Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders – Book Review

Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders
Author: John Mallinson
Publisher: Scipture Union Australia
ISBN-13: 978-0859108959

Review by Patricia Wick.

In our rapidly changing global world, we increasingly need mentors as we seek to develop the next generation of leaders. This book is a tool for raising emerging leaders; so present leaders can pass the baton onto them. However, as the title states, this book is about developing disciples as well as leaders. This book helps the reader to catch a vision for mentoring, and know where to begin.

John Mallison is from Australia, where he is well known in the church as a promoter of discipleship and growth through small groups. He had mentors himself, and he has had 40 years experience of mentoring Christian leaders, young and old, across denominations and traditions.

His definition of mentoring is: ‘Christian mentoring is a dynamic, intentional relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in their life and service’ (p.8). Mentoring involves helping Christians to develop Christian roots, develop their relationship with God, grow as disciples and develop in their service for God. The Christian walk can be lonely and frustrating, and an older role model can assist us greatly on our spiritual journey. In many church circles, discipleship, spiritual friendship, spiritual directors etc. have been operating in a mostly unstructured form. In this book, John Mallison develops methods, skills and abilities of mentoring. It is a good guide as to how to be a mentor and a mentoree, but as he recognises, good mentoring takes time. Hay et al. (2007, p.289) agree ‘Mentoring or development of people effectively takes time, relationships, and people with the experience and abilities required’.

The book has an emphasis on spiritual aspects of mentoring, and is a good Biblical resource. It encourages us to take an interest in the personal and spiritual growth of others, as Jesus did. Jesus  is presented as our prime mentoring model.  Chapter 2 has an excellent exposition of the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20), and gives clear goals for disciples to pursue in order to build the Kingdom of God on earth (p.17-24).

The aims of the Author are outlined in his ‘Floor Plan’ (p.1) and include: to show that mentoring is not an optional extra if Christians are to grow, to encourage Christians to take an interest in the growth of others,  give clear understanding of dimensions of mentoring, to lay a sound and biblical foundation for mentoring, to give practical guidelines for both mentors and mentorees, to help leaders to see the broad possibilities of mentoring.  The Author succeeds in fulfilling his aims, although I would like to have seen a little more teaching on the relationship of Spiritual Directors, Spiritual Friends etc. with Mentors. Also, there is nothing on mentor damage, which is a concern of Tönsing (2005, p. 138) ‘Mentor damage is common…. inappropriate mentoring can seriously hurt the people being mentored’.

The style in which the book is written makes it readable and practical. It has very valuable study guides, suggestions for personal reflection, and ideas for group work. The main chapter headings are : Introducing Mentoring, Some Biblical Foundations, Understanding Mentoring, What it takes to be a Mentor, Tools and Skills for Mentoring, Strategies for Mentoring, and Notes for Mentorees. The Appendix and notes at the end are a useful addition too. The book flows well, as each new chapter builds on the preceding one. Each chapter is broken up into various short sections which makes for easier reading. The book as a whole gives a clear explanation of the various dimensions of mentoring.

Some of the particularly helpful sections of the book include:
P.56: Five levels of communication on which people can relate, moving from least to most intimate: Stereotyped and hackneyed expressions, communication of facts, disclosing ideas and judgements, revealing feelings, oneness.
P.64: The basic qualities of a Mentor: Christ centred, passionate, relational, affirming, open and transparent, trusting and trustworthy, available, able to facilitate learning, competent, prayerful.
P.86: Explains how one’s temperament can affect our style of mentoring.

This book is a useful tool for church leaders, youth leaders, teachers, missionaries, small group leaders, team leaders and trainers. It brings mentoring into the capability of all Christians, not just professionals. It shows how mentors can enrich both themselves and others.  Through taking mentoring seriously both churches and individuals can be transformed.


Hay, R., Lim,V., Blöcher, D., Ketelaar, J., Hay, S.,  2007. Worth Keeping: Global Perspectives on Best Practice in Missionary Retention. Pasadena: William Carey Library
Mallison, J., 1998.  Mentoring: To Develop Disciples and Leaders. Adelaide, Australia: Scripture Union and Openbook Publishers
Tönsing,T. J., 2005. Contemporary Leadership: A Practical Application of the Theories. Mumbai: Better Yourself Books

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