The Importance of Mentorship: 3 Types of Mentors You Most Likely Already Have (and possibly are)

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 13:20 

The definition of mentorship is the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution. To take it further, mentorship is better described as a relationship between two people where the more experienced individual shares and passes knowledge, wisdom, and guidance to the less experienced individual. It’s an ongoing relationship where the two benefit from one another through teaching and learning. 

We often view mentorship as a formal agreement. However, more often than not, we already have “informal” mentorships in our lives. Informal mentorships are relationships that are already established with people like our parents, relatives, spouses, friends, peers, teachers, ministry leaders, and coworkers. Whereas “formal” mentorships are often sought out and requested by a person wanting to grow or improve in a certain area or skill.

For example, I have many “informal” mentorships, or in other words, relationships where I get wisdom and guidance for myself and also can contribute it all back. These are people I do life with (my friendships, etc.). I also have a “formal” mentorship with an older woman whom I meet with consistently for spiritual, emotional, and relational growth.

Both informal and formal mentorships are valuable and beneficial for our personal growth. It’s important to understand that even if we don’t have a formal mentorship established, we most likely already have informal ones. With that in mind, there are three types of mentors we most likely already have in our lives (and possibly are these types of mentors to others).

There’s a famous quote by Jim Rohn, which says we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. The people you spend the most time with will influence your character, behavior, and choices. This is a form of mentorship. Hopefully, the five people we spend the most time with fall into these categories for our (and their) continual personal growth.

One of my “informal” mentors actually shared these types of mentors with me. When she shared this, it helped me assess my relationships and recognize what I can learn from each person in my life. It helped me understand which type of mentor I could be and possibly already am to others. It also helped me realize that there is always something to learn from everyone. I hope this post helps you do the same! 

Disclaimer: not that we need to label everyone and ourselves as “mentors.” I wrote this post to encourage you to view mentorship in the light of relationships.

So, the three types of mentors include someone older, someone in your season, and someone younger. No matter our age, we can always learn from everyone around us. Every person in our life can be a “mentor” for our personal development.

Someone Older Like Apostle Paul (Guides)

The first type of mentor is someone older than us or someone who is more experienced in a certain area. This person guides and shares wisdom.

Like Apostle Paul, this person mentors us by sharing life experiences, lessons, and the most important things they can teach us from their lives. They guide us through difficult situations, how to deal with people, and help us navigate the trickier parts of life which they’ve already faced. They also help us achieve goals through encouragement and sharing their personal experiences. Paul is our example because, as a missionary, he traveled and stayed with many churches and dealt with all kinds of people. After his visits, he kept in touch with these churches and offered guidance, edification, and correction to them on a continued basis. You can read some of his letters in the New Testament!

Another example is the relationship between Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) and Mary (the mother of Jesus). Shortly after Mary got pregnant, she stayed with Elizabeth for about three months (Luke 1:56). Elizabeth was about six months pregnant when Mary came to her. Being the older, wiser, and “more pregnant” one, we can imagine how Elizabeth guided and comforted Mary. It’s possible that she mentored Mary through early pregnancy stages, encouraged and built-up Mary’s faith and assurance of God’s will, and shared her life experience and wisdom during that time.

No matter what stage we’re at in life, we can always look to older people or more experienced people for guidance (be it people already in our lives or those we admire and want direct mentorship from). This is easier now, too, with social media. Although there’re all kinds of stuff out there, there are also people offering and willing to share advice and wisdom.

Take some time today to think about people who are older than you or more experienced in a certain area you want to grow in. Do you view them as a mentor? Why or why not? Could they become a type of mentor for you (whether formally or informally)?

Someone in Your Season Like Barnabas (Encourages + Challenges)

The second type of mentor is someone in our season. This person has our backs, encourages and also challenges us.

Barnabas is a great example. He’s the guy from the book of Acts who encouraged Paul and recommended him to churches after Paul’s conversion to Christ. A “Barnabas” type of mentor, or friend, is one who always encourages and challenges us. This is the person we can get close to and “do life with.” They walk through difficult situations with us, are ready to listen and be present with us, and provide companionship when we feel like the world is against us. Like Barnabas, this type of mentor cheers for you and also challenges you. They’re ready to encourage and support but also challenge and call us out.

An example of this relationship is between Jonathan and David from the Old Testament. These guys loved each other like brothers. They strengthened each other’s faith in God, protected each other from enemies, and wept together. They encouraged, challenged, and pushed each other towards their goals and dreams. They were in the same season and understood each other.

The older we get, the more we’ll realize who our true friends are. These relationships are people who help us feel seen, wanted, continually inspired, and valued. These are friendships where we equally encourage and challenge one another. We cheer each other on and support each other’s dreams. But we also get raw and open with one another. These are our go-to people, our constant companions, and trusted friends.

Take time today to think about a “Barnabas” in your life. Who is someone who encourages and challenges you? Who do you constantly encourage and challenge? Who do you do life with?

Someone Younger Like Timothy (Helps + Inspires)

And last but not least, the third type of mentor is someone who is younger or someone who can learn from us.

This is like Timothy was for Paul. He was Paul’s younger companion, who became a leader at a church and needed support, encouragement, and guidance. He also needed boosts of confidence so that he could mentor those who were older.

Paul referred to Timothy like his own son. They were close companions and learned from one another. This type of mentor, even though they are the primary mentees in a relationship, is an example of a learner or disciple. People who are younger can teach us how to remain teachable. They offer fresh perspective, ideas, and suggestions. They are innovative, tenacious, and opportunity-driven. They are also easier to teach and quicker to learn. Like Timothy, younger people need Pauls they can look up to, and similarly, Pauls need Timothys.

Who is the younger “Timothy” in your life that has learned from you but also offered fresh perspectives? How have they helped you remain teachable and available to learn?

Conclusion: Who Are Your Mentors?  

It comes back around full circle among these three types of mentors. We just need to recognize who’s who, especially when we want to grow and improve our characters. We all most likely have people who are older, people in our season, and people that are younger than us. We also are most likely a younger or older person and a person in the same season as another. Which of your relationships provides wisdom and guidance, encouragement and challenge, and inspiration to learn?

Who are your mentors and whose mentor are you?

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