What does mentoring mean to someone desiring to be mentored? Sometimes women have a specific area where they feel they need help. Some just want to have an older go-to person to ask questions.
Dictionary.com defines mentor as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher; an influential senior sponsor or supporter.” But how do people work mentoring out into real life? Classes? Regular meetings? Shadowing?
The word “mentor” is not in the Bible—at least, not in the KJV or ESV. Probably the closest the Bible comes to the concept is discipling. The classic passage for women disciplining women is Titus 2: 3-5:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
It’s always important to look at the context of a Bible passage, and the context here is teaching and relating life to sound doctrine (verse 1). Then the character of a teacher or mentor is addressed. Several translations describe this older woman as reverent; others use the word holy. She’s trustworthy: she doesn’t spread gossip. Your secrets are safe with her. And she’s self-controlled, not given to excess.
I’ve written before about different ways to mentor. And I shared that mentoring is more than affirmation and suggested thoughts for both mentor and mentee.
What I’d like to suggest now is that mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement. You may have one person that you go to with every question and concern. That’s fine if you have such a person. But I have found that God has sent different women across my path with just a word in season that I needed at the moment. I’d like to tell you about a few of them.
Mr. and Mrs. B. were the pastor and wife we were under in our college days and then our first few married years. They were an older couple. Mrs. B. was kind, warm, wise. But she also laid things on the line. When I was struggling with some issue and finally ready to do whatever it took to deal with it, Mrs. B. was the person I would go to. I knew she would give it to me straight, yet kindly.
Mrs. C. was a lady whose family came to our church while I was away at college. When I came home for the summer, the family invited me over for dinner several times. They soon became a second family to me. I don’t remember Mrs. C. ever specifically trying to teach me anything, but I learned so much from her example, her character, her response to her husband, her homemaking.
These two relationships were long-term, but sometimes God had an older friend say something helpful in passing. For instance, once while working in the church nursery, another lady mentioned that she had hit the highest emotional highs and the lowest lows in the context of mothering. That stopped me in my tracks, because I had thought something similar, but hadn’t quite put it into words. I don’t think we discussed it any further, but her comment let me know that my feelings were normal. Another time, I was putting up a church bulletin board with a lady who had teenagers while my children were younger. She gave me some off-the-cuff advice not to dread the teen years. She said teens don’t all go through rebellious phases, and if the relationship has been good all along, there’s no reason it can’t continue to be good. That lifted a weight and gave me a healthy perspective of my children’s upcoming teen years, and I’ll be forever grateful.
Once I was doing something in the church building while the group who ministered to the seniors at church were setting up a banquet for them. That kind of preparation can get hectic. The wife of the couple involved, a very sweet woman, came into the kitchen to look for something. While she stood there a moment, gathering her thoughts and looking at cabinets, her husband came in behind her with an urgent question. He couldn’t see her face, but I saw her close her eyes a moment and then give him a calm answer. Whether she was thinking through the answer to his question or changing gears from her own pursuit, I don’t know. But my impression was that in a moment of being overwhelmed, she took just a beat or two to gain control and answer kindly when she might have wanted to be left alone to finish her own task.
Another older lady had to retire from her loved job due to what some considered unfair circumstances. I know this woman was hurt, but I never once heard her badmouth her employers. I watched as she sought out several different new ways of ministering until she found her new niche, and her efforts continued to make a different in other people’s lives.
The one factor all of these examples have in common is that they arose naturally, in the normal course of life and ministry.
There’s nothing wrong with setting up classes and seminars. I have learned boatloads from many great and mostly unknown women teachers. I’ve sought specific counsel from older women at times.
There’s nothing wrong with a formal one-on-one relationship specifically for the purpose of mentoring.
But a mentor does not have to be a formal teacher and may not have that kind of relationship with anyone. Even if she does, we’re all called to the kind of walk where our example teaches and where we’re so yielded to and in tune with the Holy Spirit that He can work though us in the course of everyday life. I think of this as organic, natural mentoring. I don’t remember in any of these cases praying for God to send an older, godly woman my way. But He did, because He knew I needed them.
It’s fine to pray for a mentor, to work through a book or Bible study together, to have a list of questions to discuss. Sue Donaldson has some great ones here. But I also saw a list of 100 questions to ask of a mentor. Honestly, that sounds exhausting. No one wants to feel
grilled interrogated. If you want to approach someone with questions, I wouldn’t bring that many. And I’d suggest questions from your own heart rather than a list, things you would like to ask an older, experienced lady about living the Christian life in a way that honors the Lord.
But beyond questions, we can learn much just by spending time with these women and observing their walk and demeanor. I know I have probably asked older women specific questions, but I don’t remember most of those conversations. For some reason, I’ve remembered these instances I shared here for years. Many of them were foundational or transitional to my thinking. And the women in question probably didn’t even know they had said something that affected me. I don’t think I knew it myself at the moment. It probably took time to process their advice, comments, or example. A guest preacher at our church years ago once said that often, when the Holy Spirit uses us, we’re unaware of it.
That’s the kind of godly, older-ish woman I want to be: one who walks closely with the Lord, filled with His Spirit and His Word and a love for others, available for His use in everyday life and conversation.
Have you had such a mentor in your life—someone who wasn’t officially a teacher, yet taught you by word or example? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Literary Musing Monday, Hearth and Soul, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode,
Recharge Wednesday, Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee,
Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth)
Amen! i often wonder if we will not be very surprised at the judgement seat of Christ when the rewards are given ~ that the most precious rewards will be when we were least aware we were being used by Him to help another….that they saw Christ flowing from us which helped them in their walk with Him. Awesome God we do have to use us in some little way to bring glory to Himself & good to His children. Thank you Barbara.
Amen, Doris. Thanks so much for commenting. I think we’ll be surprised, too, that some of the people who were most used for God’s glory are probably not going to be big, well-known names, but rather unknown folks quietly serving in their own little corners.
I love the idea of natural, “organic” mentoring! I think of an older retired couple who had worked in ministry. They had a house near my college campus and just informally had college kids over for a home-cooked meal and brief “devotions”/discussions on Friday nights. I loved those Friday nights and learned a lot from Robert and Cynthia! Likewise, my friend Leona and I taught together 25 years ago and still go to lunch each Friday, although she is a couple of years older than my mom. It’s been good for us both. I’ve thought of these relationships and wished/hoped someday that I’d have something similar where I was the older person. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m hopeful that it will. I agree that the checklist etc. sounds exhausting! Similarly, when our church had a deal where ladies were matched up and put into small groups, it was a bust (well, mine was at least). Several meetings were just me and one other lady showing up, and we had little in common.
I’ve never been in a match-up like that, but that’s what I envision happening. I love how the older couple ministered. It’s neat you still meet with an older former coworker. It’s great to have friends all ages.
Great post Barbara! My greatest mentors were Betty Mitchell & Lois Chandler, missionaries with the Alliance two very godly & courageous women of God that I was privileged to meet in Penang, Malaysia & have a long friendship with until their passing to Glory. Both extremely inspiring & humble ladies in their daily witness for the Lord. 😀
They sound like wonderful friends and examples!
I love the idea of mentoring, but in my life I’ve found that it hasn’t been as formal as the word suggests (at least in my mind.) Instead it has been seasons of people God brings into my life for different purposes. It’s so good to see how faithful He is to bring mentoring when we need it most!
That’s how God has brought mentoring into my life, too. I love how He brings together people who can most help each other.
I love the idea of mentoring, and when it happens naturally like you write about, it’s even better! I like how the Bible records the older women mentoring the younger. We just started a “sort of” mentoring process between the older generation in our church and the teens. It’s a new concept for us, kind of like a secret prayer partner deal. I think it’s going to be great and have great results.
Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
That’s such a great idea! Too often the teens are kind of their own subculture in the church. They need to know the rest of the body.
I have had a mentor who spoke life and prayed for me during a very trying srason. I now live in a different state, but we still talk on the phone a couple times a month. Thank you for sharing about mentors.
That’s great, Jolene! Thanks for sharing!
My most effective mentoring/mentoree experiences have been through informal ways. I realize that programs are great to have for those times when it doesn’t happen naturally, but when it can happen through our regular organic relationships, I think mentoring relationships can run deepest. Thanks for sharing from this viewpoint, Barbara.
Thanks, Lisa. Various programs can be a great blessing, but I think mentoring through relationships is best.
Yes, all the women who came alongside me as a young adult would have chuckled if someone had called them a mentor, and yet their way are embedded in my spiritual DNA.
And, oddly, it seems whenever someone asks me to enter into a mentoring relationship with them on a formal basis, something comes up to interfere with the regularity of it, but they are on my radar, and we keep in touch, and by grace, I endeavor to build into their lives.
A lot of times, that’s all we can do–try to speak a word here or there as God lays it on our hearts.
I think mentoring works best when one isn’t even aware they are being mentored 🙂 How I thank God for those He placed in my life to make deposits which shaped my life with His Word and truth.
Me, too, Joanne! I didn’t think of or call the main influence in my life by the name of mentor, but years later I realized that’s what she was.I don’t know if she would have liked the word or thought of herself that way. Her love for God and her family overflowed. I think that’s the main criterion for any of us wanting to minister to another.
I really enjoyed reading this post, especially as it reminded me that we can sometimes be mentors to others without realising it. It has reminded me to be thoughtful about how I handle things so that I am a good example in case someone is watching and learning from me! I have had a number of women mentor me over the years, both in the sense of life in general and in my walk as a Christian. I have definitely been blessed by them! Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party community, Barbara.
Thank you, April. It’s a reminder to me, too–so often when I’m out, I’m in my own head too much instead of looking for ways to bless and encourage others.
I have one formal mentor relationship with one of my students–and I hesitated to do it because I find the whole mentoring concept foreign to me (probably my introvertedness and personality type have something to do with this 😉 ). But we’ve started our second year of mentorship, and it’s pretty laid-back. She comes over for a meal once a week, we talk about her SMART goals and I provide a reward when she accomplishes a goal. I’m also helping her apply for colleges.
That sounds like a great relationship. I think that’s what it comes down to, whether it’s formal or happenstance.
I have been blessed to have several mentors in my life. Each was “appointed by God” for different stages and seasons. It wasn’t a formal mentoring, but more of the organic type you mention in your post. No matter how old I get, I always think there is something I can learn from someone who has walked the path before me. I’ll never “arrive” this side of heaven.
That’s so true, Bev. It seems like God always has people just ahead of the stage I’m in for me to learn from.
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The only person I can think of who was of great influence to me was my grandmother. Perhaps she was a mentor and I never really realised it? She passed away three years ago and I certainly do miss her. What an interesting and thought-provoking post. Thank you so much for linking it to #globalblogging x
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