Mentoring in Groups and Between Peers: Alternatives to the One-to-One Mentoring Model

by Rick Lewis.   

Where experienced, competent mentors are hard to find, a group-mentoring model may be attractive. Compared with a one-to-one approach, groups for mentoring among peers have both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

  • a greater number of perspectives are available;
  • a greater variety of ideas may be generated;
  • members experience strong accountability due to peer pressure;
  • a sense of commonality such that one does not need to explain everything.

Disadvantages:

  • Less time available for each person to share;
  • greater potential for breach of trust;
  • conversations tend toward generic topics that all understand;
  • meeting together requires more complicated scheduling.

Peer mentoring groups require strong values in order to remain healthy: honesty, suspension of judgement, activation of discernment, confidentiality and intentionality. You may wish to consider other values that you would find essential, and whether or not a group would need a facilitator in order to stay true to these values and to stay on track in terms of focus and time. These groups may adopt one or more of several approaches, sticking with one that works best for them, or mixing things up over time:

  • Group supervision process, taking it in turn to present a case study arising from their experience of living as a disciple of Jesus. This may take the form of a theological reflection on a critical incident. Other members of the group then ask questions and make observations about how God is active in the life of the person sharing and may help generate options for how the individual can respond and grow.
  • Wesleyan approach, considering a standard set of accountability questions at each meeting. As a variation, each meeting may address a limited number of accountability questions drawn from a longer list in order to facilitate deeper exploration of the issues.
  • Retreating together, taking an extended time to withdraw from normal life patterns in order to listen to God attentively in community. A retreat setting can serve as a time for sharing life stories. Reese and Loane have a suggested format for such retreats[1].

Mallison outlines several different applications for mentoring in the life of a church. For one of these he draws on the example of Rod Denton[2] whose practice, as a pastoral team leader, involved mentoring members of his staff as a group. Compare this with the observations Lewis makes in chapters 5 and 7 of Mentoring Matters[3] about the operation of power within mentoring relationships.

A link to a PDF version of this article – Anamcara Consulting


[1] Reese, Randy and Loane, Robert. Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others on Their Leadership Journey. Downers Grove, IVP, 2012, p. 170-171

[2] Mallison, John. Mentoring: To Develop Disciples and Leaders. Adelaide: Openbook/Lidcombe: Scripture Union, 1998, p. 156f

[3] Lewis, Rick. Mentoring Matters: Building Strong Leaders, Avoiding Burnout, Reaching the Finishing Line. Oxford, Monarch, 2009, p. 129-132 and 178-180.

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