Jesus the Mentor

By: S.D. Smith 


Mentoring is perhaps the single most important ministry of the leader. No one can truly have a following, or a legacy, if no one is willing or able to have the person’s mark upon him through a mentoring relationship. Even mega-church pastors have more of a real and lasting legacy when there are some solid, key men who have learned specifically from the leader and become full-fledged leaders after the mentor is gone. It is this example that is given in the life of Christ. He spent roughly 3 and a half years working with a small, select group of men carefully and purposefully so that, as soon as he was gone, his legacy could move forward to be what he really wanted it to be through his example, through his followers’ faith, and through the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This paper seeks to discover his mentoring process, how Jesus modeled this process, and some key principals of mentoring.


The mentoring process requires much of its mentors and protégés. Both must be willing to spend a great deal of time in the undertaking. For the protégé, it is a life of learning, doing, and seeing success and failure. All failure, however, is tempered with lessons learned from the event. The mentor, on the other hand, must use the gift of teaching in order to communicate principals of leadership to the protégé, as well as teach the lessons learned from both success and failure. Mentors must also use exhortation in the above example, both during failure and success. Much of this can be summed up using the Law of Communication.

Aside from the gifts that are used in mentoring, some of the key concepts, such as spending time developing relationships, sending out the protégé on missions, and evaluating, will be discussed below.


Jesus devoted a great deal of time with his protégés, known in the scripture as apostles or disciples. It is actually surprising the few times that he is away from the men in scripture, usually to find time with his own father through prayer. Otherwise, he is with his men, teaching them and simply being with them in order to develop his relationship with them. Relationships are essential to the mentoring process. The relationship itself determines the effectiveness of one-on-one situations. He gave his time to them because without doing so, he could not have built leader-evangelists.

He also trained by example (John 13:15). Jesus modeled the humble servant-leader concept and he let them see it. It became a life of daily leading his men to follow him. As a modern mentor-leader, a believer’s life should reflect this same authenticity and devotion. Jesus’ parables, his examples, and his life showed them that he was the real thing.

Thirdly, Jesus gave them opportunities to practice what they were learning. He gave them missions to accomplish. In my own spiritual growing process, a Navigators missionary in San Diego took me on a prayer walk to show me how to do it and then he followed up on me to see if I was doing them on my own. Jesus did this same sort of thing and it grew his men. They came back to him more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more devoted.

As a final note on how Jesus mentored his men, it should be noted that, once they were trained and asked to carry on his work after he left (Mark 16:15), that Jesus started and finished with the same mission. Initially, it was “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He finalized his work as a mentor by telling them to “go therefore and make disciples.” The mission of spiritual mentoring is clear, therefore, in that it creates reproducing workers for the Kingdom.


Absolutely number one on the list of key ingredients for good mentoring is to select the person to be mentored. There is a great deal of confusion in the Christian church about how this works, but it is quite simple. A preferably older, and certainly more experienced in spirituality, person selects one or more, with the fewest number being preferable, younger and lesser experienced believers to be his/her protégés. Jesus met Peter and Andrew on the bank of the Galilee Sea and told them to follow him (Matthew 4:19). He thus chose his men for the task and decided the method of his ministry. As Coleman said, “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.”

Along with selecting the person to be mentored, it should be required for that person to give some sort of commitment. While leading a Bible study ministry on board the USS Antietam, I asked some of the key men to commit to coming to each meeting, and even leading occasionally, unless duty kept them away.

Just as Jesus gave his disciples missions to complete (see above), so should modern leaders. The modern leader should give practical ministry opportunities for those under his care that can generate tangible results and then follow up. Some opportunities for starting out might be mentoring younger believers in the youth group, participating in acting, or helping the church through the music ministry. However, before one can give missions to complete (such as leading a Bible study in my example from the previous paragraph), one must model the task.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, modern mentor-leaders must challenge the men under their care to reproduce. Jesus started and ended with that as his mission, and modern believers should do no less.


Mentoring is difficult work and not for the weak at heart. Jesus poured three years into the men he called to follow and learn from him. It should be expected that modern believers would have to devote the same or in some cases, even more. With the principles outlined above, including picking the protégé, guiding him through the gifts of teaching and exhortation along with using the Law of Communication, and then challenging him to accomplish tasks, just about anyone can be a mentor should they decide to make that move. While not easy, it is a powerful ministry that needs to be accomplished in order for the church to be successful.

Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 1993.
Grassel, Rich. Help! I'm a Small Church Youth Worker! Achieving Big-time Success in a Non-mega Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.
Sala, Harold J. Coffee Cup Counseling. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, 1988.
Towns, Elmer L. Biblical Models for Leadership. Mason, OH: Cengage, 2007.

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