Mentoring is a word that has been getting a lot of attention, yet It seems to be shrouded in mystery and confusion. Most have an understanding that mentoring involves an experienced individual willing to advise or support someone less experienced in a particular aspect of life. But then the questions arise: How do I engage in mentoring? Am I capable of being a mentor? Is this something I should pursue? And, of course, Where can I find a mentor?
Historically, church mentoring programs have focused on the Titus 2 ministry as a role designated for older women mentoring younger women. However, as we look more closely at Scripture, we see that it is not exclusive to women. It is a broader concept.
The Biblical Example of Mentoring
There are many Old Testament examples of mentoring for guidance and support. Jethro mentored his son-in-law Moses, showcasing how mentoring can have a familial dimension. Moses, in turn, mentored Joshua, who went on to mentor the other army leaders. Mentoring is an integral facet of good leadership. Eli mentored Samuel, who in turn mentored Saul and David. Eventually, David became the king of Israel and extended his mentorship to Solomon. Mordecai mentored Esther, who God used to save his people. These are just a few Old Testament examples that show the transformative power of mentoring. Similarly, the New Testament is rich with mentoring examples, especially from the disciples and early church members, from which our present-day discipleship and spiritual formation classes come.
Ordinary people see a need and answer the call to make a difference in the lives of others. A succession of mentoring relationships can have a domino effect. Mentoring changes lives, and not just the life of the one being mentored; it can have a profound impact across generations.
Mentoring is a call for spiritually mature men and women to journey with those younger in their faith and pour into them. While it can take the form of a structured program, it certainly doesn’t have to. Mentoring is doing and sharing life with those God has placed in your path. Some of the best mentoring happens in simple moments over a cup of tea or a casual conversation in the midst of everyday life. It is becoming the person you needed when you were younger. Sometimes our mentors may be years ahead of us, other times they may be just a step ahead. This is a call for every age. A younger person can be a mentor to an older person.
We All Need a Mentor
No matter how put together we are or think we are, we are all broken, and broken people do hurtful, stupid, and sinful things. We are all in need of a Savior in Jesus, as well as at least one faithful friend and a mentor. What does mentoring look like in your life? It might be helpful to reflect on the influence mentors have had on you. Whether we realize it or not, we have all experienced the impact of mentors, and we have all served as mentors in some way. Sometimes it can be a friend willing to ask the hard questions or someone less connected to us who shows us another viewpoint from their life experience.
I am profoundly grateful for those who looked at the messy, younger me and chose to pour into me anyway. While they could have chosen to gossip or criticize me, some chose to roll up their sleeves and walk alongside me, helping me become the woman I was called and created to be. I honestly do not believe I would be who I am today without these dear souls.
One example is an older woman who poured into me by teaching me the value of studying the word of God for myself. She took me to my first Bible conference. We had many cups of tea together as I grew spiritually. In many ways she was my spiritual mom. She is now home with Jesus and I often wish I would have asked her why she was willing to spend so much time with me. The shape of her life now intertwines with mine. Her mark on my life is evidenced in so many ways: my love of studying the word of God, joy in teaching others, gardening, and even enjoying a good game of baseball.
Sometimes mentoring isn’t about Bible study, but sharing practical information. A woman heard that I wanted to learn to make jelly. While this might not seem important to some, it was a big deal to me. One day she showed up at my door with grape juice, jars, and all the things necessary to make jelly. That afternoon, as I learned a new skill, we talked about parenting. She measured, and I talked. I poured the jelly into jars, I listened. When she left, I had a dozen jars of jelly, a desire fulfilled, a new skill, and so much more.
These are just two examples of women who have poured into me over the years. Women who made me feel loved and valued. Some have been in my life to teach me a single concept, while others became lifelong friends.
A Change of View
Being mentored has also shaped how I view other women. Now I see them as mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. If we look through that lens, there is no room for competition, judging, or gossiping. It leaves space for growing together in community. We talk about wanting to leave a legacy, and mentoring offers a fresh avenue to do that, all in the name of Jesus.
One might wonder if they have what it takes to be a good mentor, if they have anything of value to offer others, or if they are spiritually ready. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring. God has uniquely shaped each of us for the individuals he intends for us to mentor.
For the believer, having a faith walk and an ongoing prayer life are essential. Without these foundational disciplines, we might attempt to rely on our own strength. And that “strength” can lead to issues such as pride that are not God-honoring.
Called to Mentor
While mentoring is a call for everyone, there are specific requirements. The first step is simply to respond to the need. The second is to have an open heart that is willing to listen—really listen—to others before speaking. Listening is so important and is a great way to begin mentoring. Too often, we jump in with advice or throw around Bible verses before we know someone’s story.
Another essential skill in successful mentoring relationships is a willingness to be vulnerable with others, vulnerable enough to share your story when appropriate. Men and women are waiting for us to be willing to show up and be there for them, and each of us have life experiences that uniquely shape us to pour into the lives of others. A good mentor sees what someone needs and is willing and available to accompany them through life.
An Unlikely Pair
Trying to find a mentor or finding someone to mentor can feel overwhelming because of our tendency to overcomplicate things. Go where the people are! If we are praying and show up, God will direct the right people to our path—those whom we are to mentor or those who are to mentor us.
In the movie Four Feathers, a British soldier goes through a devastatingly hard time, leaving England in disgrace. In hopes of regaining his honor he goes to the Sudan. A desert prince finds him and is instrumental in helping him put the pieces of his life back together. An unlikely pair. When the soldier is ready to go back to England, more healed and whole, he asks the prince, “Why did you help me?” His response sums up mentoring so beautifully, “Because God put you in my way. I had no choice.” An unlikely pair that only God could put together. The beauty of mentoring is that God puts unlikely people in our path, to help grow them, grow us, and ultimately glorify himself.
If you want to be mentored, begin with prayer. Then, when you find a brother or sister you want to learn from, be vulnerable enough to ask. Asking doesn’t mean they will say yes, and even if they agree, the relationship might not always flourish. If it doesn’t, keep trying and trust that God has the right people walking with you at just the right time.
Being a mentor does not mean being someone’s everything. Rarely will you teach/mentor someone in all areas of their life. Each of my mentors brought something different into my life, influencing me in specific ways or areas of life.
Healthy boundaries also need to be part of any mentoring relationship. A healthy boundary could be as simple as no calls after a certain time. Boundaries help foster a respectful attitude toward each other’s time, and this part of healthy mentoring is a two-way street. While one might be the mentor and another is being mentored, we need to remember that there is wisdom to be gained from each other. Younger individuals grow and stretch us in ways our peers might not.
When I was a younger woman, I longed for older women to encourage, guide, and come alongside me. God was gracious and answered those prayers. Are you willing to let God use you as an answer to someone’s prayer?
That is what a mentor is—an answer to someone’s prayer.