Apprenticeship, Coaching and Mentoring


  In the Mississippi Conference, we have worked to incorporate a culture of coaching and mentoring with our clergy and laity. Although this may seem like a new and novel idea, they are both simply a part of the process of apprenticeship which is one of the conference’s core values, love, generosity, justice and apprenticeship. Apprenticeship, coaching and mentoring are also things that we find in Scripture and that Jesus modeled for us. Jesus was a great listener and a great asker of questions. He was the perfect coach and mentor and did it all with a servant’s heart. Proverbs tells us about listening to wise counsel and we learn that iron sharpens iron.
In the Apprenticeship Model, we start as a novice, someone just starting out. Then we move into being an apprentice, someone in training. Next a journeyman, someone able to work on their own, and finally we become the master, someone able to teach others. In the Christian’s case, our goal is to become like the master. For Christians, it is a lifelong process as we move everyday closer to the mind and character of Jesus Christ. How do we walk through and navigate that process? We have guides. Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit, pastors, teachers, leaders, friends and others can and do help us along the way. For some of us, those guides come in the form of coaches and mentors, or they are others who use coaching and mentoring techniques to help us move forward in our journey.
   Is there a difference between coaching and mentoring? Yes, there is. Coaching is about drawing the best out of a person and mentoring is about pouring into a person. Both are usually a part of apprenticeship. Discipleship is also a part of the Apprenticeship Model. As we make disciples, grow in our own faith, and share that with others, we walk through a form of the Apprentice Model. This is a model that Jesus Himself knew (it’s how one learns to be a carpenter) and used himself. He trained His disciples with this model and used the same coaching and mentoring techniques that we can and do use today.
As a coach, you focus on helping your coachee (person being coached) get to where they want to be (or really where God wants them to be). The person is the best expert on themselves. A coach helps by listening and asking really good questions. The coach is not there to tell you how to fix the problem or to give you the solution. The coach helps you to clear the way and come up with a plan. The coach can also help to hold you lovingly accountable. We see examples of coaching used by Jesus in several situations as he began to draw the learning out of His disciples.  When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am,” He was drawing out of Peter the knowledge that Peter had gathered inside him. Peter had to know who Jesus was so that he could become who God had intended him to be. At the end of a coaching session, the person being coached should walk away with some form of action steps or a plan. That is the first part to becoming unstuck. Remember that coaching is a way to help people move forward. Being a great listener is the first step. When we learn to truly listen and understand, then we can help someone (and sometimes ourselves) to see clearly and begin to get unstuck. This applies not only to coaches, but also to pastors, teachers, supervisors, friends and quite frankly everyone else. We all can use these skills.
What about mentoring? Mentoring uses many of the same skills as coaching. The focus is different, however. Mentoring is typically about the sharing of knowledge, experience or skills. It is pouring into the life of another. There are many types of mentoring. You can have peer mentoring, historical mentoring, group mentoring, co-mentoring, and others.
What does all this mean for us? Well, we all have the opportunity to be a mentor or coach with someone at some point in our lives. As Lead Like Jesus defines leadership, “anytime that you try to influence the thinking, behavior or development of others, then you are taking on the role of a leader.” Sound familiar? If you have been a parent, child, sibling, friend, coworker or stranger giving advice, then you probably fit in that definition. A title does not make you a leader. You are a leader. The question is what kind of leader are you going to be? To be the best leader that we can be, we need to learn good coaching and mentoring skills and apply them with a servant’s heart. Learn the invaluable skills of coaching and mentoring and use them in your life and relationships. Learn listening, understanding, caring and how to serve. Ask good questions and approach all with a servant’s heart. Let us all be disciples that make other disciples and point all to Jesus. Please join us in our journey to bring Coaching and Mentoring skills into your own life and the life of your church.
For more information on coaching, mentoring or Lead Like Jesus, please visit the Faith Community Formation Page of the Mississippi Conference website at or email
Rev. Dr. Jason Zebert is a coach/mentor and the project coordinator/Office Administrator for the office of faith community formation and the coaching/mentor coordinator for the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

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