Are Mentoring and Discipleship the Same Thing?

Because of a crazy week and leaving for vacation tomorrow, I am reposting a blog post from several years ago. I still get asked this question. 

Let’s say you meet someone who is a committed follower of Jesus Christ, but she just wants you to spend time with her and talk through life together. Is that discipleship or mentoring?

People often ask if there is a difference between discipleship and mentoring or if they are the same thing. I believe there is a difference.

  • Discipleship is the process of moving someone toward becoming a lifelong, committed follower of Jesus Christ.
  • Mentoring is the process of developing a person to her maximum potential for the Lord.
  • The goal of discipleship is to help them grow toward spiritual maturity.
  • The goal of mentoring is to come alongside them in a specific area(s) of life and help them develop toward their maximum potential for the Lord.

The two can overlap, but discipleship is more intentional and focused on moving you toward a deeper commitment to Christ. Mentoring tends to focus on a specific area of life. Mentoring relationships are less structured, more practical, and focus on sharing experience or expertise in a specific area.

For instance, a young mom may want to be mentored by an older mom in the area of parenting. A newlywed may ask someone who has been married for a while to mentor her in being a godly wife. You may want to be mentored in an area in which you are gifted but need someone to help you develop in that area. These are examples of mentoring relationships.

I have had a number of mentors in my life and still do. While I was attending Dallas Seminary, I knew that I wanted to work in Women’s Ministry after graduation, but I felt that I needed someone to mentor me. So I asked Kay Daigle, the Women’s Minister at my church, to spend time with me and mentor me in the area of Women’s Ministry. She pulled me alongside her to watch what she did, observe how she set vision with her leadership team, and learn how she organized and led the ministry. She gave me the opportunity to write and teach the Women’s Ministry Bible study that fall. Kay mentored me and helped prepare me for my future job as a Women’s Ministry director.

Did she disciple me? I would say no, because she wasn’t necessarily moving me toward becoming a lifelong, committed follower of Jesus Christ. I was already committed to following Jesus. But she mentored me, helping me grow toward reaching my full potential in a specific area of service to the Lord.

Sandi and me at my DTS graduation

Sandi Glahn has mentored me for the past ten years in the area of writing. Sandi was my professor at Dallas Seminary and mentored me as I wrote a Bible study for an independent course. She encouraged me in my writing and gave valuable input to help me develop as a writer. Sandi continues to mentor me, and I am so grateful for her investment in my life to help me reach my full potential for the Lord.

I pray that I will always have mentors in my life. If you see someone whom you would like to mentor you in a specific area, go to them. Take the initiative and ask them. It will be worth it!

What do you think? Are mentoring and discipleship the same?

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