The Side of the Road

By Monica O’Neil

Dark: the colour of my disorientation, the cloudy mood in our car, the sky outside, and my fear of
losing our way. I was tired, with a car full of very little people who needed to be in warm beds. My husband and I were driving in unfamiliar Albany, a small country town in Western Australia’s Great Southern Region. Well, he was driving and I was navigating. Normally we are a crack team at this as I’m good with maps in any direction and he drives well. However, the town had recently installed a vast number of roundabouts. What they had not yet installed was any directional signage. Google maps didn’t exist. Juggling a tiny torch and trying to scan for bearings that night was beyond me. I was crumbling. I couldn’t see the way for all the roads.

The exit options on the roundabout were sometimes two, sometimes three, four or five. It seemed they presented themselves too fast and in the darkness they were no longer hopeful roads that
might lead to a warm room and bed, they were purveyors of panic!

The points of decision were coming at me too fast and with limited visibility, both inside the car and
out, I transformed from ‘Supernavgirl’ into a sobbing distraught blob despairing of ever seeing a
warm bed for my children ever again.

If only I’d had a mentor with me right then.

Maybe the conversation and actions that evening evening would have gone like this…

‘Let’s pull over to the side of the road and pause. And let’s do that at each turn if needed because the pause will give precious time for clarity and wisdom to emerge. Let’s take the time on the side of
the road to do the tricky work of translating the landscape we see and the map we have, in the light
of the destination we have in our mind and heart.’

I might have been reminded that navigating relies on several things including, but not limited to:

  • Getting accurate bearings for where you are. Max De Pree says the first task of leadership is to define reality.
  • Getting clarity about the destination. If there is no destination that matters, perhaps any
    road really will do. If, however, it does matter it holds us to course and all recalibrations are
    towards it.
  • A knowledge of possible routes and the markers indicating when each choice must be made.
    Sometimes its tiny side exits that confuse. If we can note their presence we can ignore them when they come into view.
  • Observation of the conditions to be encountered. Are the roads sealed, flooded, or
    potentially blocked by a rock fall? Is the only route risky and what can be done to prepare? Is there a safe option which is only a couple of kilometres longer?

I know it’s a metaphor, but a metaphor lets you and I translate it to our mentoring context. I’m
proposing that one of the things we offer as a mentor is a metaphorical pitstop, a side of the road
moment. That pause on the side of the road helps to define reality, to clarify or re-clarify the desired
outcomes and to recalibrate their journey in a space of quiet peace and wisdom.

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were
not seen.” Psalm 77:19

Self-Check List for Mentors

By Sally Jones

The focus of a good mentoring relationship is always on the formation of the mentoree.  My role as a mentor is to come alongside them and equip and empower them to move towards achieving their goals, and when I do that in a session I aim to give them my undivided attention. One of the things that my mentorees often say they appreciate the most about mentoring is that it is the one relationship where it is actually okay for it to be all about them – what they need to grow, what they need to focus on to be who God has called them to be. However as I journey along with them, there are actually a few things about myself that I need to be attending to!

The one question I regularly ask myself is this:  What do I most need to be fully present to my mentorees?

The answers to this will be many and varied depending on the context, but I want to suggest they need to include:

  • Preparation time – mentoring takes much more time than the actual session.  Have I allocated adequate time in my diary for any reading, researching, thinking or any other preparation I might need to do?   Have I completed any commitments I may have made to my mentoree in the last session? It’s pretty obvious when a mentoree has hurriedly thrown together (probably just before they arrived!) something I asked them to spend time reflecting on – and it will be just as obvious to my mentoree if I have done the same.

  • ‘Transition’ time – how busy are the 30 minutes before a mentoring session is due to start?  We all have busy lives but it’s important to allow ourselves space to transition from the space of phone calls, emails, meetings, battling the traffic, putting the kids to bed, etc., to the mentoring space.  As far as possible, I need to attend to the things which might distract me from being fully present.  I find the key to this is finding a quiet spot, being still, and spending some time in prayer – for my mentoree, for myself and for the upcoming session.

  • Development time – what skills do I have which might need sharpening? Are there areas of development or issues arising in the lives of my mentorees that I need to be learning more about?  When was the last time I went to a workshop or conference to add to my knowledge and experience? Being intentional about my development and growth as a mentor enables me to give my best to my mentorees.

  • Self-reflection time – as I journey with others in their spiritual formation, am I making a priority of my own formation and growth?  Who is asking me the kinds of questions that I am asking my mentorees?  Who is speaking into my life, encouraging, equipping and empowering me?  We cannot give to others what we do not have ourselves.  Time spent focusing on my relationship with God will enable me to do the same for others.

What items would you add to a self-check list for mentoring?

Voices: Mentoring Training 2017


How do we journey with our mentorees as they seek to listen and discern the voice of God? Our lives are filled with myriad voices that clamour for attention. Sorting the whispers of the Spirit from the noise of the world is a constant challenge. Everyone is welcome to join us this year for one of our 2017 mentoring training days as together we reflect on guidance, listening to God, wisdom, prayer and discernment in the context of mentoring relationships.


Keynote Speaker – Sally Jones

  • Operates her own Sydney based practise in mentoring and spiritual direction
  • Co-teaches the Mentor Equipping training program (3 years of training and supervision)
  • Is a member of the committee of the Australian Christian Mentoring Network and a member of the Australian Network of Spiritual Directors
  • Sally spent 8 years working with International Teams Australia, a Christian Mission Agency. For 5 years she was actively involved in the Sydney Refugee Team, co-leading the team from 2011


There will be a local presenter in each of the workshops.


$100 per participant

$75 for current ACMN Members with a 2017 paid membership (please note, this is not the same as being a registered user of this website)
Notes, morning and afternoon teas provided—(does not include lunch)

To register:

We are using the Eventbrite registration system to manage attendance this year. Please follow the links below.

Brisbane – 21st August

Sydney – 22nd August

Melbourne – 23rd August

Adelaide – 24th August

Perth – 25th August


Where can I contact the organiser with any questions?

Please contact for further information.

Keeping Focus in Mentoring

by Janet Woodlock. 

It’’s possible to drift in mentoring relationships. They can become a pleasant catch up, but be relatively ineffective in helping another grow personally, spiritually, and vocationally. Indeed, they can become frustrating sessions, where old issues are re-hashed with little evidence of increasing maturity or responsibility in the mentee.

One of the most important steps in keeping mentoring relationships effective is contracting well. Expectations need to be crystal clear, with key goals / growth areas identified at the outset.

Some of the expectations that should be built in to a powerful mentoring agreement/contract include:

  • preparation for sessions. The mentoree should agree to bring an issue to every session.
  • commitment to action steps. The mentoree is clear s/he desires to grow, and commits to implementing any actions arising from each session.
  • regular meetings. If meetings are only very occasional or are made on an ad-hoc basis, the mentoree may feel little pressure to implement action steps.
  • an agreed review date. Review how the mentoring is working for both parties after a certain number of sessions. (Then ask: “What can I learn as a mentor to support you better? Is my mentoring helpful to you? Should we continue?”)
  • an end date. Mentoring that continues forever is prone to becoming a friendly conversation. It is better to contract for a certain number of sessions, then review whether the mentoree wants to re-contract around a new set of agreed goals.

Having a potential mentoree fill out a survey prior to a first session can be helpful in forming specific growth goals. Or your first session can be focused on series goals.* Ask your mentoree to identify ambitious goals they would like to work on over a longer period of time. (Fitness, family relationships, spiritual life, education, career goals, new initiatives in ministry – it could be anything!) Then clarify the goals they would most like to focus on in mentoring.

If expectations are set out clearly, and if ambitious goals are established for the mentoring relationship, you have set the relationship up well to ensure the mentoree keeps focused.

It’s hard work being this intentional. Sometimes it’s appropriate to have a less formal mentoring relationship. But contracting like this, and referring to the agreement throughout the relationship, does the heavy lifting in keeping the focus on personal growth.

Christian mentoring is less about helping people feel better (though that may often occur) and more about helping people become all that God is calling them to be, and step into all that God is calling them to do. In short, it can be a very effective tool of discipleship.

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be a mentor desires a noble task.” That’s my very rough translation of I Timothy 3:1. I think it’s true though! What a privilege it is to partner with others in this way!

So how might you become more focused in your mentoring?

And can you share something that has helped you keep focus in mentoring?

And a provocative thought: the most focused mentoring relationship I’ve ever had involved major financial penalties if action steps weren’t completed! (Mates rates vs executive coaching rates). What do you think of THAT approach?

I’d love to hear from you!

Janet Woodlock

*big goals that require a series of steps to achieve.

The ACMN does not promote a single model of mentoring. Some styles include:
Life Coaching: Partnering with a coachee who sets personal goals, helping them develop action plans to achieve them. (Janet’s typical style; hence the focus on goals in this article)

Spiritual Direction: Partnering with a pilgrim in discerning where God is at work in the inner life.

Counselling: A strong focus on emotional / psychological wellbeing. Some ministry supervisors are trained psychologists/counsellors.

Skill Mentoring/Coaching: An expert providing feedback on a skill area (e.g. helping a minister improve their preaching)

The first three styles in particular involve the mentor asking questions and listening deeply. Some mentors develop a blended style depending on their background, or wear different “hats” depending on the presenting issue.