“You’re a theology major, and you’re afraid of public speaking?” a classmate asked after I explained why I dreaded taking biblical preaching class. Later, I pondered this comment. After all the signs God had given, I still questioned my ability and purpose in entering ministry.
The next day, I visited one of the religion professors at Union College, Dr. Ben Holdsworth, with questions on a class paper. After answering my questions, he asked if there was anything wrong. I admitted my concerns, and he encouraged me. Furthermore, he offered himself as a mentor—someone I could come to with any questions or concerns.
“You have someone interested in your potential and your success,” he told me. How he knew what I needed had to have come from God through a genuine and listening heart.
I wanted to find out what makes a spiritual mentor successful. Here are four essential traits I discovered.
- A connection with the Holy Spirit: To connect with the Holy Spirit, Dr. Holdsworth says that you have to ask. “Asking is the opening of the heart to the presence of the Holy Spirit, as conversation and as inviting the Holy Spirit to be a participant in your life.” God wants to use you and bless you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You just have to ask Him and be still enough to listen.
- The ability to listen: According to Dr. Holdsworth, there are two kinds of listening in mentoring: “listening to the person you mentor and, more importantly, listening to God about the person you are mentoring.” To listen is to deepen your understanding of your mentee, as well as their trust, so that you can hear even more. James 1:9 advises, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak” (NIV). Listening demonstrates you care.
- Genuine care for the mentee: “To feel valued (and valuable) is almost as compelling a need as food,” claims Tony Schwartz in Harvard Business Review. If you are listening to God and asking for the Holy Spirit to connect you with His will, then He will plant a seed that will produce genuine care and love for the mentee.
“Mentors act as anchors,” says Pastor Mic Henton from College View Church, another experienced mentor. “Mentees look back on their lives and can know that people—real people—loved them.”
- A willingness to share your own experiences with God: A readiness to talk about what God has done through and for you allows others to learn more about His character and His concern for both the big and small, personal and impersonal aspects of each individual’s life.
If you connect with the Holy Spirit (the ultimate Mentor), listen to both God and the mentee, care deeply, and share your relationship with Him, you will watch Him work in the life of another and pour heaven’s blessings on you both.
Lydia Svoboda is a theology major and English minor at Union College from Kansas City, Kansas.