4 Key Questions for Deciding Who to Mentor

February 25, 2012 — Leave A Comment

“The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” ~ the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 2:2)

One thing I love about mature leaders is their commitment to always be “giving away” what they have to others. They want to mentor, to invest themselves in younger men and women, to teach them what they’ve learned along the way, and help them become even better leaders than they were for the next generation to come.

And for most of these mature leaders, there’s no shortage of potential candidates. One of the terrific (and terrifically challenging) aspects of being a great leader is that lots of people are drawn to you and want to spend time with you. But there’s no way you can say yes to all of them. There simply isn’t enough time.

So how do you decide? Aside from obvious things to look for like gifting and skill, what kind of person makes for a great investment of your time and energy–and really, of your heart? Here are four questions I like to ask to help me discern whether someone is a good candidate for mentoring:

  • Are they Faithful? ~ That is, will they stick with something once they say yes to it? Can they be trusted to keep their commitments?
  • Are they Available? ~ Do they really have the time and energy available that a mentoring relationship with you will require? They may have great passion and terrific potential, but if they’re working 60 hours a week or traveling all the time, they’re probably not a good fit for a mentoring relationship.
  • Are they Spirit-led? ~ Meaning, have they developed a spiritual practice of “staying connected” with God and following his lead? If not, they may not be ready yet for the level of mentoring you’d want to offer.
  • Are they Teachable? ~ That is, are they genuinely humble? Do they know how to listen? Are they willing to take risks, to make mistakes, and learn? Are they willing to trust you?

I think these four qualities — Faithful, Available, Spirit-led, and Teachable — are essential for an effective mentoring relationship. Plus, they make a handy acronym!


When considering a potential mentee, if I can’t answer yes to every one of these questions, I say no.

What other questions would you add to my list?

Michael Warden

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