The First Steps to Connection...
Few Christians dispute the wisdom and benefits of mentoring. Titus 2:3-5 specifically targets women’s relationship with one another. Paul encourages the young pastor Titus to identify qualified older women who could, and should, teach and model godliness to the younger women in his church body:
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."
Many a young woman in today’s churches eagerly desires such a mentor. But they have difficulty finding an older woman willing to step into that role. Older women often feel unqualified, bewildered, and fearful of over committing. But what’s really involved? What does it take to be a mentor? Perfection? Formal training? Grandmotherhood?
A heart for God, experience in life, a love for people. If you have these characteristics, you can mentor someone else. But what does it look like? Here are a few qualities of an effective mentoring relationship.
You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to mentor another, but you should love the God of the Bible and want to abide by His Word. You don’t have to be a trained psychologist, but being available with timely and godly advice can make the difference for the individual who is without an anchor. Younger women need the experience, endurance, and example of older women. Who else will guide them? The pastor? Maybe. Their husbands? Sometimes. But they can only go so far, because they are men. Men can’t be mothers, daughters, or wives. Women need women.
Sometimes, “I’ll pray about it” is the most appropriate way to begin your decision-making. But when it comes to mentoring, I’d have to agree with Norma Becker, member of the board of directors of Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada. When a younger woman asking to be mentored suggested they pray about it, Norma responded with assurance: “We don’t pray about commands.” Remember Titus 2. While prayer is wise when seeking discernment in how much mentoring one should do, how many hours to commit, etc., the basic idea of “Do I become a mentor?” is clearly commanded in scripture. Be obedient, and be available.
What is this younger woman seeking from a relationship with you? A better understanding of the Bible? Then decide upon what sort of study you want to focus on. Buy it, and go for it. But what if she really wants a prayer partner, someone who will help her establish a better devotional life? Don’t feel compelled to run out and buy a Bible study; pray with her. Maybe this woman needs parenting help because she didn’t grow up in a Christian home and has no model to follow. If you have older children, you may be the perfect match for her. When I was a young mother with a 10-month-old, my friend Julia — holding her newborn — asked me to be her mentor. All she really wanted was a big sister, someone who was a few steps ahead and could encourage her along the way. Our time together consisted mostly of walking our babies, talking about our lives as wives and mothers, and praying together. Mentoring is not always Bible study.
Regular times and days suit the chronologically challenged, but there is always room for variation. Go out for coffee, meet for breakfast, have afternoon tea… whatever time and place meets your needs, try to schedule it in. What activities can you share – walking, running, cooking, hiking – with a young person? Christian mentoring isn’t about being intensely spiritual all the time, it’s about building relationships.
Written by: Kelley Mathews