Is mentoring the same as discipleship? That question could keep a group of Christians occupied for hours. By straight definition, according to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, to be a mentor means to be a trusted guide and a disciple is one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another person. So basically, a mentor is someone who guides or counsels, meaning that mentorship is the process of guiding and/or counseling. Discipleship, then, is the process of teaching someone the doctrines you want spread and then having them spread by your pupil.
That's a pretty technical way to say that, mentoring is like discipleship, but not the same. The church is currently fascinated with the idea of discipleship. A search on the internet will show that there are entire curriculum programs for discipleship in various church settings. However, mentoring curriculum does not exist in the same way that discipleship curriculum exists. Sites exist that will tell you how to establish a mentoring program, but not a specific curriculum. I have trouble accepting mentoring programs, by the way, and I'll discuss that in a later post.
The fact is that I don't think discipleship and mentoring are the same thing. Discipleship, at least in the modern church context, is essentially a method of teaching church doctrine to a person's followers. Mentoring is a bit more than that. For example, right now I mentor a handful of younger believers on the Navy base I work on. My work with them consists less of teaching them church doctrine or theology and more about how to run a Bible study on a ship, how to be good husbands, and the like. In the end, that’s the difference between mentoring and discipleship.