Spiritual Father Vs. Mentor, What’s The Difference?

The most significant difference between a mentor and a spiritual father is that a mentor, generally speaking, guides the mentee through a particular phase of life. A spiritual father focuses on the spiritual enrichment and development of the “child” through their life and has a closer relationship.

Mentorship has been a popular byword and movement for the last few decades, especially in a business context. But what exactly IS a mentor? And is it the same thing as a spiritual father? 

Although often used interchangeably, there is a difference between a spiritual father and a mentor. But, what are some of the similarities and differences? When do you choose one and not the other? And is it limited in who can be who?

Man studying with a spiritual father and mentor

Spiritual Fathers Vs. Mentors – Similarities And Differences

All spiritual fathers are mentors, but not all mentors are spiritual fathers.

Often, these titles will be used interchangeably, but let’s take a closer look at some of the similarities and differences between spiritual fathers and mentors.

Similarities

An experienced or older individual that imparts wisdom, guidance and provides the tools needed for success. The purpose of both a spiritual father and a mentor is to provide guidance in one form or another. To this end, the individual in the position needs to have had experience in the area they are guiding in.

There should not be a “blind leading the blind” scenario, but rather an impartation of wisdom and understanding onto the mentee/spiritual child.

Even if certain aspects are different, some fundamental characteristics will be shared between a spiritual father and a mentor.

  • Good listener
  • Flexible
  • Value diversity of perspectives
  • Knowledgeable
  • Nonjudgmental
  • Able to give constructive feedback
  • Honest 
  • Able to network and find resources. 
  • Enthusiastic about devoting time to developing others 
  • Eager to learn

Differences 

  1. Purpose of the role

Generally, a spiritual father is someone who is part of a religious institution or somebody who has practiced a particular belief system for a longer period of time than the person they are fathering. 

This is also not limited to Christianity but does predominantly feature as a Christian practice. They will lead a person into a deeper understanding of their chosen faith while “walking” with them on that journey. 

Even mentoring in a faith-based sense is usually for a specific reason, for a particular time period. For example, a leadership mentoring group/program trains up a new group of leaders through a mentorship program, who then move on to lead groups of their own. 

Generally, a mentor is a senior in a business or education position, providing guidance in the capacity of the workplace/educational facility. That said, there is also an element of personal growth and development. This, however, is not necessarily related to religion.

  1. Timeframe or duration.

Mentorship usually lasts for a period of six months to two years. In some cases, it may last longer. 

Spiritual fatherhood will last a more extended period. This could even be up to the rest of the life of either the father or the son. 

You will have many mentors throughout your life for various reasons; you will, however, have very few spiritual fathers.

  1. Key characteristics. 

These are traits that are not necessarily shared.

  • Successful in career. Only a mentor needs this. A spiritual father most likely will be successful, but it is not their focal point. 
  • Humility. A spiritual father (especially in the Christian context) will live a life of humility. A mentor will not necessarily have the same view of the word or priority for it.
  • Prayerful. A spiritual father will constantly pray for their child, in all situations, whenever they feel “led”. Depending on the context, a mentor won’t be prayerful, especially not as part of a continuous everyday occurrence. Even if the mentor is a religious one, the prayer coverage will generally be for the mentorship period and then no longer.
  1. The nature of the relationship. 

A mentor and mentee will connect on the common ground of business, education, or whatever the program is orientated around. Even though a friendship may develop, the relationship never has to leave the professional realm

A spiritual father and child will connect on a much deeper level, often stating that “God led them to this relationship”. 

The level of sharing and guidance will generally be deeper and cover more areas of life than a mentor would.

What Is A Mentor? 

The origin of mentorship has been debated over the years. Many people ascribed Homer as the “creator” of the term when he wrote about Odysseus leaving for the Trojan War.

Odysseus leaves his son, Telemachus, with Mentor, Odysseus’ good friend, who then raises the boy while Odysseus is away. 

Our modern-day understanding of mentorship is believed to have its origins in the Middle Ages, according to McKimm, Jollie and Hatter. During this time, trade guilds were prominent entities, and often young apprentices would be “mentored” by experienced and renowned professionals.

In the 1970s, mentorship gained a prominent role in the workplace, as more businesses realized the value mentorship added to their company by guiding and uplifting junior employees. 

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a mentor is “a person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school.“

Why mentorship? 

People who desire growth in a particular area or areas of their life will elect to undergo mentorship. The idea is that an experienced person will be able to impart knowledge and understanding to a less experienced and often younger person while also learning how to be a better leader themselves.

Who can be a mentor?

Anybody who has experience in the specific field can be a mentor to an up-and-coming person. Generally, people who have achieved a certain level of success will be mentors, as they have more to offer.

What Is A Spiritual Father?

Young preist doing prayers at a wooden table while holding a cross

To put it simply, a spiritual father is like a biological father, except it is within the context of a faith, religion, or belief system. Although not limited to Christianity, a spiritual father is predominately within a Christian framework. 

An example of a classic spiritual father is Paul in the Bible and his relationship with Timothy. Paul took Timothy along on missions, imparted teaching and understanding to Timothy and kept prayerful guidance over him until Paul’s death. Timothy was able to watch Paul and learn from Paul’s own life valuable lessons, which he was then able to put into practice when he (Timothy) was put into a position of authority.

Why spiritual fatherhood? 

The purpose of a spiritual father is to raise up the next generation of believers by living as an example, teaching, and most importantly, modeling the image of God.

Who can be a spiritual father?

Generally speaking, a religious leader will be a spiritual father. However, anyone who is an older man, and is more established in his faith, can be a spiritual father. 

How do you become a spiritual father to someone?

  • By being a son of God first, before a father to another believer.
  • By living a life that reflects God. Not only preaching and saying the correct things but also putting those things into practice.
  • By treating others with love and respect.
  • Being humble. Knowing who you are, not trying to live out a pretense, but remaining and acting in faith.
  • Make a connection. By living in this way, you will draw those to you who are seeking a spiritual father. 

Conclusion

Although similar, a mentor and a spiritual father serve different roles in our lives. What is important to remember is, no matter who we are, we need other people.

Yes, relationships put you out there, but to learn, grow and develop ourselves, we need specific people around us to impart into us things of value.