Thursday, September 1, 2011

What is Mentoring?

Friendship Mentoring
Since I am involved in mentoring relationships with three different women, I get asked these questions fairly frequently:
• What is mentoring?
• How did you start?
• Are you trained for that?
• What do you talk about?

I am always excited to answer, because mentoring is such a rich experience and I highly recommend it. Mentoring is just a fancy word for teaching. A mentor may be older, more knowledgeable, or possess skills that someone else wants to learn.

How did I get started? I asked God how He wanted me to serve in my new community and started getting involved. Pretty soon a woman asked if I would be willing to meet with her regularly. Later, a leader from church asked if I would be open to another mentoring relationship with a woman going through a painful transition. Recently, a young woman asked if we could get together occasionally so she could pick my brain about parenting, marriage, and Bible study. I love it!

It may sound like a new concept, but it’s actually very old. All throughout the Bible we see God-followers teaching others what they know.

Paul told Titus how and why we do:

Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around. Titus 2:1-8, Message (emphasis mine)

Unfortunately, most of us believe we have to be perfect in order to teach anyone else. When I was in my twenties, I asked five different women I admired to mentor me and was turned down each time. Even though I have wonderful, godly parents, I also wanted to learn from women outside my family. But they said, “I’m not qualified,” “I don’t have time for anyone outside my family.”

In frustration, I wrote an article, “Who Will Be There For Us?” (Virtue, May/June 1993). Virtue received a flood of letters from women just like me. Brenda Hunter, Ph.D. quoted it in her book, In the Company of Women, so did Elisa Morgan and Carol Kuykendall in What Every Mom Needs. We all hunger for mentors. The Bible doesn’t say it’s only for trained counselors, ministers, or people with time on their hands; it’s for everyone.

I see four kinds of mentor relationships:

• Discipleship
• Life Skills
• Friendship

An apprentice might be someone you train to take over your business or ministry. You teach them wisdom and experience you’ve gained over time. Like Moses passed on the torch of leadership to Joshua.

A handy pocket friend
A disciple is someone who wants to deepen their spiritual knowledge. They might be younger, a new believer, or derailed by a crisis the mentor has previously navigated. It’s not a piggyback ride to heaven, but a living example of faith in all circumstances.

A life skills mentor might give tips on parenting, marriage, friendship, home and car repair, or an infinite number of things. As a young woman, I sought out women with the skills I specifically wanted to develop.

Friends might not think of themselves as mentors, but much of what we learn comes from them. My sisters, friends, and I share our lives with each other - lessons from the Word and how God is developing patience, self-control, and gratitude, as we mature in Him. We even learn from each others’ mistakes and heartbreak in this informal classroom of life.

Who needs to be a mentor? Every believer has something to offer. It doesn’t have to be regimented, but it does need to be intentional, and appropriate to the relationship. Mentoring can be simple - a walk in the park or a cup of coffee. It can be a project you work on together, or sitting down with Bibles and notebooks.

When I mentor, I try to let the other woman lead with her concerns, questions, and hurts. I want to respond with God’s wisdom and not my own opinion, so I pray in between meetings over each issue we discuss. We read the Bible; we pray; but mostly, we just talk. We laugh, cry, and focus on the hope Christ brings.

Who needs to be mentored? Every believer. We’re never so old or wise or experienced that we can’t learn more. If we’re going through a season of extreme emotion or stress, a mentor can be a solid source of strength.

I encourage you to consider mentoring. This intentional involvement with other believers will help you grow, enrich your prayer life, and energize your faith. Choose your mentors carefully, prayerfully. And when others seek you out for help or advice, look to the Source of all wisdom and encourage others in His name.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard that we all need a Paul (to mentor us) and a Timothy (someone we mentor). I enjoy mentoring my 8-year-old granddaughter. Grandma Tea (