? It is easy to lose our bearings. So, what should characterize an effective mentor?

Drs. Robert and Richard Clinton, a father and son who do extensive research and teaching in the field of mentoring, have identified at least six characteristics common to mentors who have significantly shaped leaders (The Mentor Handbook, Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1991, p. 2-6). They state that effective mentors have: 

  • discernment to see potential in a person,
  • tolerance for putting up with mistakes, brashness, abrasiveness, and other undesirable character traits frequently seen in raw leadership potential,
  • flexibility which is needed in order to allow [mentorees] room to try and fail and to do things differently,
  • patience, which sees the big picture and is willing to wait while processes mellow and bring the [mentoree] to a point of openness
    to learn,
  • vision to see down the road and predict or suggest next steps appropriate for the [mentoree],
  • giftedness, which includes natural abilities, acquired skills, and gift-mix (like the encouragement gifts of mercy, giving, exhortation, teaching, faith, word of wisdom), for relating to individuals so as to encourage and motivate.

Even this short list can feel like a tall order! As it draws our attention to some areas where we need to grow as mentors, it also helps us see which mentoring strengths we should maximize. We in Denver Seminary's Office of Training and Mentoring pray that you are experiencing God's presence and power in your own life as you work with us to mentor servant leaders. We hope you get as much out of the process as the students do. Keeping our bearings helps that growth go in both directions!